What the Critics Are Buzzing About at TIFF This Week

Last week, we took a look at the best of early film festival reviews. And with some of this year’s most anticpated films like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity premiering at Venice and Telluride, we’re currently in the midst of TIFF, and soon to be the New York Film Festival. So for those of us that having been jealously keeping tabs on our friends and co-workers who get to spend their days consuming some of the best cinema this year has to offer, here’s another look at what critics have been writing feverishly about so far this week.

August: Osage County

There are a few positive aspects of “August: Osage County”, the most crucial of which is the film’s overall (but imperfect) respect for Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, on which this adaptation is based. With a script adapted for the screen by Letts herself, director John Wells is happy to maintain the original’s theatrical and somewhat formless narrative structure of the original. ”August: Osage County” is a movie that makes brave choices, upon occasion, but it’s all the poor choices, coming in a rapid-fire manner, that eventually sink the work. Film.com

 As directed by Wells, he seems to have been almost too hands-off when it comes to his heavyweight cast. There is little in the way of craftmanship here—even the usually-reliable composer Gustavo Santalalla provides a rather workmanlike score—and the film could’ve used a stronger hand in guiding the transition of the play to the big screen. There is a powerful cinematic experience somewhere in "August: Osage County" waiting to get out in the sprawling two hour plus runtime, but in seemingly staying too faithful to Letts’ work, the end product winds up playing almost like a supercut of Important Acting In Big Scenes, instead of a cohesive work of dramatic weight and thematic thoughtfulness. The Playlist

Shooting in widescreen — a practical necessity with this many characters to squeeze into a frame — Adriano Goldman (“Jane Eyre,” “The Company You Keep”) beautifully captures the hazy half-light of a house whose permanently drawn window shades are mentioned in the dialogue. Indeed, it is a place where we can never be sure whether we are traveling a long day’s journey into night, or a long night’s journey into day. Variety

The F Word

But what elevates “The F Word” from an above-average romantic comedy to a movie worthy of being embraced by a generation of twenty somethings is that Dowse doesn’t let his characters off the hook. The film doesn’t throw any major curveballs, but it resists caricature whenever possible (Chantry’s boyfriend is kinda violent, but he remains pivotally likable), and it forces Wallace and Chantry to confront their selfishness, and eventually consider the dark side of their secret agendas. The consequences for their mutual misgivings are not particularly dire, but every aspect of the story dissects the destructive psychology of platonic pining in one way or another. Tack on an energetic score by The New Pornographers’ A.C. Newman and some great shots of Toronto that aren’t actually trying to pawn the city off as New York, and you’ve got a winning rom-com about two people who convincingly create something too good to lose. Film.com

Many have cited WHEN HARRY MET SALLY as THE F WORD’s touchstone, and there are certainly tons of similarities, although neither Kazan nor Radcliffe are nearly as acerbic as their older counterparts. But just like Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in that movie, they seem meant for each other. Adam Driver gets the Bruno Kirby role as Radcliffe’s studly best friend (stealing every scene he’s in- just like on GIRLS). There’s even the equivalent of the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene, although here the conversation is slightly less classy, focusing on how much feces Elvis died with in his intestines (it makes sense when you watch it). Also, what Rob Reiner did for Manhattan, Dowse does for the rarely used (as an actual on-screen location, although plenty of films shoot there) Toronto. Everything people love about the city is on display here, from the cool diners, artisan shops, and hip neighborhoods that many young people have walked around and fell in love in. More than anything, this is a love-letter to that city. JoBlo

 The Double

In short, Ayoade, clearly steeped in film history, has borrowed every trick and technique in the lexicon he can think of in order to lock the viewer inside the tortured miasma that is Simon’s headspace, a nightmarish and distorted world in which every slight and insult is magnified and multiplied ad infinitum. It’s a bleak, alienating vision by design, and the cruel sense of repetition that sets in feels entirely intentional, conveying again and again the weight of society bearing down relentlessly on one individual. Variety

Ayoade isn’t a spontaneous director – there’s a plot and a plan at work here. Everything, from the repetition in the soundtrack to Ayoade’s recruitment of many of the actors he used in Submarine as The Double’s bored salarymen – slips into the spirit of the fiction. Because of this some may find The Double a little arch, a touch too fastidious, but there’s a real creative energy at force. This kind of exactitude is what makes for great comedy, even one that at times lacks heart. The Double isn’t an original idea. It wasn’t even in Dostoyevsky’s time. But it’s a great story. And Ayoade has produced a brilliant copy. The Guardian

