The Power Players At Toronto International Film Festival 2016

The Power Players At Toronto International Film Festival 2016

V's Entertainment Editor Greg Krelenstein reports from TIFF 2016.

V's Entertainment Editor Greg Krelenstein reports from TIFF 2016.

Text: Greg Krelenstein

It's a wrap on the 2016 Toronto Film Festival this weekend and the top prize went to Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, a modern day musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone that references Hollywood’s golden age of Gene Kelley song-and-dance, also serving as a love letter to Los Angeles. After premiering to loud critical acclaim in Venice and Telluride just prior to TIFF, the film appears to have the full aligned support of both critics and audiences, which will undoubtedly propel it to the top of the box office come this December.

Critics were itching to find an awards frontrunner after a barren summer of undeveloped superheroes and tiresome sequels. La La Land's fellow contenders included Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, Dennis Villeneuve's Arrival (which, like the former, stars Amy Adams), Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester At The Sea starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, and Lion, the tearjerker that is Harvey Weinstein’s horse in this year’s race starring Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire.  

Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is a complete showstopper—a story of a disintegrating relationship (played out by Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal), and also includes a manuscript penned by Gyllenhaal’s character, which acts like a story within a story. The scenes dreamed up by Gyllenhaal see a man on a nightmarish road trip whose family is confronted by a gang of Texan rednecks (led by an arresting performance by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and a cowboy of a cop (played by the always excellent Michael Shannon). Adams spends most of the film reading his work and grappling with the coolness of the Neon Demon-esque vibes of the art world scene she inhabits while being forced to confront the guilt over the way she treated her first husband.

Despite the two power players, there was some room for two more titles to sneak into the conversation. After a rapturous reaction at its debut in Telluride, Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins and starring an excellent ensemble cast including breakout newcomer Trevante Rhodes, is a coming-of-age story of a young African-American man played by three different actors spanning different periods, and could be this year’s equivalent to Boyhood.  The other, Jackie, stars Natalie Portman as Jackie O., and just might give the actress another Best Actress award at the Oscars. Coincidentally, the film was produced by Darren Aronofsky, who directed Portman to the same award for Black Swan in 2011. Jackie takes place in the 4 days following the assassination of JFK and is a fresh take on the standard biopic. Planetarium also showed at the festival and stars Portman alongside newcomer and breakout star Lily-Rose Depp.

Within this crowded lineup of titles making their North American premieres at TIFF, two of my favorite auteurs' films, first screened earlier this year at Cannes, stood out as exceptional: Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta was a return to the director's beloved female-in-crisis tales like All About My Mother and Talk To Her and was based on the short stories of Alice Munro. Xavier Dolan’s Cannes Grand Pix winner, It’s Only The End of the World, features a starry French cast including Lea Seydoux, Vincent Cassell, Marion Cottilard, and Gaspard Ulliel. The story sees as a man coming home after 12 years to tell his family he’s dying. The film is shot mostly in intense closeups that highlight the fragile emotional states of the characters, and, like the director's past work, incorporates big pop song moments featuring the likes of Grimes and Blink 182.

Not quite a household name yet, director Adam Leon’s sophomore pic Tramps contained breakthrough performances by Callum Turner (best known for his appearances in the Burberry campaign and the Neo-Nazi-punk-slasher Green Room) and Grace Van Patten was a burst of kinetic energy genre bending whirlwind, that is part Woody Allen New York talkie and part two lambs on the run crime drama. Patten with a role in the next Noah Baumbach film is definitely a young starlet to keep your eyes on in 2017.

Credits: Photos courtesy of TIFF.


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