The Ides of March
Perhaps the most hyped-up film of the entire festival, George Clooney’s The Ides of March boasts a stellar cast—Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and even the director himself—all of whom deliver sensational performances as people looking out for number one in a cutthroat political world largely influenced by the media. Clooney plays Governor Morris, a shoo-in to become the next president through the support of a highly specialized campaign team. Led by Paul (Seymour Hoffman) and Steven (Gosling), there is no question that Morris will clinch the race. However, they soon learn that Morris may actually have cause to worry that the election is not yet in the bag for him; his opposition, headed by the incredibly cunning Tom Duffy (Giamatti), secretly tries to recruit Steven to their side in order to take Morris down from the inside. Questions of loyalty are brought to the fore and ultimately cause the clockwork of Morris’ campaign to crumble in quite a destructive way.
While there is plenty of backstabbing and two-timing to go around, Clooney underestimates the audience’s ability to guess who let a huge story leak to the press, and as a result there is a slight disconnect between what is expected of the audience and how viewers actually read the situation and react to it. Nevertheless, the script is clever and delivers a punch when necessary, and although it may not be a consistently nail-biting thriller, it still succeeds in provoking us to think about how far we are willing to go for something, especially if it means furthering our own ends. MMM½ —Nives Hajdin
We Need to Talk About Kevin
We need to talk about this thrilling new film by Lynne Ramsay that premiered in Toronto on
Friday night. Tilda Swinton gives a
powerhouse performance as a traumatized mother in We Need to Talk About Kevin, in which her loveless relationship with her son is examined in shocking and brutal detail. Her son, Kevin, played by newcomer Ezra Miller in an incredibly haunting performance, has been troubled ever since he was a baby. The film flashes between past and present, from Kevin’s baby years to adolescence, as we see Eva’s (Swinton) life in the aftermath of a tragedy as well as her much happier life prior to raising Kevin. The atmosphere that Ramsay creates is dark and compelling; every disturbing image and eerie sound perfectly conveys just what the characters are feeling. While the Academy may not go for a film as sinister as this in its award for Best Picture, We Need to Talk About Kevin unquestionably deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest films of the year.
A Dangerous Method
A Dangerous Method is yet another one of the most anticipated films of TIFF 2011. To be sure, there’s a whole lot of talent involved, but besides all that, we folk here at UTM have a couple extra reasons to be excited. First, very few people make it through UTM without taking at least one psychology course, and A Dangerous Method
explores the context surrounding the origin of some of the most influential ideas of psychoanalysis. Anyone with even the slightest interest in the philosophies of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung will find a compelling story here that explores a growing rift between student and mentor at the hands of Sabina Spielrein. Secondly, the film comes from director David Cronenberg, a Canadian (from Toronto, no less) responsible for some of the most memorable movies this side of 1986’s The Fly. Unfortunately, while A Dangerous Method is above average in nearly every way that counts, it falls below the best of Cronenberg’s incredible filmography, settling in somewhere around the middle overall.
A Dangerous Method takes place in 1904 during a time in which Carl Jung famously attempted to treat a Russian woman named Sabina Spielrein using the famous Freudian methods. Over time, Jung develops a relationship with Spielrein that causes a great deal of tension in his relationship with Freud, who argues that the
illegitimacy of their relationship may publicly undermine the paradigm of psychoanalysis. As the film continues, the script introduces a bit of a role reversal, as Jung becomes a patient to Spielrein’s own influential ideas that audiences now regularly associate with the psychology of the age.
The story is told mainly through a combination of long stretches of dialogue and narrated letters, and while the film is definitely talky, it’s hardly boring. In fact, the added emphasis on substance over style lends to the authenticity of the production by giving leading men Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender enough room to really sink their teeth into the lives of these already rather well-known men. Keira Knightley also manages to hold her own (as she often does in period pieces), although there are a couple of moments in which her performance is somewhat over the top.
There isn’t anyone quite like Lars von Trier in the film industry. When he’s not getting kicked out of the Cannes Film Festival for making Nazi-sympathetic remarks, he’s using his troubled past to create truly disturbing films such as 2009’s Antichrist, which succeeded in shocking and angering people by its overly graphic and misogynistic content. His most recent film, Melancholia, premiered at TIFF this past weekend, and while von Trier considers it the most “optimistic” of his films, there is no shaking the glum sense of doom that the film leaves with you in its powerful
closing moments. Now, that’s not to say it isn’t a fantastic piece of filmmaking. The plot revolves around whether or not the immense planet Melancholia is on a collision course with Earth, but this is not a “run for the hills” kind of chaos that a typical disaster film tries to convey. Instead, von Trier slows down the pace and creates a frighteningly stripped-down encounter with the unknown, one that is both complete science fiction and also quite a realistic treatment of how helpless people are rendered when all they can do is wait and pray. The film is divided into two parts; the first showcases the troubled life of Justine, an irreversibly depressed bride played masterfully by Kirsten Dunst (winner of Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival), and the second shifts the focus to her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who is petrified by the fact that the planet will soon mark an end to life as they know it. Although much of the plot is stagnant and merely features characters staring, waiting, and ultimately putting their lives on hold rather than making the most of them, von Trier somehow manages to transform the utterly depressing spirit into something breathtaking and chilling all at the same time. MMMM—Nives Hajdin