Reviews include Close, Knock at the Cabin, and Alice, Darling.
TFCA Friday: Week of Feb. 26
February 26, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
Want to see the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award nominees ahead of the TFCA Awards virtual gala on March 9? We’ve rounded up links to stream/rent nominees And the Birds Rained Down, Anne at 13,000 ft., and White Lie – with links to member interviews with each of the directors!
In Release this Week
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (dir. RJ Cutler)
“It is refreshing to see such an authentic portrait of youth and stardom,” admits Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Audiences expecting a full-fledged puff piece might be surprised.”
“Terrific lighter moments as when she meets Katy Perry and husband Orlando Bloom and has no idea who he is…for a moment, and a sweet response from her beloved crush Justin Bieber,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“At nearly two-and-a-half hours in length, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry will be a large ask of most outside of the singer-songwriter’s massive fan base, but once director R.J. Cutler gets around to capturing its subjects more humane day-to-day joys and struggles, his documentary becomes a lot more engaging to casual viewers,” offers Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“The doc lasts a whopping 2 hours and 21 minutes, and director Cutler is not rushed but let his doc tell the unhurried story of his subject,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The film’s fade-to-black moment had me hoping for a title card that would read something like: Eilish continued to live a happy, creative life before passing away peacefully in 2102, aged 101,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post.
The End of the Storm (dir. James Erskine)
“One can see, from the film, the reason football is the world’s most popular sport,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Framing Britney Spears (dir. Samantha Stark)
“Framing Britney Spears is best viewed as a painful, empathetic examination of someone who has been repeatedly kicked while they were down,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“At just 74 minutes, Framing Britney Spears feels like watching a train wreck, not in slow motion, but sped up to a dizzying pace,” cringes Chris Knight at the National Post.
The Girl on the Train (dir. Ribhu Dasgupta)
Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto says it’s “entertaining enough, achieving the director’s goal of adapting the original film and book to an Indian audience.”
The Mauritanian (dir. Kevin Macdonald; Mar. 2)
“Though it’s a movie with an identity crisis, Rahim’s magnetic performance carries enough of The Mauritanian to make it a worthwhile watch,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin.
“[W]hile Macdonald manages to come up with one of the most impressively brutal cut-to-black endings in recent memory, the rest of this feature cannot hope to match the power of his cast,” declares Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
At What She Said, Anne Brodie calls it “a tense legal and political fact-based thriller” and an “incredible, disturbing 14-year journey.”
“Rahim obviously gets a bravura monologue in the film’s final moments of unabashed soapboxing, yet Foster ultimately emerges as The Mauritanian’s secret weapon,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf.
“Foster and Cumberbatch are excellent. But the prize performance goes to Tahar Rahim,” offers Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Minari (dir. Lee Isaac Chung)
*TFCA Award winner: Best Screenplay*
*TFCA Award nominee: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress*
“It’s nominated for exactly one Golden Globe this weekend, for best foreign-language feature, which is a strangely graceful way of acknowledging the way this most American of narratives is received as an outsider story by people who refuse to see what’s really going on,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine. “In any case, this is one of the best movies of the year.” Wilner also speaks with director Lee Isaac Chung.
Calling Minari a “quietly powerful film that pulls you in slowly,” Eli Glasner at CBC speaks with star Steven Yeun and members of Canada’s Asian community about the film’s power. “The distance between children and father in an Asian family, this something that was so authentic,” says Kim’s Convenience star Andrew Phung on the film’s relationships.
“Grandmother Soon-ja, a caustic but funny and loving presence leads a strong female cohort,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Every character is important and heard.”
“Stories of a fresh start in an unfamiliar landscape don’t come more affecting than this family drama by Korean-American filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung, which won two top prizes at Sundance 2020,” writes Peter at the Toronto Star. “What emerges is the year’s most poignant tale of family togetherness.”
“Observed from a distance anyone’s family can look like a random group of people, each with their own odd quirks, all pulling in different directions, but coming together at the dinner table,” says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “One of the joys of this film is the way he manages to capture all of this, in a seamless loving package.”
“[I]t doesn’t feel like we’re being walked through another man’s life,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “The tale feels universal, accessible.”
“The family at its heart is one viewers will want to know for the rest of their lives,” praises Andrew Parker at The Gate.
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz speaks with director Lee Isaac Chung about MAGA hats, Mountain Dew, and the film’s family dynamics. “I like movies that have lightness and seriousness all wrapped in one, almost like an old Yasujiro Ozu film where they have fart jokes alongside talks about life and death,” says Chung. “But the big challenge was to get away from my own dad’s perspective and invest my own into it, as well.”
