Hipsters Movie

TIFF Reviews: Hipsters, Ahead of Time, A Gun to the Head, Youth in Revolt, 5 Hours From Paris, Giulia Doesn't Date at Night, The Boys Are Back, Les Herbes Folles, Glenn Gould, Crackie, Phantom Pain, Hadewijch, Mall Girls, Agora

Another week means another slate of films reviewed leading up to the start of the Toronto International Film Festival. We've been escaping the (finally) summer weather for air conditioned comfort inside various screening rooms at the Varsity Theatre. Here's a summary of the films we've seen since our first slate of TIFF reviews.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Hipsters
Okay. Let me preface this by saying if you hate musical theatre, you may not like this one. But despite my very own pre-existing disinterest in the genre, everything about this flick -- the colours, the music, the fake saxophone playing, the costuming, and the dramatic love story -- kept me hostage. I credit it to the Moscow setting, which definitely eased the cheese factor of similar theatrical productions based in North America. Communist Russia meets Swing Kids meets Footloose. Chalk this under well-filmed Guilty Pleasure. (Connie)

RECOMMENDED

Ahead of Time
Watching 97-year-old ol' Ruth Gruber shakily snap a picture puts everything in perspective. Gruber takes us through her Russian-Jewish-Brooklyn roots and reviews her achievements, speaking like they're no big deal at all -- as a jet-setting government official, foreign correspondent, and youngest person to receive a doctorate (age 20), despite ongoing hurdles being a professional woman in the trying mid-1900s. And she's not even jaded. Kinda makes me feel I should be doing more with my life. (Connie)

A Gun to the Head
I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend this tale of two cousins reuniting for a trainwreck of a night in Vancouver. It's very likely that Trevor is avoiding a dinner party with his wife's boss when he agrees to meet Darren at a strip club. A beer turns into a ride, then a party, and a few bumps, all while gun-toting drug dealers are on their trail. At first glance, the cheap looking video seemed to be an unlikely pick for one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, but the home movie aesthetic gave the evening an all too familiar feel. A Gun to the Head is directed by New Pornographer Blaine Thurier. (Chandra)

Youth In Revolt
Fun, but not exactly buzzworthy, Youth In Revolt has Michael Cera playing an awkward but charming teen who meets the girl of his dreams on a trailer park holiday. Forced to return home with his virginity intact, Nick Twisp (Cera) schemes and goes against his law-abiding nature to get the girl. Although it isn't much of a departure from all of Cera's previous roles, the formula seems to be working for him. And, I'd mention that Steve Buscemi is cast as the dad, but Cera's is the only character that gets any screen time in this movie. (Chandra)

5 Hours From Paris
A sweet Israeli movie about love, honesty, dreams, and encountering your fears head on... oh, and infidelity (which seems to be a common theme in this year's Festival). It's light, no-frills, and showcases Tel Aviv and its working-class suburbs and people well. Dror Keren is particularly memorable as one of its citizens, giving the role of cab driver Yigal a vulnerably sweet touch. I almost wanted to take him home, too. (Connie)

Giulia Doesn't Date at Night
And yet another one of those films on infidelity... and this one's all right, too -- a well-paced, sweet, and emotional story about a man, whose desire to date his daughter's swimming instructor, Giulia, is hampered by her moodiness and inability to go out at night. (Connie)

The Boys Are Back
Clive Owen goes to the Australian outback in this sensitive turn as Joe Warr, a sports writer who has just lost his wife. It takes about a half hour for the story to be set up. Just when I was about to sneak out, Joe's son from a previous marriage turns up along with memories of the family he left behind in England. Throw in some father/son relationship drama, cue the kangaroo, and you have a very watchable movie. (Chandra)

Les Herbes Folles
Film buffs are gonna curse me for not putting this in a higher category, but something about this one seems... off. Alain Resnais' Les Herbes Folles had so much promise. It had me at the opening scene -- dreamy, saturated, gracefully shot, with punchy narration typical of over-thinkers everywhere. Unfortunately, beyond the first half hour, the intent of the characters grows questionable and confusing; watching them flail about in their flaws and insecurities is taxing to watch. Not a complete write-off, though; the visuals will probably set your loins on fire. And the fact that I'm still thinking about it today is a sign of some depth. Decide for yourself. (Connie)

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
Glenn Gould is one of Canada's most revered artists, a musical prodigy who came to fame in his twenties (during the post-war period in the fifties and sixties). Although Gould has been the subject of countless biographies and documentaries before this one, I hadn't seen any of these and very much appreciated the history lesson. Plus, doc-makers Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont dug up a bit of dirt on the man's personal life. (Chandra)

Crackie
Poverty, neglect, abandonment... it should be a sad story but Sherry White's first feature about a small town Newfoundland girl with dreams of becoming a hairdresser never goes there. Mitsy lives in a shack with her grandmother (Mary Walsh). She's flunking out of school and sleeping with a total ass. And so, a new untrained dog, Sparky, becomes the center of her small universe. (Chandra)

NOT RECOMMENDED

Phantom Pain
As a general rule, I tend to avoid TIFF Galas. Phantom Pain confirms my impression that Gala selections are all about style more than substance. Til Schweiger is a big star in Germany and recently appeared in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, so the red carpets are rolling out for him. In Phantom Pain, Schweiger loses a leg (but not his charm) and continues to be adored by his ever-supportive daughter and girlfriend - much more than he deserves. (Chandra)

Hadewijch
There are two camps when it comes to Bruno Dumont films. One camp includes fawning art lovers, who analyze every lengthy shot and every twitch of the characters' mouths. Then there's the other group, who think his films are pretentious pieces of drivel. I fall in the latter camp. Hajewich is a tiresome film of his trademark lengthy shots, mixed in with his beloved religious undertones and overtones. In fact, the religious metaphors near the end almost did my head in, especially after two hours of eye-rolling and head-nodding. My movie-going partner and I put our heads between our legs in defeat. Next. (Connie)

Mall Girls
The stills TIFF posted for this Polish film, of teenage girls in heavy makeup hanging out at the mall, drew me in to the screening. Beyond the big plastic jewellery and gum chewing, Katarzyna Roslaniec's film paints a portrait of cruel and self-absorbed adolescence. And beyond that, the story is a little thin. (Chandra)

Agora
Fans of Alejandro Amenabar will be disappointed with this latest film, an odd departure for him that focuses on religious battles between Christians, Jews and Pagans around late 300 AD. Agora isn't terrible but the roles are miscast and there are a number of bizarre earth panning sequences (see trailer above) that do little except distract from the events at hand. (Tim)

Previously: TIFF Reviews


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