Tag Archives: Toni Collette

Birthmarked

Catherine and Ben are a couple of brilliant scientists who decide to distinguish their research from the pack by becoming field scientists like no one ever has before. They get an enthusiastic financial backer and retreat to a cabin in the woods where they’ll put nature vs nurture to the ultimate test, asking: could we ever have been anyone other than who we are?

Catherine (Toni Collette) is pregnant, and she and Ben (Matthew Goode) plan to raise their son contrary to his genetic predisposition; the son of scientists will be nurtured toward the artistic. To flesh out their research, they adopt two more children, a girl from dimwit parents who will be nurtured to have high intellect, and a boy adopted from BirthmarkedFeat-1300x867violent people who will be ushered toward pacifism. Thus pass 12 years. But as time goes by, it seems evident that the kids aren’t tending toward any kind of genius. They’re mediocre, leaning toward their natural tendencies. Their benefactor isn’t pleased with the results. And with competing research on the brink of publishing, he’s pushing for things to be rather brought to a head, without seeming to realize that these are actual children we’re talking about. And though Catherine is properly horrified by the thought, Ben is perhaps slower to protest.

Birthmarked is an interesting premise, and well-acted; aside from Toni Collette, who is an absolute boss and can do no wrong, never has, I was particularly pleased by a pop-up role from Xavier Dolan muse and frequent collaborator, Suzanne Clement. But these extremely talented folk seem to ramble around in a script that needed a lot of tightening. Rambling to no particular avail, either – blink and you’ll miss the “climax” which is not a word that adequately describes something simply ending. Birthmarked felt a lot like Captain Fantastic‘s ugly cousin – looser, less successful. And since it falls way short of the oddball charm I hope like heck it was aiming for, the whole thing feels a lot more like…well, child abuse. None of the characters is the true star, so the whole thing feels rather pointless and lusterless, and I can’t help but wish it was directed by nearly anyone else since nearly everyone else has a point of view, and that’s what I missed the most in this movie with a good idea and zero execution.

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Madame

Bob describes his new French manor home as a “humble pied a terre” while his wife Anne greets their VIP guests with barely contained self-satisfaction. Anne doesn’t know that Bob (Harvey Keitel) is concealing their looming bankruptcy – he has to sell a family heirloom just to keep things running but he still presents his wife new jewels ahead of the dinner party. Anne (Toni Colette) doesn’t bother to conceal that she isn’t pleased when Bob’s son Steven shows up at the last minute, upsetting the symmetry of her place settings. In a crunch, she invites her loyal maid Maria (Rossy de Palma) to dine with them, posing as a Spanish noblewoman, though Maria believes it’s a sin to tell a lie.

MV5BNDg3MGMxM2YtMzY0Yi00OTdkLThiMjItZmMyMjVmMWRhMjlkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQzMzk3MTY@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Oh boy. But you know what? Even with terrific advice like “be impossible” and “don’t talk like a maid,” it turns out the biggest risk is not that they’ll be found out, but that the lie will be too well accepted – a Brit described as a “dandy” falls for Maria, and pretty soon it’s Anne is in hot pursuit of her own maid, who’s being courted all over town.

The film itself looks sumptuous but feels rather light, rather flimsy. I don’t need much of an excuse to watch a Toni Collette movie, and even a not great Toni Collette movie is good enough for me. She’s such a joy to watch onscreen, even when she’s plotting and jealous and really kind of heinous. I could watch her nostrils flare with impatience all day long. Rossy De Palma proves a worthy adversary. Since Collette is the bad witch, De Palma is the good, the very good. All eyes on her. The truth is, this movie endeared itself to me the minute I saw Harvey Keitel bicycling in a jaunty scarf.

There’s more to this movie than it even knows itself. Anne and Bob are clearly struggling but don’t have the words for it, and maybe don’t care enough to try. So the thing with Maria is just a convenient escape, and the true reasons for Anne’s obsessive sabotage are many if not always obvious. The cast is talented enough to hint at things that perhaps the script was not strong enough to bring forth. For me this movie was still worth it – I could watch Toni Collette mow  a lawn and be satisfied – and it was perhaps a bit of a stopgap between be knowing I should really be watching Hereditary but not yet having the courage to do it.

