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TIFF 2011: Five Capsule Reviews, including “Edwin Boyd”

September 15, 2011

By John C.

As we are exactly a week into the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival and nearing the final weekend, it seems like the perfect time to publish another very diverse set of five capsule reviews.  In my last round I wrote about the tense thriller Drive, recommended Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, called Lucky a nice change of pace, shared my lukewarm reaction to The Odds and warned you to steer clear of Amy George.  Please read them all here.

Instead of talking about some of the big buzz titles that have recently premiered, this week I have put together a set of capsule reviews for five strong films that seem to have flown a bit under the radar at the festival.  Arranged in order of when they first premiered at TIFF, three of these films have another festival screening coming up.  You can get more information and purchase tickets here.  Please come back on Monday for my concluding thoughts on the festival, and if you haven’t already been downtown, I hope you all find something to see over the next few days.  Enjoy!

Edwin Boyd:  In the 1940’s and ‘50’s, Toronto found their answer to John Dillinger in the charismatic Edwin Boyd (Scott Speedman).  Propelled by his dream to become a movie star, Boyd took to robbing banks so that he could continue to support his wife (Kelly Reily) and their two kids.  Running from the law and teaming up with the violent Lenny Jackson (Kevin Dunrand) and his little brother Willie ‘The Clown’ (Brendan Fletcher), Boyd ended up in and out of jail while miraculously never losing sight of his need to entertain.  With a good amount of tension, Boyd’s fascinating and intriguing story is told in a way that so clearly evokes the time and place.  Never feeling like the small Canadian production that it is, director Nathan Morlando’s expertly paced Edwin Boyd deserves to have a wide and international audience.  Excellent performances and riveting robbery sequences keep the smoothly entertaining film grounded, as it builds to a poignant conclusion.

Saturday, September 10th – 9:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Monday, September 12th – 3:00 PM @ Ryerson

Your Sister’s Sister:  In the wake of his brother’s death, Jack (Mark Duplass) is told by his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) to stay at her cabin in order to rethink his life.  But when he arrives, Jack unexpectedly meets up with her sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt).  Before long, Iris shows up and the three friends subsequently pull each other’s lives apart before starting to piece them all back together again.  With excellent naturalistic performances and a largely improvised script that thankfully never feels mundane, Your Sister’s Sister is a thoroughly entertaining and always believable portrait of what can happen when more than just friendship is entered into a platonic relationship.  The film moves along with the power of a great stage play, as the dialogue-driven scenes reveal more and more about the characters and where they are in their lives.  There are wonderful surprises at every turn, right through to the bittersweet and unforgettable final scene.

Sunday, September 11th – 6:00 PM @ Ryerson

Tuesday, September 13th – 12:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Friday, September 16th – 12:00 PM @ Ryerson

Like Crazy:  Already awarded the top prize at Sundance, Like Crazy is a small romance shot on the video setting of an HD camera by young director Drake Doremus.  Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) fell in love at college in Los Angeles, their relationship made up of fun dates around the city and lazy days spent in bed.  But when her visa expires and she is deported back to England, they struggle to keep up a long-term relationship as they both start to feel the physical and metaphorical distance coming between them.  Anna keeps getting promoted at her job, Jacob finds distraction in a co-worker (Jennifer Lawrence).  There is a sense of ambiguity to some of the plot points that seems to blur the passage of time, although this can be overlooked as it allows the film to play out at the perfect length of 88-minutes.  But it is ultimately the strong performances and entirely improvised dialogue that make Like Crazy a believable and sometimes very touching look at young relationships.

Tuesday, September 13th – 6:00 PM @ Ryerson

Wednesday, September 14th – 12:00 PM @ Ryerson

Saturday, September 17th – 6:15 PM @ Scotiabank

Butter:  In a small town in the Midwest United States, Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) always wins the annual butter carving contest.  But when he is unable to compete, his wife Laura (Jennifer Garner) enters instead, only to find her competition in an 11-year-old adopted girl named Destiny (excellent child actor Yara Shahidi in a breakout role).  But things get even more complicated than that.  Bob is having an affair with a local stripper, Brooke (Olivia Wilde) who is after him for money, and the double-crossing starts to build up in order for Laura to keep the contest in the Pickler name.  Wilde brings some of the funniest scenes, with Shahidi supplying the beating heart of the film.  Watch for Hugh Jackman in a small but pivotal role.  Although a few of the cultural stereotypes might go too far for some, this is a smart little film destined to draw comparisons to both Election and Easy A.  With strong performances from all involved and a script that allows for ample social and political satire, Butter is a bitingly sharp and often very funny comedy that makes great use of a unique premise and deserves to have a big audience.

(Gala Premiere) Tuesday, September 13th – 9:30 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall

Wednesday, September 14th – 2:30 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Jeff, Who Lives at Home:  Every once in a while, an excellent independent film comes along and seems to make our view of the world a little clearer.  As clichéd as this may sound, the surprisingly heartfelt Jeff, Who Lives at Home is one of these films.  Jeff (Jason Segel) lives his life believing that there is an order to the universe and that every little thing is happening for a reason.  When his mother (Susan Sarandon) sends him out to get some wood glue, he ends up spending the day changing the life of his brother (Ed Helms) and invariably effecting everyone around him.  I was a big fan of last year’s dramedy Cyrus, but in many ways this is the most fully realized film from writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass.  The excellent acting carries the film, with Segel and Helms turning in some of their best performances.  Every character and storyline is handled brilliantly in Jeff, Who Lives at Home, as the film seamlessly builds to a conclusion that could only be described as beautiful.  Destined to become a cult classic, this is a small masterpiece.

Wednesday, September 14th – 9:00 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Thursday, September 15th – 11:00 AM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Saturday, September 17th – 9:15 AM @ Scotiabank

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