Toronto Film Festival Video Blog #6: Jeff Who Lives At Home And Alps
I didn't actually think I'd manage to see the four movies I promised during yesterday's video blog-- it's a big order for your average film festival day, but even more so when things start winding down, and you're too exhausted to stay awake and the movies start getting a little less exciting. But four movies I did indeed see, and as it turns out, all of them were really worth a look. I caught two of them along with my friend, Toronto flatmate and fellow critic James Rocchi, and the two of us sat down on the back porch of our place to talk about the ones we had both seen, Alps and Jeff Who Lives At Home. You can watch us talk about them in detail in the video below, and I'll be writing a little more about all four below that.
Kicking off my day with Terrence Davies's The Deep Blue Sea was a bit of a challenge, because it's one of those theater adaptations that moves slowly and deliberately through scenes set only in a handful of locations, making the instinct to nod off all the more tempting. But the movie, while stuck with a story about a woman stuck between her husband (Simon Russell Beale) and young lover (Tom Hiddleston) that's Melodrama 101. But Rachel Weisz, playing that woman, puts in another one of her fierce, committed performances to anchor the whole thing, even if the movie has her stuck sobbing and staring glumly through thick curtains for 60% of the film. The story takes place in London and 1950, and while this doomed live triangle is linked visually to the remnants of war destruction in the city, it never quite sticks as a theme; the movie is occasionally moving and very well-acted, but despite all the crying manages to feel slight.
Next up was Alps, which James and I discussed above, and which I'm not sure I'll ever be able to talk about with total confidence. Just like his previous film Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos's Alps asks the audience to accept and engage with bizarre and often inexplicable behavior, this time not from a cloistered family of adult children but a group of four people, calling themselves Alps, who agree to stand in for the deceased family members of their clients. The main character finds herself blurring the line between her real life, in which she fills in for her dead mother to care for her elderly dad, and her jobs as a "substitute," which start feeling all too real. The themes of Alps are a little clearer than the darker, more politically minded Dogtooth, but the movie is just as bizarre and fascinating, to the point that I'm not quite sure I know what to say about it. James is much more confident, though, so watch the video for more thoughts on that.
The other film we don't discuss much in the video is Chicken With Plums, Marjane Satrapi's follow-up to her deeply personal and excellent Persepolis; once again she teams up with Vincent Paronnaud as a co-director. The story is a lot slighter than the decade-spanning Persepolis, following a master violinist (Mathieu Amalric) as he decides to die and spend 8 days wasting away in bed to get the job done. As you might guess, most of the film is taken up by flashbacks to his unhappy marriage, his youthful doomed love affair, along with flash forwards to the future lives of his children and various other diversions. Combining slapstick comedy, animation and a little bit of drama, Chicken With Plums is entertaining and heartfelt, though with maybe a little less story to go with it than it could have used. With that much charm shot through it, though, you don't really mind that it's a bit thin.
And finally, in the video we talk about Jeff Who Lives At Home, the new film from Cyrus directors Mark and Jay Duplass, starring Jason Segel and Ed Helms. We get into the movie in pretty solid detail so I won't say much beyond that it's a lovely, nicely paced and completely heartfelt look at a complicated relationship between brothers, and in its own way a plea for the rest of us to not stop looking for magic and meaning in the world. That's not to say it's sappy, but it has a big, open heart like Segel's character Jeff, something you find so rarely in modern indie cinema. James and I both dug the movie, so you can check out more on that in the video.
I'll have one more TIFF video, maybe even shot in the airport, wrapping up what I've seen today, and then that'll be all she wrote! For all the rest of my TIFF coverage you can go here.
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