 

 

 

Hearts Beat Loud

First off: Brett Haley. Can we just get a round of applause for this guy? He’s way too young to be making such grown up movies, and yet he’s dazzled me with I’ll See You In My Dreams, utterly charmed me with The Hero, and now he’s blown my fucking socks off. And he must be a damn good guy too – not just because he writes such thoughtful, sensitive stuff (the credit for which must be shared with his writing partner Marc Basch), but because his actors keep coming back. I’ll See You In My Dreams gave a much-needed starring role to the lovely Blythe Danner, with Sam Elliott by her side, and then Elliott grabbed the titular role in The Hero, with Nick Offerman as a sidekick, and in Hearts Beat Loud Offerman earns leading man status, with Blythe Danner gracing us with her presence yet again.

Secondly: Nick Offerman. Man. If you’ve known me for more than 30 seconds, you probably know that sort of low-key love him. Not romantically. The kind of love where I’d just happily get into some flannel pajamas and deposit myself between him and his lovely wife (Megan Mullally) and eat cashews with them all day long. Without knowing them personally AT ALL, I get the impression that the Mullally-Offerman household is pretty down to earth and, frankly, a bit goofy. And I think they both make really interesting choices as far as work – not really taking the glitzy roles their TV fame has assured them.

So you had me at Haley. Or Offerman. But both? Are you trying to kill me?

And then the story. Offerman plays Frank Fisher, single (widowed) father to Sam (Kiersey Clemons). The two basically grew up together when a dead wife\mother left them in a puddle of grief, but as Sam has neared adulthood, she’s needed her father less and less. And now that his record store is failing and she’s about to move away for Hearts Beat Loud - Still 1college, Frank is wondering who in the hell he is. His landlady (Toni Collette…oh, did I not mention that the phenomenal Toni Collette is in this?) is sympathetic, his barman\best friend Dave is sympathetic (Ted Danson…oh, did I not mention that Ted Danson is in this, and he’s tending bar???), but good intentions aren’t enough to set this wandering soul on the right path. What does help, enormously, is making music with his daughter. The only problem? He’s ready to start a band with her, and she’s still adamant that medical school is in her immediate future. And what kind of father doesn’t want his brainy daughter to pursue her doctor dreams?

This movie gets everything right, but let me be more specific. The music. The goddamn music. A movie like this can be made or broken by how good the music is. We need to believe that music is a viable option, not just some over-inflated jam session, but a true and fresh talent that’s just waiting to be discovered. And we do. In part because Kiersey Clemons has a stunning voice. I’ve loved her in just about everything I’ve seen her in. She’s glowy yet somehow also unprepossessing. But I’ve never heard her sing before, so when she opened her mouth, I think we all did, in that jaw-droppy, holy shit kind of way. But let’s also throw heaps of praise Keegan DeWitt’s way. He’s Haley’s music guy (well, not just Haley’s – dude is in demand, and this movie makes clear why) and he helps to create this sound that is infectious, but also believable from a father-daughter duo, but wouldn’t be out of place on the radio or, perhaps, on my record player (hint, hint).

The music’s lyrics help advance the story as the two write heartfelt songs that are as gutting as they are toe-tapping. Did I cry? Of course I cried. What am I, some sort of monster? But ultimately, as the director himself puts it, Hearts Beat Loud is an “unabashed feel-good film.” It’s also mature and wise and casually inclusive, but screw that – it’s a damn good movie, a fun movie that presses gently on the heart’s chords, and one that deserves to be seen, and then hummed merrily on the way home.

Fun Mom Dinner

Usually the mere fact of a “mom movie” makes me cringe. Bad Moms make Bad Movies. I’m not a mother and I think more highly of the ones I know than to buy this whole “constant need to complain about the hardships of motherhood” bullshit. Which is not to say I think it’s easy. I just think it’s a choice. And that most of the mothers I know do a little bit of complaining and a little bit of boasting and a whole lot of being a regular person. If you hate your life so much, the LAST thing you should do is make a whiny movie about it so the rest of us are subjected to it too.

