First Up At The Toronto Film Festival: Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘Demolition,’ The …

12 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

First Up At The Toronto Film Festival: Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘Demolition,’ The Stunning ‘Lobster’ And More.

And we’re off! And actress Naomi Watts delivered yet again on Friday while in attendance at the press conference for the upcoming R-rated flick at the Toronto International Film Festival.

TORONTO: Jake Gyllenhaal takes a bulldozer to his own life as a man unhinged by grief in “Demolition,” which opened North America’s largest film festival in Toronto on Thursday.Why would a movie with awards hopes have its world premiere at a film festival that takes place a season before its theatrical release makes it eligible for Oscar consideration?Julianne Moore recalled her daughter passing that judgment on a movie career that has included about 60 feature films, and more than a few characters who were, indeed, in dire personal straits.If you’re among those who thought Jake Gyllenhaal would never find a role weirder than Louis Bloom, the sociopathic news videographer of “Nightcrawler,” think again. She appeared to be in good spirits while being greeted by Director Jean-Marc Vallee, Judah Lewis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, and writer Bryan Sipe on the carpet.

That might sound like surefire Oscar bait coming from French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée, who directed Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto to wins with “Dallas Buyers Club’’ — which bowed at the 2013 festival — and who helmed Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern to nods for last year’s “Wild.’’ “Demolition’’ isn’t scheduled to open in the US until April, which seems like a tacit admission by Fox Searchlight that this screwball comedy-drama is in some ways even more out-there and potentially alienating to audiences (but probably not to some critics) than “Nightcrawler,’’ the Gyllenhaal vehicle whose Oscar push netted a sole nomination for director Dan Gilroy’s screenplay. The crowded premiere of opening-night gala selection “Demolition” was our first Canadian screening, capping off a handful of titles we caught before even touching down at TIFF. Each member of the crew showed off their own fashion sense, dapper in tailored suits and button downs while proudly standing in to promote their highly-anticipated comedy/drama.

Pressed by his father-in-law to pull it together, Mitchell instead launches into an obsessive campaign against a vending machine company, penning letters of complaint that take on an increasingly confessional tone. Moore, who spoke in a staged conversation here on Friday morning, plays a character pointed toward marital collapse in “Maggie’s Plan.” That one is directed by Rebecca Miller and screens here on Saturday, and is for sale at the festival’s associated film market. Gyllenhaal is no less good here as a smarmy stockbroker whose wife is killed in an automobile accident while they’re arguing in a car crossing the Brooklyn Bridge (yeah, another one of those clichéd scenes). We’ll be bringing you lengthier takes on the festival’s happenings in the days to come, but here are quick reactions to the first few films that comprised our 2015 Toronto experience.

For one thing, Vallee is Canadian, Last year, he was forced to choose between Telluride and Toronto for the premiere of his previous Fox Searchlight film, Wild, and he choose Telluride. Unable to shed a single tear over her death, Gyllenhaal shocks her grieving father (Chris Cooper) by showing up, unshaven, to work at the Wall Street firm where Cooper is also his boss shortly after her funeral. Over the past decade, the much-mocked “The Judge,” the reviled “Fifth Estate,” a U2 documentary and “Score: A Hockey Musical” (nope, not a joke) all introduced the festival.

Her son, played by the young CSI: Cyber star Judah, deals with his own emotional and financial burdens with his mother as they too build up from the shambles. Gyllenhaal himself has also become a fixture in Toronto, appearing in last year’s well-received “Nightcrawler,” as well as “Prisoners,” “Rendition” and previously in Ang Lee’s acclaimed “Brokeback Mountain.” “Jake is fully engaged in this performance,” said Bailey. “And Jean-Marc was able to build a world around this character where you feel you’re with that person.” Additionally, Demolition’s star, Jake Gyllenhaal — who gives a mesmerizing performance as a whacked-out widower who needs to smash property in order to feel something — has awards hopes this year for two other 2015 films: Southpaw, for which he totally transformed his body in order to give an unforgettable performance, and also perhaps even for Everest, an upcoming genre movie in which he does strong supporting work. It’s a blatant device for Gyllenhaal to pour his heart out in a long letter to the vending-machine company — and, believe it or not, their customer service rep (Naomi Watts) calls him at 2 o’clock in the morning.

