39th Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Five

Monday, September 8th, 2014 by Ian Evans

Steve Carell | Foxcatcher premiere

Some people don’t love Mondays but I guess those people aren’t attending film festivals.

So we’re halfway through the festival and heading to Ryerson for the premiere of Whiplash. Directed by Damien Chazelle, it stars Miles Teller as a young drummer being taught by a hard-driving instructor played by J.K. Simmons.

Teller, who has been drumming since 15 and took jazz lessons for the film, says it’s a classic mano a mano drama, just two men involved in a conflict. It comes from writer-director Damien Chazelle, whose own experience as a musician saw him as a drummer in a jazz orchestra with a Svengali-like conductor. Simmons, who is a revelation in the film, describes the film as Faustian, saying it asks “At what cost do you want to achieve greatness? And are you making a deal with the devil when you forsake your humanity or have your humanity stripped from you to achieve greatness?”

Whiplash __is definitely one of the “run to it don’t walk” films screening at TIFF as is our next film, __Foxcatcher. We headed to Roy Thomson Hall for its gala premiere.

Directed by Bennett Miller, the film tells the true story of Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his brother, fellow champion Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), who was murdered by their team’s benefactor, the wealthy paranoid-schizophrenic John du Pont, played here by a barely recognizable Steve Carell.

It’s a dramatic role for Carell, but he says the approach is the same, as in both genres “you try to make it as realistic as possible and try to find the truth in the character.” It was also a lot of work for Mark Ruffalo, who spent seven months working on the wrestling moves and putting on 30 pounds of muscle.

Channing Tatum talked on the carpet about the responsibility of playing a real-life character, saying that “you’re trying to be as honest as you can to the person who really lived it.”

From RTH, we headed back to Ryerson for the Adult Beginners premiere. Directed by Ross Katz and starring Rose Byrne, Nick Kroll, Joel McHale and Bobby Cannavale, the film looks at one man’s career plummet and his retreat to the safety of his childhood home.

Kroll said that “there’s a lot of resets in people’s lives and at various moments people are figuring out who they are, who they thought they were and who they want to become.” Director Katz says it looks at the people who put their careers first “only to discover that your family is the most important thing.” Rose Byrne liked that the screenplay wasn’t too earnest and dealt with the issues with a “light touch.”

From a light touch, we head back to Roy Thomson Hall for the heavier subject matter of Wild. Based on the autobiographical novel by Cheryl Strayed, it tracks her solitary journey along the Pacific Crest Trail after her divorce, mother’s death and subsequent destructive behaviour. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from a screenplay by Nick Hornby, the film stars Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.

Reese thought the film was a “beautiful story about enduring what seems unendurable.” Cheryl Strayed thought the most important thing the film had to capture was the relationship between her and her mother and she was blown away by Dern and Witherspoon’s performances. Laura Dern took that responsibility seriously and spent time learning from Strayed by listening to her and just absorbing memories like Strayed’s family photographs.

Director Jean-Marc Vallée said his main challenge was “to make a film that was as emotional and as powerful as the book was.”

As the carpet for Wild wraps up, we realize we’re halfway through the festival.

TIFF Day Five Photo Galleries