MV5BMTYwNzk5MzQ5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDQ1ODE5MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1347,1000_AL_When Sean reluctantly fingered this title on Netflix, we did the math: I love Toni Colette + I like Katie Aselton + I hate Bridget Everett + I really hate Molly Shannon = an uncomfortable tipping toward the negative side. Not a great start. But the movie’s not a total write-off.

The Fun Moms go out for Fun Mom Dinners not to complain about being mothers but to complain about being wives, which is a fun twist. And it turns out that I don’t hate Bridget Everett in movies, I just hate her stand-up persona (she was in Patti Cakes too). Anyway, the fun  part is in kind of short supply, and inconsistent. The movie kind of wavers between a bit of a good laugh and utter predictability. If I never see another girls-night karaoke montage, I’ll have lived a good life.

Bottom line: mothers deserve better from us, better than this “behaving badly” reputation we’ve lately given them in the movies. They’re women, and I guarantee you they have more going on than shitty diapers and dirty dishes. This movie, under the direction of Alethea Jones and the pen of Julie Rudd, actualy gets closer to normalcy, and to comedy, than most in its crummy little genre. This is one of the best Moms movies I’ve seen in a while, but that’s an unforgivably low bar.

It was another rainy day at TIFF…

On the one hand, rain makes you feel a little less guilty about spending the last few days of summer sequestered in movie theatres. On the other hand, there’s the standing in long lineups outside the movie theatres getting icy cold rain down your back, and the dampness in your shirt never dries in the movie theatre air conditioning. So you spend the whole day with a case of the shivers. But you also get to meet really cool people – a gentleman outside the Scotiabank theatre who sheltered me with his umbrella (while occasionally sending a big dump of sub-zero rain down my cleavage, but the intentions were good), an older woman I dubbed the blue angel for her raincoat who insisted I take her umbrella while waiting outside Bloor Hot Docs in the very early morning.Toronto festival goers are nothing if not courteous.

Miss You Already: This was the earliest I’ve ever been up for a movie, so if it was anything less than I was hoping, I would have been pissed. And the thing is, my expectations were tempered. It was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who did Thirteen, but also Twilight. It stars Drew Toni-Collette-Drew-Barrymore-Miss-You-Already-George-Pimentel-WireImage-for-TIFFBarrymore, one of my favourite celebrities, and Toni Collette, one of my favourite actresses. Note the difference. Drew Barrymore does best when just allowed to do her bubbly self, and in this case she’s well-cast and well-used. She and Collette play lifelong BFFs who have their friendship tested when Barrymore finally gets her innermost wishes granted with a long-awaited pregnancy and Collette has her innermost fears realized with a cancer diagnosis that means she is possibly dying, her children soon to be motherless. Collette is an amazing actor, capable of anything, and she handles this material with exactly the aplomb you’d expect. But this isn’t a movie likely to make the Oscar circuit. It’s meant to be crowd-pleasing, in a ten-pack of tissues sort of way. And it is. It’s a solid commentary on women and friendship, and what it means to be there for someone through thick and thin.

Maggie’s Plan: Greta Gerwig is the Diane Keaton of her generation. She’s kind of amazing in this neurotic, bohemian way. In this, she plays a young woman who is ready to have a baby, no matter what her best friend (and former lover) Bill Hader thinks. Of course, the minute she 2015 Toronto International Film Festival - "Maggie's Plan" Premieremakes her move, she meets a man and falls in love. He’s married? So what! You can’t let a stale marriage come between you and your true love – so the marriage between Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore must crumble. Julianne Moore, by the way, is pretty much my favourite in everything lately. I will see her in two movies on this day at TIFF and can’t imagine two more different roles if I tried. Here she’s playing this European shrew with a wildly entertaining accent and immeasurable emotional peaks and valleys. I obviously hoped that this would be a good movie but was still pleased at how funny it was. And clever-funny too, which is always a relief. Kudos to another capable female director, Rebecca Miller. So thrilled to have seen so many talented women at this festival!

