39th Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Two

Friday, September 5th, 2014 by Ian Evans

It’s a blistering hot and muggy day in Toronto as the first Friday of the Festival unfolds.

Boychoir had its gala premiere at Roy Thomson Hall. Directed by François Girard, the film follows an angry orphan (Garret Wareing) as he ends up enrolled at the National Boychoir Academy and engaged in a battle of wills with the demanding choir master (Dustin Hoffman).

Comedian Eddie Izzard, who plays Hoffman’s right hand man, had some comments about Toronto’s embattled crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford. Turning back to the film, he said that filmgoers would love the soundtrack because it contained some great classic as well as new tunes presented in a way that many people would not have heard before.

Actor Josh Lucas was pleased to have had the chance to work alongside Dustin Hoffman, telling reporters that Dustin is not only an extraordinary actor but just has that “magic” that makes him a star. Hoffman turned his praise to his young co-star Garret Wareing, describing him as a “splendid kid” with a “rich soul and a sense of the truth.” Director Girard also heaped on the praise adding that filmgoers were witnessing the beginning of a long career.

As often happens, “hot and muggy” can quickly lead to a torrential downpour and today was no different. Fans standing on the street outside the Princess of Wales Theatre would probably expect the stars to skip the autographs and head straight for the safety of their seats, but the star of St. Vincent is Bill Murray and this is a man who never disappoints. Murray braved the elements and shook hands, signed autographs and took selfies with fan after fan. Perhaps Murray was feeling the love from the fact that TIFF had declared this Bill Murray Day, a day-long celebration of his work which featured free screenings of Stripes, Groundhog Day, and Ghostbusters. Murray was also basking in the reception for St. Vincent. Directed by Theodore Melfi, and co-starring Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, and Naomi Watts, the film tells the story of a drunken retired vet who finds himself watching over his neighbours 12-year-old son while still maintaining his recreational activities like horse racing and strip clubs.

Meanwhile, Roy Thomson Hall’s evening concluded with the gala screening of Richard Loncraine’s Ruth & Alex, which stars Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton. Based on Jill Ciment’s novel Heroic Measures, the film tells the story of a married couple who contemplate selling their Brooklyn home and the events that ensue. The couple have been together for several decades and in flashbacks the film also explores the struggles they had with an interracial relationship. Director Richard Loncraine described Ruth & Alex as a “coming of age movie, but for old people” and “not a comedy, but very funny.” In other words, it’s a layered film that we don’t often see in this day of super-hero flicks.