TIFF ’17 Day 4: The Square, Brad’s Status, A Worthy Companion

Terry Notary in The Square.

The Square (Sweden, 2017. Dir: Ruben Ostlund): The winner of the Palm D’Or is more often than not a TIFF staple. The Square is a comedy brimming of novel ideas and topics, so much so that after a while the richness becomes counterproductive. Still, the Swedish flick is years-light ahead of your average Hollywood comedy.

At the center of The Square lies Christian (Claes Bang), the chief curator of a modern art museum in Stockholm. Christian must juggle several crises simultaneously, chief of them all, the need for funding and attention. A personal hiccup (a robbery) sends his carefully balanced existence into a tailspin.

Christian’s woes are just an excuse for director Ruben Ostlund (Force Majeure) to explore the growing distance between the elites and the common man. The film also tackles the perennial matter of what constitutes art. Ostlund doesn’t venture an answer, but has a good time mocking the question.

The Square is a bit too cynical for its own good, but reaffirms my belief that the future of cinema can be found in Scandinavia. Three and a half dogs. Distribution in Canada: Theatrical.

Brad’s Status (USA, 2017. Dir: Mike White): Once could easily dismiss Brad’s Status as a white privilege dramedy unaware of how conceited it is. Alas, the film touches on a number of topics that ring true.

The Brad in question (Ben Stiller) is a middle age Gen-Xer embarking on a college tour with his teenage son. The occasion becomes a dark night of the soul for Brad, as he reminisces about his own days as a student and how much better his then friends have fared in life.

Easily Mike White’s best since Chuck and Buck, Brad’s Status rings true more often than not, and even dares to offer answers to middle age ennui. It’s also kinder to Gen-Y than most films attempting to portrait millennials. Definitely an indulgent experience, but a satisfactory one. Three and a half dogs. Distribution in Canada: Theatrical.

A Worthy Companion (Canada, 2017. Dir: Carlos Sánchez, Jason Sánchez): Not a fantastic crop of Canadian films this year at TIFF. A Worthy Companion at least has an intriguing premise, mangled by a script stripped of all common sense and an over-the-top performance by Evan Rachel Wood.

The Westworld lead is Laura, a troubled woman with more issues than the Encyclopedia Britannica. She is an accountant/cleaning lady who becomes obsessed with a bookish teen girl for some reason (I’m not being glib, there isn’t anything special about their relationship).

Laura convinces the teenager in question, Eva (Julia Sarah Stone, Wet Bum), to run away from home and move in with her. After about a hundred red flags, Eva realizes there may be something seriously wrong with Laura, but just as she is considering escaping, the Stockholm syndrome kicks in.

A Worthy Companion is so obsessed with being edgy, it forgets to build mildly cohesive characters. Chief among all is Eva, whose behavior defies basic self-preservation (Julia Sarah Stone looks lost through the entire movie). Not only Evan Rachel Wood chews scenery like is nobody’s business, her character’s psychological issues are not even consistent with one another. Overall, the film has train wreck qualities that make it watchable, if just barely. Two dogs. Distribution in Canada: Likely theatrical.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.