None went on to great success, at least not in the way that “Whiplash” paraded out of 2014’s Sundance or “Black Swan” rode its 2010 Venice buzz to $330 million at the global box office. Soon, Gyllenhaal and the unhappily married Watts are seeing each other (the actors have no chemistry whatsoever), and with her husband away on business, he hangs around the house with her and her effeminate young son (Judah Lewis), who Gyllenhaal urges to shoot him in his bulletproof vest in the film’s most ridiculous scene.

As it goes, Jean-Marc Vallée is a veritable TIFF darling: “The Young Victoria” opened the festival in 2009, and Oscar champs “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wild” were part of the past two lineups. All of that being said, one can’t help but wonder: might it make sense to reconsider the game-plan and actually slip Demolition, which is clearly ready to go, into this year’s race? Moore said, “Oh, my gosh, those people have been married for a long time and it’s all going wrong, I know that.” She is supposed to be a slightly monstrous mother and professional academic from Denmark. “She’s not monstrous,” she’s just Danish said Cameron Bailey, the Toronto festival director who was quizzing Ms. In the meantime, “Demolition’’ lives up to its title, as Gyllenhaal begins disassembling things (his refrigerator, his computer, the men’s room in the office) before graduating to working on a home-wrecking crew in a three-piece suit. Now, his latest, “Demolition,” which the director introduced as the “most rock ‘n’ roll film” he’s ever made, polarized audience members walking out of Thursday night’s screening.

Eventually, he and the kid are taking sledgehammers to his former marital home in a sequence where the whimsy and metaphors are laid on with a trowel. In the trailer, it shows Jake being unable to extract a pack of Peanut M&Ms and subsequently explaining this was a problem because his wife had 10 minutes to live. It’s an impressively committed Gyllenhaal performance in a film not grounded even in stylized reality — with a mad rush of emotionally manipulative twists at the end to tie up the (many) loose ends.

Minutes before attending the press junket, Naomi took to her 10.3k Instagram followers, writing: ‘Big day back to back press junkets calls for black hat and jazz hands @Burberry #TIFF15 #Demolitionmovie #foxsearchlight #AboutRay #theweinsteincompany.’ In the flick, Ray (Elle) decides to transition from female to male, while Ray’s mother, Maggie portrayed by Naomi, must come to terms while tracking down Ray’s biological father to gain his legal consent. Moore plays Laurel Hester, a New Jersey police detective who, before dying, waged a fight to have her survivor pension benefits paid to a domestic partner, played by Ellen Page. Cooper’s presence also signals it’s taking on the suburban ennui so much more brilliantly critiqued in “American Beauty,’’ which began its march to Oscar glory at the 1999 Toronto Fest.

Then again, I suppose you could say the same thing about another movie about an insensitive widower, About Schmidt, which wasn’t nominated for best picture, but for which Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates received lead and supporting acting noms, respectively. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,’’ it comes a lot closer to Mike Binder’s 9/11 dramedies “The Upside of Anger’’ and “Reign Over Me,’’ which failed to deliver sought-after Oscar nods for its respective stars, Kevin Costner and Adam Sandler. After a hospital vending machine eats his money, Davis takes to corresponding with the company’s customer-service rep via overwrought letters that double as the only outlet he uses to detail his loss. That family conflict magnifies Davis’ war of stoicism, which ultimately leads to destructive behavior, making “Demoiltion” the portrait of a man in desperate need of an emotional tutor.

Moore sees problems in America: education, health care, military employment, race and gender equality. “I think the press out there thinks that Ed Snowden is coming on the stage,” Mr. But Vallée keeps things moving by channeling a more grown-up “Silver Linings Playbook.” The movie also makes for a nice companion piece with Gyllenhaal’s “Nightcrawler” performance — he was more manic there, but both roles are all id in reluctant search for a super-ego. The main event was Jeremy Saulnier’s “Green Room,” a nasty thriller about a punk band that takes a gig it wishes it hadn’t and must face down a group of neo-Nazis headed by Patrick Stewart. The 2009 Oscar-nominated film followed the sheltered lives of two sisters confined to their home and raised by their parents’ bizarre rules and illogical definitions.

