Toronto International Film Festival – Day 6: Girlfriend in a Coma

My less than glowing review of The Eye of the Storm published yesterday has received some heat. It seems everybody else loved the film, judging from other media covering the event. Fate also wanted me to meet most of the perpetrators of the flick: Geoffrey Rush, Charlotte Rampling, director Fred Schepisi and his gorgeous daughter, Alexandra, all of them lovely people who couldn’t be prouder of their movie. While I wouldn’t change a comma of the critique, it seems The Eye of the Storm strikes a chord among those growing in egalitarian societies such as the Australian, which witnessed the surge of class warfare in the late Seventies. I’ll give it another shot when it opens in theatres.

The only one who can challenge Michael Fassbender supremacy this year at TIFF is George Clooney. The Descendants is his lesser film (The Ides of March got most the accolades), but it’s under no circumstances dismissible. Clooney plays Matt King, a man dealing with two life-changing events simultaneously: A real estate deal that could make him a millionaire, and his wife caught in a coma. Most of his life Matt has been the back-up parent and comes to the realization he doesn’t really know his daughters, both fairly complicated girls. Even more devastating, turns out the missus was having an affair with Matthew Lillard (the horror!)

Director Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Sideways) is the rare American auteur known for his dry sense of humor and precise dissecting of human relations. The Descendants is as solid as his previous efforts, but the trademark self-deprecating voice-over is getting old. Clooney plays the role with less charm and more pathos than usual, but it’s hardly a stretch (could be the same guy from Up in the Air). The Descendants guarantees a good time, but it doesn’t have any lasting properties. Three prairie dogs in need of therapy.

Clive Owen, probably tired of being in good movies nobody watches, is giving genre films a shot. Owen stars in the ambitious horror flick Intruders, from director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later). Divided in two parallel stories that predictably intersect at the end, Intruders focuses in two kids dealing with Hollowface, a monster that dwells in the dark. The creature feeds from the children imagination and looking for a new set of facial features.

Aside from the cinematic structure, Intruders is in essence a bedtime story. Fresnadillo is only partially successful in creating a strong thriller with no gore, but a few times the nightmarish set-up delivers the goods. There is an effective moment in which Hollowface succeeds in stealing someone’s mouth. It features the freakiest sound effect, like Velcro. I don’t expect much sleep tonight due to it. Three creepy prairie dogs looking by the window.

Even though Page Eight was made for a British broadcaster, this entertaining political intrigue works just as fine in the big screen. It doesn’t hurt it has half of Hogwarts’ staff is in it: The MI-5 higher-ups (Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon and Judy Davis) receive word that the Prime Minister (Ralph Fiennes) is very much aware of the Americans’ rendition practices and could have put the information to save English lives. The question is how to put the info to good use before Voldemort gets them wacked, or at least fired. The nominal protagonist is Nighy, who can portrait intelligence without moving a muscle. A line from Page Eight to mull over: “Why do you want to piss in life before you have lived it?”  Three and a half prairie spooks.

TIFF concentrates most rarities in late night screenings, a time most press and industry are partying or sleeping. In this context I saw Lipstikka, a psychological drama about two Palestinian women unraveling after years of sublimation. Friends for most of their lives and occasional lovers, Inam and Lara share a complicated story. Their teenage years were marked for a confuse incident involving two Israeli soldiers on the prowl. As adults, Inam and Lara have chosen to thwart their sexual inclinations in exchange for status and permanent residence in England. In short, they are a mess. The tension between the women is moderately engaging, but the most interesting aspect of the film is the financing, courtesy of Israeli production companies. One of the girls is portrayed by former supermodel Nataly Attiya, a Tel Aviv native. Three complicated prairie dogs.

Tomorrow, Todd Solondz (Happiness) makes a slacker comedy and Morgan Spurlock goes to Comic-Con.

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.