TORONTO –“Is anyone here waiting for girlhood?” asked the headsetted staffer, walking down a press line of moviegoers.
She was speaking of the French film “Girlhood,” which had been moved to another cinema, but I couldn’t help hearing the question as a wistful, poignant query of lost youth. And wondering whether “Waiting for Girlhood” would make a good title for a play, or a band.
At TIFF, standing in line, the mind wanders. Not so much when actually watching something. “Laggies,” the latest made-in-Seattle offering from local filmmaker Lynn Shelton, had its TIFF press screening today (the red-carpet premiere is later in the fest), and it’s actually about girlhood; specifically, about a 28-year-old woman (Keira Knightley) who, dissatisfied with her life, regresses back to high school and starts hanging out with a teenager (Chloe Grace Moretz, who is in pretty much every movie this year). This is the first of Shelton’s films that she didn’t write herself, and as such it feels both less quirky and more slight than “Your Sister’s Sister,” my favorite of her works. Though the characters’ behavior isn’t always believable, Shelton does her usual fine work with actors: Knightley and Moretz are charming together, as is Sam Rockwell as Moretz’s divorced dad. And, as with last year’s “Lucky Them,” it’s always a pleasure to travel thousands of miles and, upon arriving, see Seattle on screen. “Laggies” blooms with locations many of us will recognize, including a party scene on the Skansonia ferry — rather surreal for me to see from my Toronto theater seat, as I was just at a wedding reception there mere days ago. “Laggies” opens in Seattle in October; I enjoyed it, but hope Shelton goes back to her own writing next time.
Less successful was “The Judge,” the Robert Duvall/Robert Downey Jr. father/son courtroom drama that’s TIFF’s big opening-night film — why, I couldn’t tell you, as this is an overlong, overwrought star vehicle that wears out its welcome long before its 140-minute running time is over. Crammed with too much plot — there’s even a tornado mid-movie that barely merits mention — it’s the kind of movie you’ve seen before, many times, and a disappointment considering its TIFF showcase status. Far better, with far less hoopla, was “Two Days, One Night,” from Belgium’s Dardenne brothers, in which Marion Cotillard plays a fragile factory worker facing a layoff. Not a lot happens, except the delicate drama taking place on Cotillard’s face — and it’s mesmerizing. The Dardennes, as always, have created something that feels utterly real.
A few changes at TIFF this year: The festival has become a street party, with five blocks of King Street downtown closed off for the first four days. I strolled down it, around 9pm, and saw picnic tables mid-street (all painted that alarming shade of TIFF orange), musicians, artists, and a mysterious sort of red carpet/bouncy-castle cave which I’ll have to investigate later. And there are grumblings in the press, quite reasonable to my ear, of how this “people’s festival” is getting priced out of many people’s budgets. Regular TIFF tickets are now $24/film; red carpet premieres are $46; and a new “Buzz List” package offers five tickets to much-buzzed movies for $1500. To the best of my knowledge, this package does not include Benedict Cumberbatch (who’s in one of the films, “The Imitation Game”) dropping by to give you a pedicure. But it should. More tomorrow.
Chloe Grace Moretz and Keira Knightley, in Seattle (though you can’t see it), in a scene from “Laggies.” (Photo courtesy of TIFF.)