TIFF 2014: Best of the fest, so far
We've passed TIFF's midway mark! CBC staffers look back at the films seen
The 39th Toronto International Film Festival is nearly half over (or half started, depending on how you look at it). So, there's no better time to take stock of some of the most notable films we've screened so far.
With nearly 400 films on the roster, it's nearly impossible to view them all — but we're trying — and as you can tell by the reviews below, we don't always agree on what we've seen.
Here are some of TIFF's standout films so far, in no particular order:
The Theory of Everything
- Oscar buzz for Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Stephen Hawking
- VIDEO | The Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne at TIFF
Review: This moving biopic could be titled Stephen Hawking: A Love Story. Based on his (spoiler alert) ex-wife's memoir, this movie contains more romance than science. But it works beautifully, showing the young genius as a Cambridge student, meeting the love of his life, then being struck with ALS but defying the odds by continuing with his life and scientific breakthroughs. No ice bucket challenge required; Eddie Redmayne is a shoe-in for an Oscar nod. 4½ stars out of 5. —Nigel Hunt, producer, CBC Arts.
Review: This is the unexpected love story of Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist with ALS. We first meet him as a young man in university, as he comes to the world-altering decision to study the history of time. He's played as a charismatic, eccentric but funny person, full of life. It's a lovely portrait of the man and the romance that develops between him and a young student of literature, even as his health quickly falters. They are all perseverance, dedication and love. Despite the tremendous obstacles they must have faced, it's a resolutely sunny story. Whether this is true to life (the credits say they remain friends to this day) it's certainly an inspiring story. 3½ stars out of 5. —Alice Hopton, producer, CBC Arts.
- PHOTOS | Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern debut their film Wild at TIFF
- VIDEO | 'I was crying like a baby' says Wild director Jean-Marc Vallée
Review: Reese Witherspoon is Cheryl Strayed, a woman on the path to redemption as she fights the elements and her own demons during a three-month hike along the Pacific Trail. Flashbacks burn brighter than the desert sun as we see the life Strayed left behind: scenes of shooting heroin, sleeping with whoever asked, and fights with her now-estranged husband. But Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée reserved his most tender shots for the woman Strayed calls "the love of her life" — her late mother, heartbreakingly played by Laura Dern. 4 stars out of 5 —Deana Sumanac-Johnson, CBC arts reporter.
Review: In case you are wondering if a pit bull puppy and Tom Hardy's puppy-dog eyes can carry a movie: the answer is yes. Hardy — as the mysterious and apparent good guy, Bob Saginowksi — commands our attention and keeps us guessing on who he really is. Bob is "just the bartender" at his cousin Marv's bar, the Brooklyn establishment where mobsters move their dirty money. It's difficult, yet captivating, to watch James Gandolfini as Cousin Marv in what we know is his last performance. There are a few plot twists that are too tidy and improbable, but you will definitely want to drop in on this one. 4 stars out of 5. —Ilana Banks, CBC Arts producer.
Love & Mercy
The Wanted 18
- VIDEO | The Wanted 18 screens at TIFF
And proof that film review is truly subjective territory:
The Last Five Years
Review: This musical — about the rise and fall of the romance of a young, beautiful couple — is done almost entirely through singing, which doesn't quite work. The fact that the story isn't told chronologically is a nice touch, but emotionally there's more heft in an episode of television's Glee. Early and astounding success for the husband as a writer, as his wife struggles to gain a foothold as an actress and singer, gets in the way of continued happiness for the couple. The roads to success in creativity and in marriage could make for interesting subject matter, but here it feels trite. 2 stars out of 5. —Alice Hopton, Producer, CBC Arts.
Review: Clearly, it will take yet another failed screen musical for filmmakers to realize that a mediocre plot doesn't get better just because you sing it for 90 minutes. This conventional tale of a New York City couple struggling with success (one has it, the other doesn't) is told unconventionally (its only plus point). It jumps back and forth through time over a five-year period: Actress Cathy tells the story of the relationship from end to beginning and writer Jamie, from beginning to end. Anna Kendrick elevates this film nominally, with a decent voice and a few well-placed jokes. Perhaps if the soundtrack was the least bit catchy, the film might have stood a chance. 2 stars out of 5. —Zulekha Nathoo, CBC Arts reporter.
Review: Judging from the outbursts of laughter ricocheting around the Ryerson Theatre, The Last Five Years is something of Broadway legend. But beyond the winks for musical theatre nerds, this a blast of cinematic Viagra — a fusion of sound and filmic fury marked by a roving lens and full palate of emotions. A non-linear tale of love and woe starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, The Last Five Years proves Kendrick's "Cup Song" was no fluke and the movie musical art form ain't dead. 4½ stars of of 5 —Eli Glasner, CBC Arts reporter.