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TIFF 2012: Five Capsule Reviews, including “To the Wonder”

September 12, 2012

By John C.

I’m back again with my third set of five capsule reviews for the 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s an undeniably unique line up of films that I’ve had the privilege of seeing over the past few days.  The festival has been going pretty smoothly so far, and I look forward to seeing what the next few days have in store.

Last Friday, I shared my thoughts on Rust and Bone, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, Picture Day, End of Watch and My Awkward Sexual Adventure.  This past Sunday, I published my second set of capsule reviews, including Hotel TransylvaniaFinding Nemo 3D, Silver Linings PlaybookThe Sessions and Greeting From Tim Buckley.

For my third round, I have shared my feelings on Terrence Malick’s beautifully filmed To the Wonder and am letting you know why I think possible Oscar contender The Impossible falls flat, as well as offering my thoughts on three other films.  Please come back on Saturday night for my fourth and final set of five capsule reviews, including Argo, Much Ado About Nothing, Cloud Atlas, Mr. Pip and Love, Marilyn.  As always, you can get more information on TIFF and purchase tickets right here.  If you haven’t already, I hope you all find something to see during the festival.  Enjoy!

Thanks for Sharing:  Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is a sex addict celebrating five years of sobriety under the guidance of his mentor and friend, recovering alcoholic Mike (Tim Robbins).  But his dedication to the recovery process is threatened when he falls in love with Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), and becomes caught up with trying to help fellow addicts Neil (Josh Gad) and Dede (Alecia “P!nk” Moore) stay committed to following the twelve steps.  The interconnecting stories of Thanks for Sharing come together in realistic ways, even though the film feels a little long at 110 minutes and a few of the switches between comedy and drama don’t quite work.  But Thanks for Sharing is still worth a look for the strong performances and a script by director Stuart Blumberg that provides plenty of sharp dialogue and some good insight into the world of addiction and the over sexualization of society.

Saturday, September 8th – 9:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

Monday, September 10th – 11:00 AM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Saturday, September 15th – 3:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

The Impossible:  Maria (Naomi Watts), her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three kids including oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) find themselves separated by a natural disaster while vacationing in Thailand, amidst the tragic Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.  Although The Impossible is based on a powerful true story, the characters in the film seem like broad stereotypes and are barely developed before the admittedly impressive disaster sequence.  The performances are all fine and director Juan Antonio Bayona tries hard to make this survival drama feel like a gritty thriller, but it is ultimately a by the numbers recreation of a real life tragedy that feels emotionally calculated and often plays like a melodramatic made for TV movie.  Although the early buzz made it sound like an inspirational Oscar contender and many audiences have already taken to the film in a big way, The Impossible is one of my biggest disappointments at the festival.

Sunday, September 9th – 7:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

Monday, September 10th – 3:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

A Late Quartet:  Robert (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), his wife Juliette (Catherine Keener), and Daniel (Mark Ivanir) struggle to keep things together as they practise for a performance of Beethoven’s Late String Quartets, while dealing with personal conflicts and their cellist Peter’s (Christopher Walken) diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.  Their lives continue to spiral even more out of control when Robert and Juliette’s daughter, Alexandra (Imogen Poots) is taken under Daniel’s wing.  Although the plot points and characters of A Late Quartet make up the many movements of a slow moving melodrama, the performances of the top notch cast are just as good as you would expect and director Yaron Ziberman provides some nicely written conversations about the beautiful classical music.

Tuesday, September 11th – 6:00 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Wednesday, September 12th – 5:00 PM @ Scotiabank

To the Wonder:  Less than two years after dividing audiences with the masterful and moving Tree of Life, director Terrence Malick weaves together a deeply spiritual look at the figurative tree of love in To the Wonder.  People are sure to be equally divided this time around, as the director uses a fractured narrative of images to show us how Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Neil (Ben Affleck) fall in and out of love as he reconnects with a woman from his past (Rachel McAdams).  But this is a richly rewarding cinematic experience for those of us willing to pay attention and just go with the flow, that is sure to become even more resonant after repeated viewings.  Favouring poetic narration over dialogue between the characters, To the Wonder is a beautifully filmed and emotionally engaging film that offers a deeply felt meditation on the connections between romantic and ultimately spiritual love.

Monday, September 10th – 7:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

Tuesday, September 11th – 3:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

Sunday, September 16th – 9:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Still:  Realizing that his aging wife Irene (Geneviéve Bujold) is no longer able to live at their farmhouse because of her tragically decreasing memory, Craig Morrison (James Cromwell) sets out to build her an accessible home.  But the house does not meet the building code of local authorities in New Brunswick, and he has to take it to court before they can both move in.  Based on a true story that has been nicely adapted by director Michael McGowan, Still is a tender and touching film, even at times when it is a little slow moving.  After the undeniably original winning streak of Saint RalphOne Week and even Score: A Hockey Musical, this is also the least unique of the quintessential Canadian director’s work.  But Still provides some beautifully written sequences and is worth seeing for the striking cinematography as well as James Cromwell’s excellent performance.

Monday, September 10th – 8:00 PM @ Winter Garden Theatre

Wednesday, September 12th – 12:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

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