The last weekend of TIFF held a lot of first-rate movies for us.
The Dressmaker: Kate Winslet is ravishing and saucy is this film about a little girl who’s sent away from small-town Australia when she kills another child, and returns years later a sophisticated, fashionable woman able to transform the townspeople with her Singer and some satin, but not erase their memories. Her past is a shadow never escaped. It reminded me in some ways of Hot Fuzz – the facade of a close-knit town spoiled by the spectre of evil. The title may sound prim and proper, but the movie’s just a little bit naughtier, and helluva lot quirkier. Even Sean enjoyed it more than he thought he would; the movie’s sheer audacity earning quite a few laughs. It’s dark, and with theme shifts from elder care to bedding a younger lover, this movie doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Not that that stopped me from thoroughly enjoying it. Winslet and Judy Davis as her demented mother give really strong, badass performances.
The Danish Girl: Both timely and timeless, this one’s a stunner in many ways. Eddie Redmayne’s performance is a show-stopper. Alicia Vikander proves she’s not just a flash in the pan. And my god it’s gorgeous to watch. So lush. A real artist’s palette. As you know, this movie is about one of world’s first sexual reassignment surgeries; painter Einar Wegener always knew he was different, but when he dons panty hose to sit and pose for his wife (also a painter), Miss Lili Elbe emerges and can’t be denied. This movie is restrained and delicate – and maybe a little too tepid, considering its thematic content. But it definitely worked for me on a more personal level. What is it like when the man you love tells you he’s really a woman? And what happens when you still love this woman, but she wants to leave her past behind? It’s anguishing watching them try to redefine their lives, and their selves. Redmayne will of course get another Best Actor nod (but will he win and join Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks in back-to-back Oscars?) but I won’t be surprised if Vikander is recognized too. The Danish Girl ends up being as much her story as Lili’s. It’s not bold, it’s not daring, and it’s not a masterpiece. But it is a triumph.
Anomalisa: Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson make a surprisingly exceptional pairing. Together they direct the most invigorating piece of film I’ve seen in a long time. The script is amazing. It’s funny and smart from start to finish. The stop-motion animation is also first-rate and very distinguished. There’s nothing like it out there. How can something so banal be so funny? It’s the perfect examination of human connection, and this will stand up there with Kaufman’s best. Weird? Of course it’s weird, that best kind of brain-tickling, truthful weird. But the genius is in the pairing – for every nuance offered by Kaufman, Johnson answers with a brilliant piece of animation: the earbuds, the car air freshener, the lobby flower arrangement, the miniature hotel room hair dryer. I always adore stop-motion animation because this physical recreation of an entire world always seems to show so much care and precision from the animators. Anomalisa is a marvel to look at and think over, and if you love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, then this one’s unmissable.
Legend: The legend worth noting here is Tom Hardy himself – twice. He plays real-life gangster twins, Reggie and Ronnie Kray. And he manages to make these men who look so much alike feel like complete individuals. And the camera tricks that make Tom Hardy able to punch himself in the face are super cool. You can’t take your eyes off him, no matter who he’s playing. The movie, though, wasn’t my favourite. It’s exceedingly gory and gleefully bloodthirsty in some parts, and then suddenly you’ve got supercheesy 1960s pop Going To the Chapel blaring like this is some throwback romcom. There’s an annoying narration, I think to cover up some of the holes in the story, but at any rate, it doesn’t work. This movie feels as schizophrenic as poor Ronnie is claimed to be, and while it’s still worth checking out for Hardy alone, it’s best to lower your expectations a bit.
Lolo: I love Julie Delpy. I love how she writes such witty, talky women. It’s like hanging out with your girlfriends: snappy, snarky, sharp. This movie is about a 45 year old Parisienne, Violette (Delpy) and how she falls in love with “country bumpkin” (Dany Boon). This might have been a smart and sexy meditation on middle-aged coupledom but instead it falls apart when Violette’s millennial son Lolo is introduced. You’ll want to punch this kid in the face, especially as he lounges around in his hipster underpants one too many times. He’s jealous of mommy’s new lover, and resorts to all kinds of low-brow, stale antics to drive them apart. Delpy is better than this. If she had made a movie with just the new lover and her best friend, my god, that would have been a power house. She didn’t need this juvenile intervention, and it’s not her strength as a writer nor as a director. I still enjoyed her bawdy sense of humour and breezy manner, but it wasn’t quite the film I’d hoped it would be.