Karyn Kusama’s is one of the great comeback stories of contemporary moviemaking. After bursting onto the scene with 2000’s Girlfight (which was also the breakthrough film for Widows’ Michelle Rodriguez), she helmed the underwhelming Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body, and all but disappeared for six years. But she roared back onto the scene with the chilling, dread-filled, claustrophobic horror thriller The Invitation, followed that up with a host of first-rate TV work, and is now at the helm of this cop drama starring Nicole Kidman and Sebastian Stan. Word from Telluride is it’s a fierce piece of work. Why, it’s almost as though women directors should get the same second chances as their male counterparts.
(‘American Dharma,’ TIFF)
Though he’s best known for true crime documentaries like The Thin Blue Line and Wormwood , director Errol Morris has made a specialty of feature-length interviews with polarizing political figures; he won the Best Documentary Oscar for his Robert McNamara profile The Fog of War, he shined a light on Donald Rumsfeld in the 2013 feature The Unknown Known , and now he sits down with (to put it mildly) controversial alt-right media figure and former White House strategist Steve Bannon. That act may be viewed with similar suspicion as Bannon’s recently-cancelled New Yorker Festival event, but one thing that’s important to remember about Morris: few interviewers are quite as skilled at giving their subjects enough rope to hang themselves.
The Outlaw King
David Mackenzie is fast becoming one of our least predictable journeyman directors, veering from the dystopian romance of Perfect Sense to the brutal prison drama of Starred Up to the gritty neo-Western Hell or High Water to this a 14th century Scottish adventure. Chris Pine stars as the title character, who moved from nobility to royalty, then from criminal to soldier; the supporting cast includes Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Stephen Dillane, and the mesmerizing star of Lady Macbeth, Florence Pugh.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Marielle Heller’s 2015 drama Diary of a Teenage Girl was one of the best movies of that year, a devastatingly honest portrait of teen sexuality that’s downright revolutionary in its complexity and candor. Her long-awaited (in these parts, anyway) follow-up comes from the pen of Nicole Holofcener — also at TIFF with her directorial effort The Land of Steady Habits, from Netflix — and Jeff Whitty, and stars Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel, a biographical author who turned to forgery to pay the bills. That combination of talents and elements is, who’re we kidding, downright irresistible.
(‘High Life,’ TIFF)
We’ve been shrieking about this movie for more than three years now, and still can’t believe it’s a thing: a space-set drama, starring Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche (and André Benjamin and Mia Goth), directed by Claire Denis. It’s her English-language debut, checking off yet another box on her varied and enviable filmography; Zadie Smith, though uncredited, contributed to early drafts of the script.
The Front Runner
All the way back in 1988, the notion of a Presidential candidate who’d been unfaithful to his wife seemed like a big deal — a career-ender, in fact. Allegations of infidelity (with, it seemed, the pictures to back it up) wrecked the campaign of Democratic front-runner Gary Hart, and the story of how that happened, and how it changed political journalism (and by extension, politics itself) is told in this ensemble comedy/drama from director Jason Reitman. It’s his second feature of the year, after last spring’s woefully underrated Tully, and it finds him reuniting with his frequent star J.K. Simmons and Up in the Air’s Vera Farmiga, alongside Hugh Jackman as Hart. Expect plenty of fireworks, and no thinkpieces whatsoever.
Keep an eye on this space next week for my TIFF diary, or follow me on Twitter for mini-reviews throughout the fest.