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TIFF 2019 Capsule Reviews

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TIFF 2019 Capsule Reviews

The Lighthouse

An entertaining and offbeat two-hander, director/co-writer Robert Eggers surprisingly brings a lot of humour to this tale of a pair of lighthouse caretakers. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are excellent, with Dafoe’s salty seaman continually toying with his younger keeper. Eggers even finds brilliant use for a seagull who gets on Pattinson’s nerves. As The Lighthouse plays on, it gets more and more absurdly weird. Admittedly, the leads’ drunk act does threaten to get a little old, but the story remains compelling. Eggers also makes good use of his Nova Scotia location and is able to give the movie the feel of an early 20th century novel. (B+)

American Woman

A take on the Patty Hearst kidnapping, American Woman never rises above being a standard tv-movie depiction of this group of revolutionaries. The relationships between the characters never feel fully developed and the movie just meanders along with little agency. The first half is a bit of slog, while the second half (with Hong Chau’s Jenny on the run with Sarah Gadon’s Pauline) doesn’t reach its full potential. Just when the plot should start to get interesting, the movie speeds towards its conclusion. By the end, it doesn’t feel like we get to know the participants and what led them to make certain decisions. (C-)

Hustlers

Portraying a real-life con, when strippers hustled many of their wealthy Wall Street clients, director/writer Lorene Scafaria finds the right balance in making Hustlers into a clever caper. Scafaria smartly doesn’t look down on the strippers and instead seeks to understand why they chose to participate in this crime wave. Constance Wu is our eyes and ears into this world, with Scorsese-esque narration giving us an understanding of her occupation. The energy is kept up through most of the movie and the interplay between the strippers is well portrayed. Hustlers ultimately becomes an entertaining overview of this scandal that manages to have a strange amount of respect for what they pulled off. (B)

Sweetness in the Belly

A serviceable and well-meaning film, with Dakota Fanning playing a British woman abandoned by her parents at a young age, Sweetness in the Belly highlights the Ethiopian refugee crisis. The movie is careful to show the privilege afforded to Fanning’s Lilly due to her skin colour and parentage when she immigrates back to the United Kingdom. Of the relationships we see her form in the movie, the most interesting comes from a sympathetic doctor played by Kunal Nayyar. Best known for his role in The Big Bang Theory, he showcases his dramatic acting chops here and has several nice scenes with Fanning. Sweetness in the Belly does the job required of it and becomes a solid drama. (B)

Judy

Portraying Judy Garland in the last months before her death, Renee Zellweger embodies the actress later in her career and how her MGM days had a lasting negative effect on her. Director Rupert Goold effectively jumps between Garland’s days filming The Wizard of Oz and her time performing in a fancy British hotel to highlight the mistreatment of young actresses during Hollywood’s Golden Age. The movie properly depicts her struggles, but also shows that when she was on, Garland could wow any crowd. Some of the best scenes in Judy come from the musical numbers, performed by Zellweger with gusto. This is a lovely tribute to a genuine talent. (B+)

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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