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#TIFF14 Reviews: St. Vincent, The Good Lie, Wild and Before We Go

September 13, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

We have reached the final weekend of TIFF, which always seems to happen just as soon as I start finding my stride.  I saw four movies yesterday at Princess of Wales, starting with a double bill of The Good Lie and Wild, both featuring Reese Witherspoon.

The night culminated with me finally seeing St. Vincent.  This only seems appropriate considering that Reese Witherspoon and Bill Murray were two of the biggest stars being celebrated this year, with the festival dubbing September 5th Bill Murray Day and hosting the Mavericks Conversation With Reese Witherspoon last Sunday night.

Somewhere along the way last night I also attended the world premiere of Chris Evans directorial debut Before We Go with the cast and crew in attendance, and got the actor to sign my ticket after the screening.  So yeah, that happened.

I have another two days of screenings still ahead of me, so please come back tomorrow for my thoughts on The Crow’s Egg, Big Game, Men, Women & Children, 99 Homes and Haemoo.  Enjoy!

St. Vincent: After moving to a new neighbourhood with his single mother Maggie (Meilssa McCarthy), preteen Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) finds an unlikely mentor and friend in Vincent (Bill Murray), the ornery older man who lives next door.  Vincent is a depressed Vietnam war veteran who spends his days drinking, making bets at the race track, and sleeping with pregnant stripper Daka (Naomi Watts), but there is also a genuinely caring side to him that Oliver starts to uncover.  Director Theodore Melfi nails the perfect tone in the entertaining and touching St. Vincent, moving seamlessly between comedy and drama, with a unique cast of characters that we really come to love as more layers of depth are revealed throughout the film.  Bill Murray is in top form, offering plenty of expectedly quotable lines but also stealing our hearts as his backstory is slowly revealed, and his performance is matched by some wonderful work from newcomer Jaeden Lieberher.

Friday, September 5th – 9:00 PM @ Princess of Wales
Saturday, September 6th – 12:00 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Friday, September 12th – 9:30 PM @ Princess of Wales

The Good Lie: After being orphaned as children during the Sudanese Civil War, adult siblings Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany) and Paul (Emmanuel Jal) are taken to America through a Christian outreach program.  The three brothers find themselves in Missouri, looking for work under the guidance of Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon).  But they face a serious culture clash, struggling to hold down jobs as they suffer from PTSD and try desperately to reunite with their sister Najah (Sahlima), who has been separated from them.  Although this is his first studio film, French Canadian director Philippe Falardeau hasn’t lost his deeply empathetic touch and maintains a sometimes painfully realistic tone throughout, that also allows for moments of gentle humour to offset the genuine pathos.  With excellent performances from the authentic leads, and some nice supporting work from Reese Witherspoon, The Good Lie is a touching and very well acted film.

Sunday, September 7th – 3:00 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Monday, September 8th – 12:30 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Friday, September 12th – 12:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

Wild: Battling multiple addictions after her mother (Laura Dern) died, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) started hiking solo along the Pacific Crest Trail.  Her journey became the subject of a bestselling memoir, and French Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée does justice to the material with Wild, a strikingly mature and solidly crafted drama that is both heartbreaking and inspirational.  Reese Witherspoon delivers one of her best performances, fearlessly throwing herself into the grittier aspects of the character, but also displaying fierce hope and the determination to keep moving forward no matter what the cost.  Laura Dern has several memorably touching scenes.  With a story that comes together beautifully through some perfect editing, Wild is a moving, engaging and achingly heartfelt film.

Monday, September 8th – 9:00 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Tuesday, September 9th – 11:30 AM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Friday, September 12th – 3:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

Before We Go: Perhaps the most interesting thing that could be said about Chris Evans directorial debut Before We Go is that nobody would have expected Captain America himself to make such a corny romance.  After Brooke (Alice Eve) misses the last train of the night at Grand Central Station, she meets struggling busker Nick (Chris Evans), and the two spend the night together, trying to find her stolen purse and scrounge up enough money for her to get home.  But the reasons why they are spending the night out just aren’t very interesting.  With a sappy and contrived screenplay, at times the film feels amateurish, like something that would be more at home On Demand, than at a major festival.  But at least Chris Evans makes for a likeable and charming romantic lead, and it’s his performance that keeps this otherwise mediocre film watchable.

Friday, September 12th – 6:30 PM @ Princess of Wales
Saturday, September 13th – 12:15 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Sunday, September 14th – 8:45 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

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