Reviews include Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Mr. Malcolm’s List, and Passengers of the Night.
TFCA Friday: Week of Sept. 25
September 25, 2020
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA critics.
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell speaks with TIFF co-heads Joana Vincente and Cameron Bailey to learn how they pulled off this year’s festival.
In a post-mortem look at this year’s festival featuring interviews with Cameron Bailey and Joana Vincente, Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail says that TIFF deserves a standing ovation but has some challenges ahead. Hertz also breaks down the biz from this year’s festival: are people buying amid a pandemic?
At Roger Ebert, Jason Gorber chats with Cameron Bailey about the highs and lows of COVID-TIFF.
Our critics also picked the best films of TIFF 2020, in case you missed it.
In Release this Week
The Artist’s Wife (dir. Tom Dolby)
At What She Said, Anne Brodie calls is “a portrait of life-saving grace and love” and chats with star Lena Olin about working with Bruce Dern, capturing the nuances of Alzheimer’s, and their first chat at TIFF ’88.
It “rises above above films that have old age as its theme, despite it being a difficult watch,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail says, “Tom Dolby’s character study assembles a potentially interesting germ of an idea and a tremendous amount of talent and then does … almost absolutely nothing.”
“It must also be said – and this is not a criticism of The Artist’s Wife – that the dementia drama sub-genre remains a remarkably white affair,” observes Chris Knight at the National Post.
Beckman (dir. Gabriel Sabloff)
“Let’s get a quick show of hands (even though I can’t see them): who ordered or asked for a right wing, amateurish, deathly boring, devout and devotional reworking of the John Wick and Taken franchises that fails spectacularly in every way to be exciting, pious, or even remotely entertaining?” asks Andrew Parker at The Gate.
Enola Holmes (dir. Harry Bradbeer)
“Spend two hours with a fun, confident young hero who refuses to be confined by either the Victorian age or the movie that exists around her,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz calls it, “an energetic, good-natured, well-cast, but just a wee bit exhausting adaptation.”
“Unlike most wannabe blockbusters that are fun in the moment and forgettable upon leaving the theatre or switching the channel, I keep thinking about moments in Enola Holmes that made me smile, which I will take as a pretty good sign that this is a franchise worth continuing,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
Jay Sebring…Cutting to Truth (dir. Anthony DiMaria)
“Why the murder of a beautiful, pregnant starlet (married to ‘name’ director Roman Polanski) would be the ‘hook’ for the coverage, is not exactly a mystery,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “But the unfortunately named Cutting to the Truth makes a case that, in real terms of Hollywood influence and potential, Sebring was the ‘name’ victim in the massacre.”
Kajillionaire (dir. Miranda July)
Looking at two intelligent mid-budget films for adults opening in the same weekend, Barry Hertz examines a true monkey paw situation at The Globe and Mail, and wonders how Kajillionaire and The Last Shift will fare after their distributors offered them as sacrificial lambs to the COVID gods.
“Scratch the surface, however, and you’ll come away with more than pink bubbles on your nails,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post.
Andrew Parker at The Gate says, “Not all of Kajillionaire works (especially during its opening hour), but it ends up being July’s most profoundly moving work to date by the conclusion.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah writes, “a film that is as odd with itself as with its weird characters.”
“Just as David Lynch did decades ago with Blue Velvet, July has taken a culturally disreputable tune and made it work wonderfully well,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM on the use of Bobby Vinton’s “Mr. Lonely” in the film.
“Full of snappy dialogue and muted pastels, Kajillionaire cleverly uses comedic mise en scene, symbolism and sight gags to pose deeper questions about money, values and what shapes our world views,” writes Kevin Ritchie at NOW Toronto.
The Last Shift (dir. Andrew Cohen)
If you’re still wondering whether to use a finger on the monkey paw , Barry Hertz reminds us that Richard Jenkins stars in both Kajillionaire and The Last Shift.
“For a crash course in the acting machine that is Richard Jenkins, look no further than the two new releases in which he stars this week,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “What a contrast!”
“McGhie matches [Jenkins] moment for moment as Jevon, who’s young enough to still have some self-confidence even though as a Black ex-convict he understands the world is stacked against him,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
“The Last Shift is the sort of social issue film that treats its audience not with contempt, but with a coddling tone that annoys much more than it enlightens,” notes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto calls it, “an entertaining drama on solid human issues with some good humour written in and is worth watching.”