Single residents of The City must stay at The Hotel where they have 45 days to find a partner, and if time runs out, they are physically transformed into an animal of their choice to live out their life in The Woods. The premise isn’t far from a “Black Mirror” episode, embodying the futurism of a world that is at once terrifying to imagine yet not far from the realm of possibilities. Colin Farrell, in his best performance in years, if not a career-defining one, plays David, a shy, short-sighted man with a belly (this is not Farrell’s usual confident stud).

What ensues is a series of events — some shockingly head-shaking, some comedic, some brutally violent — in The Hotel that slowly reveal what this dystopian society thrives on and necessitates: the co-dependence of the couple. Being a Loner isn’t permitted in this world, which is the name given to those who escape The Hotel and hide out from hunters to embrace their independence.

Conceptually, “The Lobster” is not only a brilliant piece of filmmaking, but some of the most original writing and original dystopian storytelling in years. Léa Seydoux’s Loner Leader stands out as the strongest, a glimmer of hope against the The City’s regime which quickly turns into something even darker. Here are five reasons Toronto matters so much: TIFF is considered the major launchpad for the awards season and starts on the first Thursday after Labor Day.

The movie’s first-half crawls along with quiet menace until the second-half thrusts viewers into a deep-broiled war that’s more existential than geopolitical. The marrow of “Sicario” belongs to Kate Macy (Emily Blunt), a robust FBI officer wrangled to help a sketchy former prosecutor (Benecio del Toro) and a sketchier government operative (Josh Brolin) as they hunt down a lethal Mexican drug lord. In 2014, the festival doled out some 1,200 media credentials, and studios take advantage of having stars and journalists in one place by banging out junket after junket. “It’s like a worldwide gathering point,” one studio publicist said. “With all the international press and the casts there at once, a lot can be banked for the remainder of the season.” For East Coasters and Europeans alike, this Canadian city is an ideal destination. At the fore is the sexist mental joust that these men employ to persuade the upstanding Kate to do their bidding, regardless of legal risk or moral bankruptcy.

It helps that everyone speaks English, and the festival’s thousands of volunteers are friendly and as helpful as can be, happily ushering film lovers through the city’s squeaky clean streets. Villeneuve wants us to know that anyone within eyesight could be corrupt, but the execution provides little understanding of why it’s these characters who shepherd the story along. Roger Deakins, who shoots the Coen brothers’ movies and earned an Oscar nomination for “Prisoners,” always trains his lens on the most thrilling images in sight.

Among the famous people who graced TIFF last year: Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Naomi Watts, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack and, delightfully, Bill Murray, who was feted with his very own Bill Murray Day. The orange saturation of the sunset makes an impending manhunt seem apocalyptic, and the use of night vision manages to eliminate the distance that exists between the audience and the screen – and it recalls the famous “Silence of the Lambs” scene, which is fitting because Blunt’s role contains traces of Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling. Smartly, Villeneuve opts for subtle violence, at times reminiscent of “No Country for Old Men.” But the characters’ ethical indignities, and the patriarchal pressures that Kate endures as a result, are where the film thrives. Hitchcock experimented with it in “Rope,” Aleksandr Sokurov’s “Russian Ark” stunningly pulled it off and “Birdman” dazzled us with the perception of a one-take movie. But German actor-turned-filmmaker Sebastian Schipper has pulled off something truly groundbreaking — an over two-hour heist thriller that’s actually filmed in one complete shot, sans editing trickery. “Victoria” finds the titular young woman from Spain (Laia Costa) partying one night in Berlin.

They spend the evening drinking and smoking on a rooftop, until Sonne and his friends prepare to leave to handle some unknown, but seemingly dangerous business. Travelling through nearly two dozen locations around Berlin, the film becomes a moving play that brings out a raw mix of emotions from the actors that makes it nearly impossible to look away from the screen — even when you’re not asking yourself how the hell it was accomplished.

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