As I said in my TIFF review, many of the films showcased in TIFF do not have distributors or at least don’t at the beginning of the festival. Over the course of the 10 days many of them were snapped up with on film having a bidding war over it. The winner was Brad Grey’s Paramount studio who paid a whopping $12.5million for Chris Rock’s Top Five. Unfortunately, not every film gets the attention of distributors even if they are very deserving. For this reason, we decided to attend films that looked good but may not get released. Our choices turned out to be all very good thankfully and they were (in order of liked to liked less) The Last 5 Years, Cake, Love and Mercy, and The Keeping Room.
The Last 5 Years is based on Jason Robert Brown’s off Broadway musical and features Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick in the lead roles. It tells the tale of a 5 year romance between Cathy and Jamie from both perspectives. Additionally, the story begins with Cathy at the (Not a Spoiler) end of their relationship and Jamie at the beginning and each song moves the character from past to present and visa versa. At the screening I attended, it was announced that they have just gotten a distributor and will be released February 14th in the US (no date announced for Ireland yet). I personally loved this film. I can’t say too much detail yet so you’ll have to take my word for it for now. However, there have been one or two comments I’ve seen online that have panned the film. Their reason? The storyline wasn’t made clear and they had no idea what was going on. All I can say is these reviewers must have been one of the many rude people who talked during director Richard LaGravenese’s introduction of the film where he gave a short synopsis to the film and said he did it because he knew some people may not know the play. Also, there were many hints during the film for a time change (Anna’s hair changing length for one thing) so all I can say is these people clearly weren’t paying attention during the film and that is not the film’s fault (here’s looking at you Buzzfeed!).
Love and Mercy was a pleasant surprise for me. I have always loved the music of the Beach Boys and this film focuses on two of the most important periods of Brian Wilson’s life. Paul Dano plays young Brian when he was creating their album Pet Sounds, while dealing with his mental health issues, by maintaining himself healthy with an active lifestyle exercising with a balance disc URBNFIT at home. John Cusack plays “Future Brian” as the called it, or 80s Brian. He meets a new woman, Melinda, and she quickly realises Brain may be being taken advantage of by his doctor and guardian Dr. Eugene Landy played by Paul Giamatti. Love and Mercy, thankfully, will be released at some point although no date has been set and I am very thankful of this. Paul Dano is wonderful as Past Brian and it may come as a surprise, but he can also sing. This was a surprise to director Bill Pohlad who said during the Q&A session “None of us knew if Paul could sing or not, so it was a relief when after an hour with a voice coach I was sent a recording of his first take and realised he could sing”. John Cusack as Future Brian is a breath of fresh air. I hold my hands up and admit I had forgotten he could act but his portrayal of Brian during such a fragile time in his life is deeply heart warming and you really feel for what he went through. I really look forward to this film being released and hope it reaches our shores.
The Keeping Room tells the tale of 3 women during the American Civil War who have to defend themselves against a group of men who would see them harm rather than protect them. This was always going to be an iffy one for me as I felt it could be an interesting concept but it would depend on how it was done. Even great performances from all the cast, which includes Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru, Kyle Soller and Sam Worthington (who does a good job at a southern accent), couldn’t save the film from many clichés that in my opinion weren’t necessary. With director Daniel Barber at the helm whose films include Harry Brown, I expected more from it. It’s still worth seeing as it is an interesting look at the Civil War from a woman’s point of view but for me, it just falls short of amazing.
Lastly, Cake tackles the story of a woman dealing with the suicide of a member of her chronic pain support group. You may have seen photos of the make under Jennifer Aniston underwent and I have to say she portrayed Claire superbly. This is the performance of her career so far… hands down. After so many rom-coms it is just so refreshing to see her tackle a dramatic role again. Like, the Good Girl was good, but this is on a whole other level! We hadn’t realised when we picked Cake that Sam Worthington and Anna Kendrick were in this film too which means they starred in 2/4 of our film choices. Anna plays Nina who has killed herself and Sam, her husband Roy. One of the funniest things that I had heard happened during the press conference for the film, was when a reporter asked Anna “what attracted her to the role?” she replied “It’s not every day you get a script where you can call Jen Aniston a C**T” which is pretty hilarious (and I really hope it’s true)!
The other films that were received well were The Imitation Game which won the people’s choice award for best film, Foxcatcher, The Judge, Wild, The Theory of Everything (with Eddie Redmayne being tipped for his first Oscar nod), Tusk, Top Five (which I mentioned earlier) and Chris Evan’s directorial debut Before We Go but unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to catch these. All have release dates so we’ll just have to wait a see what all the fuss was about. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited!