2009 Toronto International Film Festival: Review round up
Our picks on the best of the ‘Fest and which films are worthy of your popcorn.
Release date: early 2010
Writer and director, Matthew Bissonnette’s latest film,
Passenger Side, is of two estranged brothers, Michael (Adam Scott) and Tobey (Joel Bissonnette) embarking on a dreamy road trip across Los Angeles with us, the audience, in the back seat for the journey.
Driving through Los Angeles on the 14-day shoot for the film wasn’t easy for the cast and small crew, and costars Joel Bissonnette and Adam Scott had only known each other a bit prior to filming. With the plan of Scott and real-life brothers, Matthew and Joel heading out on a road trip to Chicago’s Pitchfork music festival prior to filming, Matthew ended up losing money from buying the tickets as the trip simply never panned out. A missed opportunity for DVD bonus features and bonding time, Scott reveals that this may have been the best for the duo’s on-screen dynamic, “I think the movie was pretty much shot in sequence, so us not totally knowing each other that well really served the movie… and by the end I felt like we were friends and as they kind of moved closer to each other.”
Although the two co-stars got along, there was a shared hatred for the old beat up green BMW. “We were sick of the car…It was dangerous, it almost exploded a couple of times,” said Scott. Joel Bissonnette also recalls, “It was hot in that car, all the material on the roof was sort of stripped and this weird red asbestos would rain down on you.”
Long days of shooting in cramped quarters in the middle of the hot desert certainly took its toll on the actors. “I’m surprised those scenes actually turned out as well as they did because we were both miserable…It’s really lucky we got along so well, could you imagine if you hated the other person?” Scott rhetorically asks.
Rather then channelling their anger at each other, Joel Bissonnette says, “I think that’s what sort of helped it, concentrating the anger at Matt. We saved both of ourselves from hurting each other.” Scott remembers, “Matt would be like, ‘Hey guys,’ and he would yell a direction at us and we were both just having none of it.”
Asking Matthew Bissonnette if this frustration ever effected his job as a director, he replied, “Oh, I could care less what they think. We’ve got a job to do, and you can be angry or whatever you want, but when I say action…” With a limited budget and the incredibly short time they had to shoot, Scott describes the director as ruling with an iron fist. When it came down to it, Matthew’s main concern was making sure each day was completed and was done so by moving very quickly, but there certainly were some challenges when filming. “The biggest challenge was we didn’t have our location locked down when we showed up and so I had to go out and ask someone if we could shoot on this road, and the desert is not a place where you really go and knock on peoples’ door. It’s a bit wild west, there’s a lot of people that make crystal meth out there and they’re armed.” Luckily, there weren’t any encounters with firearms during filming, and despite various obstacles the film is receiving positive response. When it comes to the ending of the film, Matt states, “It’s interesting for me and hopefully it’s interesting for the audience.”
Photo by: Zach Slootsky
Release date: October 23 in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver
Young actress Carey Mulligan has Hollywood a flutter from her first leading role in
An Education. Mulligan plays Jenny, a 16-year-old British school girl who is seduced by David (Peter Sarsgaard), an older man with the ability to offer Jenny the cultured world she dreams about.
Set in the 1960s, Mulligan didn’t do too much to be transported decades earlier, but did try to understand what it was like to be Jenny by listening to a lot of French music given by director Lone Scherfig, and deciding to be an existentialist for a week. However, it was most important for Mulligan to understand the family and where exactly her character came from. “It was all about hierarchy, so where she is in her family, where she is at school… She’s kind of the ‘A’ student and her friends kind of look up to her in a way, and then going into this other world, she’s at the bottom of the pile,” says Mulligan.
Mulligan’s growth on screen from school girl to young woman develops quickly and seamlessly and it is without a doubt that this performance will be a turning point in her career. “An Education did a lot. It is really exciting because it does mean you get so many more opportunities or meetings or you get to meet people you wouldn’t have gotten to meet a year ago,” acknowledges Mulligan.
Working with Sarsgaard and watching him trying to nail phrases with a British accent during the filming of An Education helped her take notice how different the speaking in British and American can be, “A lot of things you say in an American accent you reverse the way that your tongue moves in your mouth, it’s really specific.” Such an observation will certainly help the young British actress in her next role,
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, where she will be required to learn and develop an American accent.
More films on the next page …
Release date: September 25th
Written by Oscar winning screenwriter, Jane Campion,
Bright Star follows the love story between poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his muse, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Whishaw had big shoes to fill when tackling the role of one of the greatest romantic poets of all time. In order to prepare, Campion suggested he become an expert on John Keats, so that if anyone on set had a question about him, Whishaw would be the go to guy. Aside from reading poetry and about his life, the actor took Campion’s suggestion of experiencing the world of poetry and take on a poetic view of life. “You can see poetry in everything and people are a bit like a poem, because I think of poetry is something that reveals itself slowly over time, you got to live with it, and people are like that too,” Whishaw states.
The actor also took poetry classes to gain an understanding, but when it came to writing poetry of his own, he wasn’t as successful as portraying one, “It just reminded me that I was not a poet. I’m terrible, but I did learn how to use the quill, and I got pretty good at that. I could do the physical aspect.”
Whishaw’s co-star, Abbie Cornish had a couple of different challenges with getting into the role of Fanny. As an Australian, Cornish worked with a dialect coach to work on the required British accent for the role. “The process of finding the accent is slow and easy one, to the point where it just gets under your skin…I can just switch in and out of it. It became part of Fanny, I couldn’t be Fanny without it,” says Cornish on developing the character’s accent.
A British accent may have been the least challenging part for the emotional role of Fanny as six-day work weeks of going from a state of blissful love to dealing with Keats dying could take its toll on the actress. However, Cornish takes these challenges as a motivation in her acting, “The thing that excites me about acting is on a day when the tank is empty. Some bit, somehow, somewhere, something comes along, whether it’s from me, or from outside of me, and that always amazes me.”
Youth In Revolt
Release date: January 15th
There is the saying, “behind every great man, there is a great women” and in the case of Michael Cera, it is his co-star Portia Doubleday in the teen comedy,
Youth In Revolt. Cera plays Nick, a nerdy high schooler who feel alone when it comes to love, but after meeting Sheeni (Doubleday), Nick goes to law-breaking great lengths and creates an alter ego, Francois to win her heart.
After first meeting her co-star, Cera, at a reading during the auditioning process and now having worked with him, she describes him as, “One of the smartest people I’ve ever met. So it’s really fun. I really liked him and it was so great working with him. Everything that I expected and more, definitely.”
Doubleday balances the character of Sheeni on a fine line of being likable and sweet, while not coming off as manipulative or a tease. “I think the fact why I really liked Sheeni and wanted to play her was her vulnerability,” says Doubleday, “ this girl is alone too… She’s vulnerable to him hurting her and he does, and I think that’s pivotal.”
In contrast to the character of Sheeni, who has incredibly strict parents, Doubleday’s liberal upbringing left her to revolt against no one but herself in her teen years. “I essentially could walk out the door any time I wanted to, but with that comes the responsibility of walking out that door. I think that kids tend to rebel more because they have something to rebel against.”
It is likely audiences will not be seeing the last of the young actress, and her enthusiastic attitude towards being in the film could be related to the auditioning process for the film, “I think when you’re given such a crazy experience, you can’t even be nervous anymore, because it’s so crazy that, you just have no idea of what’s going on so you might as well just throw yourself in there and see what happens.”
Caption: Michael Cera and Portia Doubleday star in YOUTH IN REVOLT, directed by Miguel Arteta.
Photo by: Bruce Birmelin / Dimension Films, 2009
Penned by Diablo Cody and starring Megan Fox,
Jennifer’s Body is a horror flick that takes the prettiest girl in school and makes her into a “man eater” in it’s most literal form.
Co-star Johnny Simmons (Chip) mentions that there wasn’t as much blood or gore as he imagined, in comparison to other slasher flicks. “It dries and it’s sticky, it’s not fun to sit around in it for 12 hours,” says Fox when it came to working with the fake blood. “People don’t realize the issue of continuity…So splatter continuity is actually a really difficult thing for a make-up and special effects team,” adds Fox.
While the actors waded around in guts and gore, Cody places an important emphasis on the importance of writing strong female roles. “For me it was kind of a no brainer,” says Cody. “The nice thing about having the two women was being able to put them in that sort of a-typical dichotomy, the good girl and the bad girl.”
Jennifer’s Body is more then just a horror film, because it so closely depicts unhealthy female friendships and dynamic. “In the end, you can’t really separate them in a black and white way,” Cody states, “They each have elements of good and bad and I feel like that’s kind of the feminine crisis. They’re totally codependent.”
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Release date: November
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
Release date: Early 2010
Werner Herzog is one of the most prolific filmmakers out there and brought two films,
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done to TIFF this year. Although both films have major roles centered around cops, the coinciding debuts are purely coincidental. “Coincidence because
My Son, My Son was written and completed many, many years before the other film,” says Herzog.
Herzog also feels that the two films ought not be compared to one another. They can be compared in the sense that both films are distinctively “Herzog” but attributes strange stylistic elements of
My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done as being distinctive from comparison.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans takes place in a post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana. With the film, Herzog felt that, “it should be as vile and as debased as it gets.” Nicholas Cage, who plays police officer Terence McDonagh, asked Herzog why his character is so bad and Herzog told him, “Let’s focus on one single thing, there is such a thing as a bliss of evil. Let’s go for that.” to which Cage nodded in understanding.
Although the location, events, and bad behaviour of Cage’s character could be interpreted to mirror society, Herzog says, “don’t draw too many connections to real life and real society, this is the movies.”