Closet Monster: Matt saw a talented young Canadian actor at TIFF several years ago in a movie called Blackbird. He knew that Connor Jessup was someone to watch out for, and he has. When 300_connor_jessup_gettyhe was announced to be starring in Stephen Dunn’s feature debut, Closet Monster, he was sold, and he sold us on it too. Thank you, Matt, for that. Stephen Dunn directs a highly personal film about a young man “coming of age” (good lord I hate that expression) in small and small-minded Maritime town. As a kid, Oscar witnesses a brutal hate crime that leads to internatlized homophobia. His teenaged coming out, and coming to terms, are therefore traumatic. Dunn creates a stylized world of escape for his protagonist, with just a hint of “magical surrealism” to help the bitter medicine go down. It’s a beautiful debut and we were all glad to have been part of it.

Freeheld: An embarrassingly short time ago, as in earlier this century, two women met and fell in love, and when one got sick, the other was going to be left holding an empty bag because domestic partnerships still weren’t really respected in their backwards-thinking country, and her partner’s benefits couldn’t legally be inherited by her. This true story, belonging to Laurel Hester freeheldand her widow Stacie Andree, is brought to the big screen with heaping sensitivity. You couldn’t ask for more from Julianne Moore or Ellen Page, who play the two lovers. Michael Shannon, as Hester’s partner, does a bang up job as the guy with a lot to learn. He’s a placeholder for the audience: we experience their story through his eyes. Sean and I saw Michael Shannon on Broadway a few years back (in an intense play along with Paul Rudd and Ed Asner, believe it or not) and we’ve watched him with grstacie2eater interest ever since. Steve Carrell pops up in the movie too – you may have noticed him in the trailers for this movie, as he’s the clown through which we achieve some catharsis. He plays a “big gay Jew” who basically manipulates a sick woman into stumping for his cause – gay marriage. And causes like that do need a face to make them real to people, but I couldn’t help but sympathize with Andree, who must have just wanted to spend that time with her dying spouse. It’s of course an emotional movie (Kleenex sponsored the premiere, and handed out tissues as we went in). It’s a good but not great movie – but it IS a great story, and I’m so glad it’s been respectfully told. And seeing it with real-life counterparts, including Stacie Andree herself in attendance was something that I will never forget.

Wow, Julianne Moore and cancer both featured heavily in this day’s viewings!

Finally, Matt took on Missing Girl, which you may be intrigued to know, or mystified to learn, that Matt describes as a “charming comedy about a missing persons case.” It’s not every day you hear that one.

Cheers from TIFF!

Check out our other coverage here, and here, and stay tuned on Twitter: @assholemovies

TIFF: The Agony and the Ecstacy

Matt wrote last week about the choices he made for his viewing pleasure (and hopefully your reading one) at the Toronto International Film Festival, slated to open with a bang (or rather, a star-studded screening of Demolition) on September 10.

I  held mine back because the truth is, the TIFF selection process was not a fun one for me. TIFF  has weird rules where it takes your money and then weeks later gives you a “randomly” selected window of just 60 minutes for making your choices – I’m seeing maybe 20 movies out of over 430, by my count, so that’s an awful lot of frantic sifting, choosing, replacing, and scheduling to do in just 60 minutes. It goes without saying that I was “randomly” selected to choose more than 24 hours later than Matt, which meant that a lot of my first, second, and third choices were “off-sale”. Off-sale doesn’t mean sold out, it means that they’re holding some tickets back for when they go on sale to the general public. And nothing against the general public, but I paid my oodles of money, I’m travelling in from out of town, and I don’t think it’s very nice or very fair to force me (since I’ve prepaid for tickets) to see movies that aren’t selling as well, when someone who pays a nominal $25 on the day of will have better luck than me.

I’ll stop my belly-aching now. We’re still pretty lucky to be going at all and I know that. So, without further whining about first world problems, my TIFF picks:

Demolition: I’m actually going to see this one with both Matt and Sean, so it’s a rarity, and I’m not only looking forward to seeing what director Jean-Marc Vallée can squeeze out of Jake Gyllenhaal, I also can’t wait to discuss it with my favourite movie-going friends.