Ayoade’s care with the movie’s craft is loving and infectious – the feel of a hermetic, Stygian netherworld is perfectly achieved on the budget, and a grippingly nervy chamber score by Andrew Hewitt keeps it ticking along. Single-scene cameos from the director’s old chums Chris O’Dowd (as a callous doctor) and Sally Hawkins (as a dismal receptionist) function as handy distractions from its deliberately frazzling plot, andPaddy Considine has a blast as a cheesy TV-serial action hero. Where it’ll lose some viewers is how hard it is, after a while, to care whether Simon or James has clawed back the upper hand. A film for Ayoade connoisseurs, then, but not one to win him new fans. The Telegraph

 

Enemy

Part enigmatic existentialist thriller, part psychosexual drama, “Enemy,” like Villeneuve’s earlier festival film, is exceptionally dark, harrowing, and especially consuming. Those that have seen “Prisoners” can attest to the methodical, hyper-attuned clinician Villeneuve has become in his approach to genre, and “Enemy” has the same quivering pitch of masterful meticulousness. Not only is “Enemy” once again first-rate filmmaking, it’s profoundly unnerving. A challenging, sometimes abstract piece of work, “Enemy” doesn’t reveal itself easily, but its coiling ouroboros quality is fascinating and spellbindingly disturbing. A riveting examination of intimacy (and the lack thereof), identity, duality and the nether regions of our unconscious desires, “Enemy” is a transfixing grand slam that certifies Villeneuve as the real deal and one of the most exciting new voices in cinema today. The Playlist

However, ENEMY is so weird, I’m not sure that whatever I just read into those relationships is even accurate. Perhaps the key to a movie like ENEMY is to never try and figure it out, but rather to just let it wash over you. Even though the story is indecipherable, it remains enjoyable. Movies that play such tricks on your mind can sometimes be a chore to sit through, but Villeneuve keeps it short, running only ninety minutes. If PRISONERS is a novel, ENEMY feels like an experimental short story. JoBlo

 

Dallas Buyer’s Club

Not since “I Love You Phillip Morris” has a film put such a fresh twist on the accepted AIDS narrative, but instead of getting in the public’s faces the way that crazy Jim Carrey comedy did, “Dallas Buyers Club” works its way under their skin. By choosing such a vocally homophobic antihero, writers Borten and Wallack ensure that no matter how uncomfortable audiences are with HIV or so-called “alternative lifestyles,” they will recognize Woodruff’s knee-jerk bigotry as uncool. And thus, the film manages to educate without ever feeling didactic, and to entertain in the face of what would, to any other character, seem like a grim life sentence. Variety

It’s impressive, but is it really worthy of becoming one of just a handful of films that represent this harrowing time in American history? No, it never was. But worse is that "Dallas Buyers Club" is not a very good movie on top of that. With lazy and uninspired direction from Vallée and a cookie-cutter screenplay from Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, "Dallas Buyers Club" completely fails to portray the magnitude of the situation at hand (having an anti-Reagan poster out of focus in the background isn’t going to cut it). And as a result, you don’t end up caring much about what’s up on that screen. Even if it never should have been up there to begin with. Indiewire

Director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y, The Young Victoria) might easily have converted the material into a campy redneck soap opera, or stamped the life out of it with excessive tub-thumping. He rises above both. At just under two hours, it’s a little long, but the blend of biting character study and campaigning pharmaceutical docudrama is zesty and memorable. And vital: the death sentence Woodroof’s given begins to feel an awful lot like a new lease of life. The Telegraph

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her

What makes “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” truly stand apart from all the other films of its kind, be they French art-house award winners, your mother’s favorite Meg Ryan movie or the myriad of romantic comedies out there, is the emotional depth that is allowed to be dug by the film’s premise and length, executed almost perfectly. There are many meandering moments where you might find yourself thinking, “where is this going” and you will be forming opinions about these people which undoubtedly affect your judgment of the movie, but that’s all part of the bigger picture Benson is painting. Like an epic sonnet, with beautiful accompanying music and songs, “Eleanor Rigby” deals with memory, perception and the emotional toll a relationship can have on an individual as much as it deals with the more grandiose themes of love and loss. It’s a finely tuned and tenderly detailed love story of two people told on a cosmic scale, and it’s one of the year’s greatest relationship films. The Playlist

 A filmmaker less determined to structure the film in two equal parts would have stepped on the accelerator after two hours of narration, much of it repeated at that. The ending, for example, is truly affecting, but more so the first time we see it. This would probably be the case whichever half screened first. Tech work is sensitive but unobtrusive, taking maximum advantage of authentic New York locations. Music plays a big but negative role in Conor’s aversion to most anything that’s playing on the radio or elsewhere. New York alternative hip-hop composer Son Lux supplies the sounds he does like. Not a single note of the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby is ever heard in the film. It’s not needed: you sing it to yourself. The Hollywood Reporter 

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