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#TIFF14 Reviews: Love & Mercy, Infinitely Polar Bear and The Guest

September 11, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

We are now exactly a week into TIFF, but in some ways it feels like I’m just getting into the swing of things.  I mean, I saw a double bill of Infinitely Polar Bear and Love & Mercy today with barely five minutes in between them, which seems like a pretty genuine film festival experience, don’t you think?

I enjoyed both of them, and they are also two of the three films that I’m profiling today.  The third one is the hugely entertaining genre film The Guest, which was actually the first title I screened for the festival way back on August 20th, and will be closing out the Midnight Madness section on Saturday night, before opening in regular theatres on September 26th.

But the festival isn’t over until Sunday and I have another three days of busyness ahead of me, so please come back tomorrow and throughout the weekend for my final few sets of capsule reviews, including several highly anticipated titles.  Enjoy!

Love & Mercy: With solid performances from Paul Dano and John Cusack, portraying Brian Wilson at two crucial moments in his career, Love & Mercy is a good biopic of the legendary musical genius.  The film starts with flashbacks of him as a young man in the 1960s suffering from untreated mental illness, while struggling to keep The Beach Boys together and complete his masterpiece Pet Sounds.  This is punctuated by scenes in the 1990s when he is washed up and middle aged, receiving unexpected kindness from Melinda Leadbottom (Elizabeth Banks), while struggling to get his life back in order under the iron fist of his psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti).  Although running a little long at two hours, director Bill Pohlad does a good job showing two different sides of the iconic musician, with a double narrative that is nicely tied together through some impressive editing.  Matched by commendable production design, and a great soundtrack from Atticus Ross that seamlessly mixes together some of the band’s most famous songs, Love & Mercy offers plenty of “Good Vibrations” and is worth seeing.

Sunday, September 7th – 9:30 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Monday, September 8th – 10:45 AM @ Winter Garden Theatre
Thursday, September 11th – 2:30 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Infinitely Polar Bear: After their mother Maggie (Zoe Saldana) goes to business school in New York to try and get a better job, sisters Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) are left to live with their father Cameron (Mark Ruffalo), who is struggling to keep his manic depression in check.  The two girls love their father deeply, but they are also sometimes embarrassed by his erratic behaviour, and because of his mental illness are left living in poverty.  Based on director Maya Forbes own childhood experiences, Infinitely Polar Bear is a wonderfully written film that is held together by a perfectly balanced tone that seamlessly manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking, often at the same time.  Mark Ruffalo shines in one of his best performances yet, bringing genuine warmth and humour to this complicated but improbably loveable man.  Tightly constructed at just under ninety minutes, Infinitely Polar Bear is an absolute delight, an entertaining and very touching little film that reaches a bittersweet final scene.

Wednesday, September 10th – 6:30 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Thursday, September 11th – 12:30 PM @ Winter Garden Theatre

The Guest: When David (Dan Stevens) arrives on the doorstep of the grieving Peterson family, claiming to have fought with their son who was killed overseas, he is immediately welcomed into their home by the well meaning mother (Sheila Kelley).  The seemingly charming David becomes a confidante to their bullied teen son Luke (Brendan Meyer), but when people start mysteriously showing up dead, their crafty young adult daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) becomes suspicious of the new houseguest.  Starting as a drama with comedic undertones, before seamlessly morphing into an exciting action thriller and finally becoming a full stop horror film in the last act, The Guest is simply a great blast of genre filmmaking from director Adam Wingard.  From the stylish cinematography to the perfect soundtrack, there are any number of memorable scenes throughout this tense, darkly funny and just scary enough film that is suspenseful and entertaining as hell to watch unfold.

Saturday, September 13th – 11:59 PM @ Ryerson Theatre
Sunday, September 14th – 6:45 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

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