“Though not bad, Minari gets my vote for most overrated film of the year. (***)” counters Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Moxie (dir. Amy Poehler; Mar. 3)
“Strong stuff sometimes makes for good comedy and director Poehler pulls it off admirably,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Notturno (dir. Gianfranco Rosi; Mar. 2)
“Nothing violent happens in Notturno (unless one counts moments where some of Rosi’s subjects watch playback of past events on a screen), but there’s always a chance that something will happen,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate. “The people profiled in Notturno are tired, and in a constantly heightened state of preparedness.”
“Notturno is observational cinema at in its most provocative and poetic form,” raves Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “A film doesn’t need any words when the images are so strong.”
Pandemic (dir. Johnny Martin; Mar. 2)
“A title change from Alone to Pandemic to hone in on COVID-19 pandemic does not say much for this sorry zombie movie,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday (dir. Lee Daniels; Mar. 2)
“Andra Day is thrillingly gritty, real and complex as the iconic music great and political activist Billie Holiday,” declares Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“The best thing about this otherwise depressing film about drug abuse and the downward spiral of Holiday’s life [is] the rendering of her songs. Day does a marvellous job in this respect,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“I dare anyone to sit through Day’s performance of “Strange Fruit” without getting chills,” challenges at Mullen at That Shelf. “It’s a dramatic full stop in Daniels’ film—a brilliantly played direct address that leaves a viewer awestruck.”
The Vigil (dir. Keith Thomas)
“With apologies to all the many Bubbes of the world, the new horror film The Vigil is the cinematic equivalent of first-timer gefilte fish,” kvetches Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “In writer-director Keith Thomas’s bid to add a layer of thematic novelty to a familiar genre, he has come up with a mish-mash that will satisfy only those with extremely acquired tastes.”
“Ultimately, it puts the meh in menacing,” shrugs Chris Knight at the National Post. “And in crafting its scares, The Vigil settles for far too many tropes.”
“The Vigil doesn’t break new ground for supernatural horror, exactly; it’s your basic assortment of unnerving noises, jump scares and musical stings,” agrees Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine.
“But just as The Exorcist can be a powerful film about personal conviction, The Vigil can be a powerful testament to the scars left by war-time atrocities and contemporary hate-crimes,” writes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “The Vigil is a satisfying work of suspense and mystery with a few well-executed jump scares.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a straightforward scary tale with noises in the dark, shadows in dark spaces etc. but with the Orthodox Jewish setting a welcome one. (***)”
The World to Come (dir. Mona Fastvolt; Mar. 2)
“A solid piece of filmmaking [that] would be a hard sell due to its depressing theme,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Saluting Great Performances
At That Shelf, Pat Mullen says it’s a “Haley’s Comet” year for Meryl Streep. 2021 is a rare event in which she won’t be nominated for a well-deserved Oscar. He counts down a dozen of Streep’s best performances that Oscar ignored, including The Manchurian Candidate, Plenty, The Hours, The River Wild, and A Prairie Home Companion. “She’s both the most ludicrously celebrated actor in Oscar history and the most tragically under-recognized star,” observes Mullen. “That’s versatility for you!”
At NOW Magazine, Glenn Sumi looks at the theatre/film hybrid February: a love story, which was conceived as a play but delivered as a film during lockdown: “February: a love story is one of the most effective and poignant depictions of two young people looking for love I’ve seen,” writes Sumi. “The film works beautifully, but I hope it gets a live local staging soon…It deserves a long life, even after we’ve all put away our masks – at least our physical ones.”
TV Talk: Sin, Ginny, Cats, and Farrow
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller unpacks the significance of the It’s a Sin and its portrait of the AIDS epidemic: “The ‘sin’ of Davies’s title has nothing to do with being gay. The sin is the shame that was ground into the souls of the dying. The final episode drives that home with two speeches. One is a blistering rebuke to society at large and to every individual who makes up that society, for the culture of shame that led to silence that led to death. The other, though, is a defiant shout-out to joy – to the fun, the beauty and the glory of a life lived, however fleetingly, without shame.”
Radheyan Simonpillai follows the case of Allen vs. Farrow at NOW Magazine, writing, “Allen v. Farrow is at its most revealing and implicating when it considers how the media and culture is susceptible to irrelevant details, pervasive PR spins and the narratives doctored by the men the public wants to love blindly.”
“You haven’t really lived till you’ve seen the wacky British comedy talk show 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown,” laughs Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s a comedy panel special combining UK comedians and “anarchic” regulars paying homage to learned nuttiness, a challenging brainy words-and-number game hosted by Jimmy Carr.”
At NOW Magazine, Norm Wilner checks out Netflix’s latest binge-fest, Ginny & Georgia: “Howey and Gentry are great both together and separately, the show’s twisting plots are addictive and soapy without being too implausible, and there’s a thoughtfulness in its approach to issues of race, sexuality and parenting. I kinda loved it.”