‘Demolition’: TIFF Review

11 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

It’s time for TIFF to overhaul opening night.

The opening night premieres of “Demolition” by Quebecois filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and Moore’s “Where to Invade Next” made an unlikely pair to kick off Toronto’s fall-movie launching pad on Thursday. “Demolition” won’t hit theaters until April, and “Where to Invade Next” is being shopped for buyers. When Fox Searchlight announced the company’s fall 2015 release slate in July, it included a bump to April 2016 for Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Demolition.” Many assumed it was a sign of weakness where awards potential was concerned (failing, of course, to note the reigning best picture king’s success with March release “The Grand Budapest Hotel” last year).made another glam appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday night, this time for the premiere of her writing and directing debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness. That’s traditionally been the dilemma when it comes to TIFF’s opening-night film – an ostensibly prestigious slot that’s been so littered with charity cases, flops and embarrassments that it’s practically toxic. Now in its 40th year, the 10-day festival has become a key launching pad for Hollywood’s award season, with films like “12 Years a Slave”, “The King’s Speech” and “Slumdog Millionaire” all gaining critical momentum at the event before going on to win the Academy Award for best picture.

If there is a statement being made, it is that Vallée is one hot commodity — has been for some time, especially since Dallas Buyers Club racked up best actor and best supporting actor Oscar trophies (for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto) in 2014. While it had been expected to be an investigation of the American military industrial complex, Moore does the invading in the film himself, traveling to other countries (mostly in Europe) to find “America’s soul.” Moore’s premise is that decades of patriotic chest-thumping and constant war have prevented the United States from taking care of its own democracy. It’s unique to grab that slot and then beg off for the next year on release, but the Canadian Vallée really wanted to play to his people north of the border, as he has with “C.R.A.Z.Y.,” “The Young Victoria,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wild.” After the film premiered Thursday night, you could already tell it had landed a sour note with a number of critics who tossed out a quick Twitter thought before ducking into Michael Moore’s latest. Portman attended the pre-opening night party and stunned in an embellished, floral dress before participating in an intimate conversation about her life and career. “I do feel that there’s a lot of conversation right now about female directors and why there aren’t more of them,” she told the Toronto Star. “I think the conversation is pushing studios to hire more women and also for women to start getting more inspiration and support.” For more of PEOPLE’s coverage of the 2015 Toronto Film Festival – including the hottest premieres, the biggest stars and the buzziest films – check out people.com/tiff.

In Slovenia, he finds free university; in Finland, he marvels at its top education system; in Italy, he sees eight weeks of annual vacation and strong unions. After the film’s north-of-the-border debut was met with an enthusiastic standing ovation, Moore provided Slovenia college applications and distributed German-made pencils to the audience.

I wasn’t shocked, really. “Demolition” is a delicate film — some might slam it with a pejorative “precious” — and an easy one to be cynical about at that. The director said he was urged back into moviemaking after the Occupy Wall Street movement and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri: “I thought it was important to re-enlist,” he said. Not to mention: “Youth,” “Brooklyn,” “Far From the Madding Crowd,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” — Searchlight has plenty to work with this year, having also bumped Luca Guadagnino’s “A Bigger Splash” to clear up some space. Vallée borrows fellow Quebec director Denis Villeneuve’s recent go-to guy Jake Gyllenhaal to play Davis Mitchell, a man who strolls slowly off the deep end after his wife is killed in a tragic accident. (Fret not! He compared the male dominance of American government to the minority-controlled system of apartheid. “Demolition,” the festival’s official opener, premiered earlier in the evening.

But that was also back when the festival had its Canada First! program and a distinct inferiority complex regarding its own countrymen’s cultural output (which is different from the festival’s current inferiority complex regarding competing festivals such as Telluride and Venice). But the movie is comic, and gleefully follows its protagonist’s unhinging as he refuses to mourn. “This is probably the most rock ‘n’ roll film I’ve ever made,” said Vallee, a TIFF regular whose last film, “Wild” with Reese Witherspoon, also premiered at Toronto. “I think we’re going to set the tone for the festival with the noise we’re going to make tonight.” “Demolition,” though, yielded a mixed reaction from critics, albeit with fairly universal praise for Gyllenhaal’s dedicated performance. Thursday night, a clip reel chronicled the festival’s history, from a small upstart dubbed “the festival of festivals,” to one of the world’s largest and most significant film festivals.

I feel like you could have written a version of this piece last year (and I probably did), but ever since the disappointing 2010 video game adaptation “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” and particularly since an agency switch in 2012, the 34-year-old star has been on a quest to push himself, explore new territory with bold filmmakers (Duncan Jones, David Ayer, Denis Villeneueve, Dan Gilroy) and just keep growing. By the time the film opens, the 2016 Oscars will have come and gone, and the next Academy Awards chatter won’t pick up again until that fall, leaving Demolition as one big, fat, lingering “oh yeah, that thing” lump in critics’ minds. A manic mixture of dark comedy and high drama, Demolition is a wonderful showcase for Gyllenhaal as a Wall Street goon who loses his wife to a car crash, but it doesn’t deliver anything close to a McConaughey-like reinvention.

And next he’s working with Tom Ford (“Nocturnal Animals”), another compelling artist who will no doubt add a whole other shade to the actor’s palette. I haven’t met a single person in the industry who understands how Gyllenhaal missed a lead actor nomination for “Nightcrawler.” He bobbed and weaved against critical blows aimed at this summer’s “Southpaw,” emerging unscathed. The burgeoning relationship between Gyllenhaal and Watts’s characters is also tricky, verging on melodramatic at times, sappy at others as these two loners/eccentrics find common ground. When the role comes, he’s going to seize it and be smart about it and the timing will be right, because he just seems to be doing it for all the right reasons lately.

Instead, select something small and weird from our country’s burgeoning indie movement – projects birthed with little cash and no recognizable names that deserve a platform far more than Jake Gyllenhaal or Paul Gross. Films such as Kazik Radwanski’s How Heavy This Hammer, Igor Drljaca’s The Waiting Room or Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant – scrappy dramas that are worthy of inciting real cultural conversations, even if it’s only among us fellow Canadians. Toss in countless scenes of Gyllenhaal taking this idea to its most cathartic extreme — as per the title, stuff gets broken — and you have a film that is at once highly entertaining and emotionally affecting.

If we’re going to tie ourselves into knots each year over the state of opening night – and if few outside Toronto actually care what plays that first Thursday – then why not reserve the spot for films that will benefit from the exposure? TIFF can still revel in its Oscar hopefuls during that all-important first weekend, but also champion this country’s emerging talent, and underline its commitment to independence.

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