Thom Ernst at Original Cin writes, “Jenkins’ performance is the reason to see The Last Shift. But, not even a stellar performance from Jenkins can rescue The Last Shift entirely from its underdeveloped premise and an earnest need to be appreciated.”
Misbehaviour (dir. Philippa Lowthorpe)
“While it has enough plot and characters to warrant being a miniseries rather than a movie that clocks in under two hours, the historical drama Misbehaviour deserves an immense amount of credit for packing a lot of detail, entertainment value, and great performances into such a modest package,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“Keeley Hawes is a standout as the pageant owner’s wife and Lesley Manville’s Mrs. Bob Hope has sweet revenge,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“The movie’s entertaining, if a little superficial,” notes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
Barry Hertz says it is “disingenuous at best.”
Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles (dir. Laura Gabbert)
“Highly informative doc, but I can’t say it made me hungry. Strange.” – Anne Brodie, What She Said.
Public Trust (dir. David Garrett Bayers)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it, “the angriest doc seen this year and it is clearly aimed to be that way.”
Queen of the Morning Calm (dir. Gloria Kim) 🇨🇦
“(Director Kim) shows both the strengths and weaknesses of each of her characters, making them very human,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Gloria Kim’s feature debut offers some lovely, heartbreaking details in the margins,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“Queen of the Morning Calm delivers a nuanced portrayal of inner-city Toronto – neither beautiful nor horrifying – and of a young woman trying to make her way in it.” – Chris Knight, National Post.
“It’s unfortunate that a movie that includes several scenes in strip clubs should open on the day that industry is kiboshed by COVID, but that’s 2020 for you,” observes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
Rustic Oracle (dir. Sonia Bonspille Boileau) 🇨🇦
“The truth that gives birth to Rustic Oracle is indeed catastrophic, in an immediately relevant way,” notes Thom Ernst at Original Cin.
Tesla (dir. Michael Almereyda)
At What She Said, Anne Brodie advises to “strap yourself in for a hallucinatory, wonky, and outrageous ride…”
“It won’t be what everyone wants, but much like Almereyda’s subject, Tesla is exactly what it wants to be,” admits Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“Like Tesla himself, Almereyda may have had too many ideas competing for attention in his head to realize most of them,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin.
It’s “a hard sell as a biography of an inventor of a very technical machine, though one that changed the course of industry and the lives of everyone,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Still, credit goes to Amereyda for trying and his efforts are not all that bad in an otherwise watchable film.”
We Are Many (dir. Amir Amirani)
“The anti-war documentary We Are Many is a kind of double throwback. On the one hand, this 2014 British production is only now opening in Canada, six years after it was shot. But the subject matter is older still,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post.
“Trump looks like a saint compared to Bush and Blair. This is the power of Amirani’s documentary,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Kevin Ritchie at NOW Toronto chats with Saint-Narcisse director Bruce LaBruce about twinning, porn, dick pics, and Lindsay Lohan. The film screens at VIFF after playing Venice and TIFF’s Industry Selects.
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen highlights some of the top docs at VIFF, including The Reason I Jump and The Truffle Hunters.
This year’s festival features Nathalie Atkinson in conversation with Emmy-winning production designer Mark Friedberg (Joker, Selma, Synecdoche, New York, Far from Heaven, The Ice Storm, The Life Aquatic) about the cinematic worlds he’s created with filmmakers like Ang Lee, Todd Haynes, Barry Jenkins, Jim Jarmusch, Ava DuVernay, and Wes Anderson. Catch this talk Oct. 1 at 6:00 PM.
What’s on TV
Anne Brodie looks at season four of Fargo at What She Said, saying, “Fargo musical themes are hinted at and as ever, people we care for die violent if creative deaths.”
But if black humour and creative deaths aren’t your jam, Anne Brodie also has word on a super cute Disney+ Series Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. She chats with Dr. Mark Penning, Vice President, Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment.
Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto looks at Gillian Flynn’s new series Utopia, but offers few reasons why you should too: “It takes absolutely goddamn forever for Utopia to tell its fairly simple story, thanks to endless complications and betrayals that we have to slog through alongside the characters….”