The Lobster: This one is quirky as hell and right up my alley, and I never thought I’d be saying that about a Colin Farrell movie. Newly heartbroken, he checks into a hotel where he’s under the gun to find a mate within a super tight time period – or risk being turned into an animal and put out to pasture? It sounds more like a child’s drawing than a movie, but there you have it.

Eye in the Sky: We ‘re doing the red-carpet treatment of this one on Friday night, and Dame Helen Mirren is confirmed to attend. She’s looking less glamorous in the still from this movie, playing a Colonel who’s spent a long time tracking down a radicalized citizen who must be stopped. But when drone operator Aaron Paul reports that a small child has wandered into the kill zone, the team has to decide whether the casualty of this little girl is acceptable collateral damage. Yowza!

The Martian: You may know that I have been frothing about this movie for months now. I luuuurved the book and passed it along to all of my literate friends but then waved a flag of skepticism when I heard that a) it’s directed by Ridley Scott b) it’s a reteaming of Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, lately seen together in Interstellar. But I hope hope HOPE that they “science the hell” out of this thing and blow my fucking socks off.

The Danish Girl: Eddie Redmayne is almost certainly in the running for a second Oscar for his portrayal of Lili Elbe, the 1920s Danish artist who was one of the first known recipients of sexual reassignment surgery. The trailer alone looks so lush that I’m drooping to see it – which is fortunate, because TIFF stuck me with TWO pairs of tickets to this. Woops! Anyone know someone who’s looking for a pair?

Freeheld: We’re seeing this one on flashy premiere night as well and will see both Julianne Moore and Ellen Page walk the red carpet. They star as a real-life couple from New Jersey who just want Moore’s pension to go to Page when Moore passes away. It was a huge case for LGBT rights and I’m betting that both of these ladies really bring it.

The Dressmaker: Funny story. I read this book recently, in anticipation of this movie. And I really, really liked it. Only: it’s about a young dressmaker who survives the sinking of the Titanic thanks to her wealthy employer. Knowing that Kate Winslet was set to star, I was shocked that she’d choose to go back to Titanic in this way. I mean, if anyone can put it off, it’s Winslet, but still. The more I read, the more I thought maybe she’s not playing the dressmaker, maybe she’s playing the plucky journalist. I still couldn’t believe the press wasn’t making a bigger deal out of this, but it wasn’t until I finished the book that I realized that I’d read the wrong Dressmaker. Same title, different author. Oopsie daisy again. But I’m confident this one’s good too, and it’s Kate Winslet, so we’re almost guaranteed to see boob.

Into the Forest: Here’s a movie that looks so familiar to me in the trailer that I believe I have read the book. I do not know for sure that it’s based on a book and I’m not looking it up. This way even I’ll be surprised (or, REALLY surprised!). Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page star as sisters who live in a remote cabin in the woods. The world is on the verge of the apocalypse and their location keeps them safe, but also leaves them vulnerable…

Anomalisa: This is the Charlie Kaufman-directed stop-motion animated ode to a motivational speaker and his bleak existence. I have no idea what to expect from it and that’s why I’m so crazy excited. It could go a lot of ways but no matter what, I do believe I’ll be seeing something special.

About Ray: Have you ever attended a red carpet event in the middle of the afternoon? Me neither! TIFF is so jam-packed with gliterry premieres that it starts packing them in at odd times just to get through them all. I’m tickled we got tickets to this (hard won, believe me) and I’m anxious to see if it’s as good as it looks, and if this and The Danish Girl will cancel each other out (though this one is also about a gender transition, it’s set in modern day, with Elle Fanning as the young woman who wants to be a young man, Naomi Watts as her mother, and Susan Sarandon as her mother.

Miss You Already: This might be a little too chick-flicky to be regular festival fare, but it’s Toni Collette so say what you want, but my ass will be in that seat at the ungodly hour of 8:45 in the goddamned morning. Toni and Drew Barrymore play lifelong friends whose friendship hits a bit of a roadbump when one discovers she’s pregnant just as the other gets a cancer diagnosis. Note to Sean: bring tissues, or an extra-absorbent shirt.

