Toronto International Film Fest — Part 1

With the Venice, Telluride, Cannes and New York Film Festivals, the buzz has spread that Oscar season does not begin until the kickoff of the Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF has screened the past five Best Picture winners, and critics are already making their Oscar predictions. The 10-day festival concluded last week, but this is what we know we have to look forward to…

Argo Movie Posterkeira knightleyRust and Bone 2012
The Master 2012
Silver Linings Playbook poster

Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

Plot: After a stint in a mental institution, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves back home to try to reconcile with his ex-wife. Pat’s game-plan changes when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who, like Pat, is battling her own personal problems.

While David O. Russell’s foray into conventional drama with The Fighter was a richly satisfying knockout, it’s a joy to see him back in the off-kilter comedy realm with the wonderful Silver Linings Playbook. Cheerfully yet poignantly exposing the struggles, anxieties, disorders and obsessions of ordinary people, this is a film as odd as it is charming. It brings out the best in a superlative cast led by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, both showing unexpected colors. —Henry Barnes, The Guardian

The Master
The Master 2012

Plot: A 1950s drama that delves into the emotional aftermath of a naval war veteran’s (Joaquin Phoenix) discharge following VJ day…returning home unsettled and lost. The plot focuses around his relationship with “the Master” (Philip Seymour Hoffman), leader of The Cause, an extremist faith-based church, and the impressions implanted by the church and it’s leader.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s extraordinary character study, with a career-defining performance from Joaquin Phoenix, is not the Scientology exposé everyone was expecting.Two things stand out: the extraordinary command of cinematic technique, which alone is nearly enough to keep a connoisseur on the edge of his seat the entire time, and the tremendous portrayals by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman of two entirely antithetical men. —Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

Rust and Bone
Rust and Bone

Plot: Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a struggling single father leaves the north of France for Antibes to live with his sister and her family to rebuild his life with his estranged five-year-old son. His life takes a turn after meeting Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a killer whale instructor. After a life-changing accident losing her legs, binding her to a wheelchair, Stephanie fights for her will to live with the help of Ali.

There’s great economy in Audiard’s script and direction; Rust & Bone doesn’t rely on a traditional scene-based structure, but offers just enough of any particular image to convey what needs conveying before it moves on. It’s a film in which despair is suggested more often by stillness than by sobbing. The score from Alexandre Desplat — who recently worked on Moonrise Kingdom, is wisely restrained and, like the dialogue, doesn’t use two beats where one will do. And it’s probably the only film you’ll see this year that makes very emotionally effective use of music from both Bon Iver and Katy Perry. —Linda Holmes, NPR


Plot: Director Ben Affleck unveils the relatively unknown true story of the Tony Mendez’s (former CIA officer) account of  the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture will be Ben Affleck’s tense new thriller Argo. How do I know this? Because it is the audience favorite coming out of the top-loaded opening weekend of the Toronto Film Festival. Success at Toronto has an uncanny way of predicting Academy winners; I point you to the Best Pictures of the last five years in a row: “No Country for Old Men,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.” Ben Affleck has already proven himself a gifted director (“Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town”). Now he approaches the tricky thriller genre and produces a spellbinder. The Hollywood milieu gives him a fertile opportunity to work humor into a very serious story. —Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Anna Karenina

Plot: Adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s 1877 novel–Anna Karenina chronicles the late-nineteenth-century high-society lifestyle of Russia exploring the capacity of love…from love between adulterers  to the love among a family…Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) challenges her happiness all whilst change is happening in every spectrum of her life.

Once again demonstrating that Wright knows how to get the best from Knightley (arguably her best work has been in “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement”), the actress’s angular beauty, declamatory line delivery and air of self-doubt all work in her favor here. Knightley’s Anna is a silly little flirt, playing at being a romantic heroine, but incapable of thinking through the endgame. Not unlike her turn as Sabina Spielrein in “A Dangerous Method,” this is a femme more tortured than pleasured by her own uncontrollable desires. —Leslie Felperin, Variety

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Plot: Charlie (Logan Lerman), an introverted high school freshman struggling with common and uncommon pressures of adolescence, is taken under the wings of two seniors who introduce him to the real world.

The intense and sometimes terrifying emotions of adolescence, so easily forgotten by adults, are revived, with thoughtfulness and deep affection in The Perks of Being A Wallflower, in which writer and director Stephen Chbosky adapts his own hit young adult novel. It’s only Chbosky’s second feature, and his first with any kind of real budget, but he navigates the treacherous terrain of altering his own novel quite well. At the very least, he picked a damn-near-perfect cast, which in a movie about the deep feelings and pains of growing up, is more than half the battle. The Perks of Being A Wallflower might not become as iconic as the best-selling book, but its insights into the inner lives of teenagers remain as affecting and rare as they were when the novel was published 10 years ago. Chbosky can’t reinvent the characters he created for the screen, but he’s definitely done right by them. —Katey Rich, CinemaBlend

9 thoughts on “Toronto International Film Fest — Part 1”

  1. I’m really looking forward to Rust and Bone, sounds like an amazing movie and Cotilliard’s work is always something to marvel at. Silver Linings Playbook…I’m not sure about that one. I don’t enjoy Cooper in things other than silly comedies.

  2. I’m honestly really rooting for Silver Linings…even before the Toronoto hype. Any movies that delves into depression or mental illness and tackles it in a relatively realistic matter fascinates me…probably because it’s such an unpopular subject (Young Adult, anyone?).

    I’m hoping Bradley Cooper can pull this off. Maybe develop the versatility of a comedic actor and dramatic actor, like Jim Carey did (Eternal Sunshine threw me completely off guard with Carey’s ability to do a drama). We’ll see!

  3. There are so many good films to look forward to! I hadn’t heard of Silver Linings Playbook or Rust and Bone — now I’m really looking forward to seeing them. I am also very intrigued by Argo. I’m old enough to remember the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran — I remember it very well — and I’ve never heard the real story surrounding the hostages released. Great post, Courtney! Oh, and I’m absolutely fascinated by movies that delve into depression or mental illness. But you’ve visited our blog, so maybe you already guessed that. 😛

    1. I think I’m most excited about Silver Linings Playbook…I wasn’t sure if it would pan out well, but after hearing all the positive feedback from Toronto, I’m completely stoked. And to tie such serious content with comedy AND romance? I’m in.

  4. This batch, I saw three of the six (RUST, SILVER, MASTER) and *really* dug ’em. RUST is a little spotty when taken as a whole, but Cotillard’s part of it is absolutely amazing. SILVER is far more clever than its trailer would have you believe, and while THE MASTER seems to be splitting its audience, I come down on the side that was impressed.

    The other three were all seen by good friends/trusted opinions, and I heard nothing but positive feedback all around.

    Looks like you’re in for a good fall!

    1. I saw The Master last weekend, and I’m still trying to process it. Undoubtedly some of the best performances in years.

      The trailer for Silver Linings didn’t “wow” me, but I liked the plot/the actors…and after hearing all the praise it received at Toronto, I can’t wait for it to come out.

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