TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, Day One
Make way for Jakequake.
Not sure if that should be one word, hyphenated or two but it means that Jake Gyllenhaal powers through another movie that is entirely unlike his last one.
He plays an investment banker whose wife dies in a car accident – it happens so fast you gasp – in “Demolition.” It’s a curious, compelling blend of humor and tragedy and going to extremes in ways that had someone sitting behind me saying, “No” out loud at one especially audacious scene. And there are many.
The Jakequake line came from Cameron Bailey, festival artistic director, in introducing director Jean-Marc Vallee whose “Demolition” opened the 40th celebration. “We’re happy to be launching the latest in a string of terrific performances by Jake Gyllenhaal. We’re calling it Jakequake. Hashtag that,” Bailey said.
“Demolition” screened at 6:30 p.m. (which turned into a 7:15 start) at the Princess of Wales Theatre and then had a red-carpet gala at Roy Thomson Hall nearby. “He shows such passion as a director and shows such skill in drawing indelible performances from his actors and he’s Canadian,” Bailey said of Vallee who is from Montreal.
Vallee spoke and introduced his key cast – including a bearded Gyllenhaal in a dark suit and wine-colored tie standing next to Naomi Watts in a flesh-tone ruffled confection of a dress, veteran actor Chris Cooper, actress Heather Lind in a floor-length red gown, and 14-year-old Judah Lewis who plays Watts’ young son and made the trip to Toronto with his parents from LA.
(Volunteers were stationed in the aisle, including one with a flower in her hair blocking my view, before the start of the film. No one could leave their seats to get closer for photos.)
“This is probably the most rock ’n’ roll film I’ve ever made,” the director said. “I suspect they’re making a statement with opening the festival with this film.” He said the script by Bryan Sipe “has such a rare quality, it’s the kind of script that makes you stop and you’re going to think about life and you go wow, how precious it can be and how beautiful and I wanted to be involved in this.”
He singled out Cooper for being perfect and good in every film and said of Watts, “I’m her No. 1 fan. She has so many films out there. Every director wants to shoot with her. … She’s so gifted. Everything she does seems so easy and natural and so beautiful.”
Gyllenhaal, whose “Southpaw” is still in theaters as “Everest” awaits around the corner, was introduced by Vallee this way: “There’s nothing he hasn’t done, he hasn’t tried. You’ll see him act, of course,” but also dance, take a sledgehammer to his old life literally and figuratively and learn what it means to be numb and to thaw and feel again.
Other snapshots from the festival: Started my day with “Jafar Panahi’s Taxi,” featuring Iranian filmmaker Panahi driving a cab and turning his car into a mobile film studio where passengers argue about crime and punishment, wail with grief, deliver a last testament, peddle bootleg DVDs and debate what makes for sordid realism which will result in a movie being banned.
“45 Years” showcases wonderful performances by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as a couple about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary with a party; his bypass surgery had postponed a 40th bash. But a ghostly figure from the past and revelations about her may taint everything and certainly leave the husband and wife numb and raw in different ways.
As soon as that let out, I sprinted down the steps and out to the sidewalk where scores of people lined up for “Sicario,” being shown in an IMAX theater at the commercial Scotiabank Theatre. “We are in a delay situation,” a theater employee ominously announced over the street traffic, eight minutes before the 3 p.m. movie was to start.
By 3:25 p.m., every seat was filled for the thriller starring Emily Blunt as an idealistic FBI agent who finds herself part of a mysterious government task force determined to smoke out or smoke a Mexican drug kingpin.
It’s very violent and cynical and a character could be talking to the audience when he tells Blunt: “Nothing will make sense to your American ears and you will doubt everything we do but, in the end, you will understand.” But not sanction.
Film stills courtesy of TIFF. Red carpet picture from WireImage/Getty for TIFF. Others, Barbara Vancheri.