Maggie’s Plan: Starring the delightful Greta Gerwig, Maggie’s plan to have a baby on her own is derailed when she falls in love with a married man (Ethan Hawke) and destroys his relationship with his brilliant wife (Julianne Moore). I like Gerwig a whole lot but to be honest, I’m really wondering how this dynamic is going to work – and I’m super intrigued to find out how Bill Hader fits into the mix. Julianne Moore is going to be one busy lady at this festival!

The Family Fang: Directed by and starring Jason Bateman, he plays a brother to Nicole Kidman, both returning to the family home in search of their super-famous parents who seem to have disappeared. Jason Bateman is a little hit or miss for me but I committed on the off chance that the man playing his father – legendary Christopher MotherFucking Walken – might be in attendance. He’s not slated as far as I can tell, but I’d kick myself right in the sitter if he was and I wasn’t.

Legend: Tom Hardy plays real-life English gangsters. Yes, plural: the Kray twins. This dual role is getting a lot of buzz and since I seem to be mesmerized by Hardy in nearly everything he does, I’m super excited to check this one out.

 

Biggest TIFF regret: Missing Room. We’ll be back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto, but this particular movie only plays twice during the whole festival, and neither screening is on a day I’m there. I loved this book and am anxious to see the movie treatment. Good or bad, I want to pass judgement. I want to feast my little eyes. I am heartbroken to miss this one.

Two questions:

  1. We still have some tickets to alocate. Any suggestions?
  2. If you were in The Lobster hotel and failed to find a mate – what animal would you be turned into. Me? An otter. Definitely an otter.

We’ll be posting updates as we go, and be sure to check out our Twitter @assholemovies for photos of the red carpet premieres!

 

Mary and Max

I hardly have words for how much this movie charmed and delighted me.

It premiered on the opening night of the Sundance festival in 2009, the very first animated film to do so, but it’s taken me all this time to learn of it and watch it.

mary-and-max_154214It’s beautifully animated in very nearly black and white stop-motion, rich in details. Truly, I could have watched this movie in slow motion just to appreciate all of the work that went into each and every piece. You can see the love and attention that went into this; artists laboured for over a year, building 133 separate sets, 212 puppets, and 475 miniature props, including a tiny but fully-functional Underwood typewriter that took 9 weeks to design and build.

Mary (Toni Colette) and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are unlikely pen pals – one, a young and ostracized young girl from Australia who believes babies come from beer steins, and the other, a morbidly obese New Yorker who is autistic in a time before that diagnosis is really made or understood. They are each in desperate need of a friend, and somehow manage to find one in each other.

This movie very deftly and sensitively tackles all kinds of issues, from Max’s fragile mental maxhealth, to atheism, childhood neglect, even to Mary’s war vet neighbour who is agoraphobic (“He’s scared of going outside which is a disease called homophobia.”)

The film is tragic at times, but has this pervasive sweetness to it that makes everything bearable. The story is often told via letters exchanged between the two, which some may find a little quiet, but I’m a sucker for animated films made for adults, and this one I’m all over. The characters have this bold honesty that I couldn’t get enough of (In her first letter, Mary encloses a drawing of herself  with the caveat “I can’t draw ears properly but I’m great at teeth”; in one of his responses, Max asks, in typical random fashion, “Have you ever been a communist? Have you ever been attacked by a crow or a similar large bird?”) Honestly, I watched this movie like it was my favourite book, or the greatest dessert – savouring it, delighting in it, racing toward the culmination but dreading the end.

Lots of the visuals are their own little jokes, but blink and you’ll miss them (keep your eyes peeled for clever epitaphs on the graves). One of my personal favourites was that some of the mary and maxstamps used by Mary featured Dame Edna, whom I love, have loved since childhood, while it was Barry Humphries himself who narrates the film. So delicious.

Director Adam Elliot is also behind the Oscar-winning short Harvie Krumpet – worth a viewing all on its own, but also a good barometer for the tone of Mary and Max. It never got a theatrical release in North America but it’s available on Netflix right this minute, and if you check it out now, I guarantee it’s not a minute too soon.