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#TIFF15 Reviews: My Internship in Canada, Last Cab to Darwin, Lolo, Stonewall

September 18, 2015

By John Corrado

#TIFF15The 40th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is winding down now, but will still be going strong in the city until September 20th.

My previous batch of reviews from yesterday are right here, and below are my thoughts on four more films, and please come back on the final day of the festival for my thoughts on several more to close things out.

More information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here, or through the links in the film titles, which are arranged in order of when they first screen.  Enjoy!

My Internship in Canada: Steve Guibard (Patrick Huard) is a fictional independent Member of Parliament in Quebec, who ends up faced with the deciding vote on a Conservative motion to go to war.  Aided by his new intern Souverain (Irdens Exantus), a young Haitian immigrant who is fascinated by the world of politics and always at the ready with a philosophical quote, the local politician launches a plan to consult the voters in his community in an attempt to please everyone.  But Steve is further conflicted by his wife (Suzanne Clement) who wants him to vote for the war, and his daughter (Clémence Dufresne-Desliéres) who is staunchly against it, as well as an ongoing fight between truck drivers and Native people that results in frequently blocked roadways, and a sleazy Prime Minister (Paul Doucet) with a knack for impromptu musical sessions.

All the while, the people of Haiti are getting a crash course in Canadian politics through video chats with Souverain, becoming increasingly engaged in the action.  Politics have rarely been as much fun as they are in My Internship in Canada, a whip smart and hugely entertaining political satire, that especially hits home with the election just around the corner.  Patrick Huard is in fine comic form throughout, appealing as ever in his rendering of a bumbling but well meaning every man faced with tough decisions, and the rest of the cast is equally on point.  Phillipe Fellardeau directs this all with a deft touch, making light of the almost farcical thinking behind every vote, and how even the most important political issues can be so easily manipulated when presented to the average constituent.  It’s laugh out loud funny, but also has a lot of sharp insights into our current political scene and governmental shortcomings, and that’s the sign of a great satire.

Tuesday, September 15th – 6:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 1
Thursday, September 17th – 12:00 PM at Ryerson Theatre

Last Cab to Darwin: Rex (Michael Caton) is a lonely old cab driver in central Australia, diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live.  But when physician assisted suicide becomes legalized in the Northern Territory, Rex leaves behind his beloved neighbour Polly (Ningali Lawford-Wolf) in Broken Hill, and is determined to make the drive to Darwin, so that he can meet the doctor (Jackie Weaver) who has the power to help him end his life.  But when he ends up giving a ride to the charismatic Tilly (Mark Coles Smith), and meets a kind young nurse (Emma Hamilton) along the way, Rex starts to take stock of how much he still has to live for.  Although Last Cab to Darwin is sometimes a little slow moving at 123 minutes, Michael Caton brings genuine depth to the film through a powerful performance, and helps build suspense around whether or not his character will actually complete the journey.  This is a highly compassionate and emotionally involving look at a complex social subject, anchored by a touching interracial love story and plenty of moving scenes.

Tuesday, September 15th – 9:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 4
Thursday, September 17th – 3:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 3
Friday, September 18th – 9:00 AM at Scotiabank Theatre 2

Lolo: Although Lolo sets itself up as a romantic comedy, this disappointing latest from writer, director and star Julie Delpy is too broad in its comedy, and further letdown by a misjudged undercurrent of creepiness.  When divorced single mother and socialite Violette (Julie Delpy) has a one night stand with common man Jean-Rene (Dany Boon) in the countryside, they start dating and their relationship takes them both back to Paris.  But her possessive and overly attached young adult son Lolo (Vincent Lacoste), whom she still affectionately refers to as “Honeybun,” gets severely jealous and starts doing everything in his power to disrupt their relationship, from itching powder to cyber crimes, so that he can continue living alone with his “Mommykins.”

This is a premise ripe for pitch black comedy, but the often silly physical humour and more saccharine romantic moments also suggest that the film isn’t really committed to being dark, with the story often feeling like a tone deaf copy of the superior dramedy Cyrus.  As the title character becomes increasingly sociopathic, there is a mean spiritedness to Lolo, and even the usual charms of Julie Delpy and Dany Boon, as well as a few witty lines of dialogue, aren’t able to overcome the film’s obnoxious and often uncomfortable nasty streak.  What a disappointing missed opportunity.

Friday, September 18th – 6:30 PM at Roy Thomson Hall
Saturday, September 19th – 12:30 PM at Isabel Bader Theatre
Sunday, September 20th – 9:15 AM at Scotiabank Theatre 2

Stonewall: An independently funded passion project for director Roland Emmerich, whose wheelhouse is usually big budget disaster movies, Stonewall is perhaps the filmmaker’s most personal work yet, even if it’s still a largely imperfect film.  The year is 1969, and Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) is a farm kid from Kentucky who has to leave home because of homophobia, and finds himself on Christopher Street in New York.  Taken under the wing of the flamboyant Ray (Jonny Beauchamp), and his group of street hustlers who become like surrogate family, Danny finds himself right in the middle of the early gay rights movement, with the famous Stonewall Inn at the epicentre of it all.  A popular hangout spot run by a dangerous mob boss (Ron Perelman), the thriving nightclub is prone to police raids and violently homophobic attacks, leading to an activist uprising that seriously shakes up the status quo.

The film does run into its share of problems along the way, mainly being that the characters aren’t all equally fleshed out, and some of the details and racial minorities have been heavily glossed over, in favour of focusing on a fictional white male protagonist.  But for a mainstream historical drama, that at least tries to offer an important social message, the whole thing is still surprisingly entertaining and often undeniably affective.  Brought to life through authentic period costumes, and an appealing retro soundtrack, the film has its share of admittedly moving scenes, and the titular riots themselves are dramatized in energetic if all too brief ways.  As a big screen reimagining of the early gay and trans rights movements, that is equal parts glitzy and gritty in its somewhat fictionalized rendering of true events, Stonewall does a fine job of showing many of the harsh realities and profound changes of the time period, and bringing them to light for a new generation.  It’s mildly worth a look because of this, but you also really owe it to yourself to explore more of the real story afterwards.

Friday, September 18th – 9:30 PM at Roy Thomson Hall
Saturday, September 19th – 12:30 PM at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

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