42nd Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Four

Sunday, September 10th, 2017 by Ian Evans

It’s day four and the end of TIFF’s first weekend.

The gala presentations over at Roy Thomson Hall start with John Curran’s Chappaquiddick, an historical drama that looks at the 1969 incident when Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) drove off a bridge, resulting in the death of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara).

Curran told reporters that the story was based on the facts as we know them, but just as Kennedy’s story continued to evolve, the film does not try and present a definitive answer as to what really happened. Ed Helms said that like any human drama, there’s complexity and nuance to a situation and it’s far too easy to jump to a singular conclusion. Jim Gaffigan saw it as a human story, that a person can do something wrong — horrible even — but then do they let that define their whole life and career? Jason Clarke , who plays Kennedy, saw it as an examination of the moral choices one makes and then having to live with the results of your actions.

Up next was Hany Abu-Assad’s The Mountain Between Us, which stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba as two strangers who must rely on each other when the small plane they’re flying in crashes on a mountain. For most of the movie, it’s just the two actors on screen and Elba said that Winslet was a consummate professional that was fun to work with. He told reporters that Winslet comes very prepared while he tends to act more off-the-cuff, but their collaboration still worked.

Finally, Roy Thomson Hall played host to Susanna White’s Woman Walks Ahead, which stars Jessica Chastain as a 19th century artist who becomes a confidante of legendary Sioux chief Sitting Bull. Michael Greyeyes, who plays Sitting Bull, says it’s a story of two people from different cultures and histories that have to learn to trust and eventually love each other. Chastain said that when she was given the script, she had never heard of Catherine Weldon and wondered why a woman courageous enough to travel to the West alone and become confidante and lobbyist was not part of the history books. So that in itself was a reason to take the role: to tell these untold stories.

Meanwhile, over at the Princess of Wales, a queen of the screen was walking the red carpet to start the day here. Victoria & Abdul’s Judi Dench was joined by her co-stars Ali Fasal and Eddie Izzard, as well as director Stephen Frears. I screened the film the other day. It’s lovely, Dench is amazing and you really should see it if you get a chance.

That was followed by Sebastián Lelio’s Disobedience, which stars Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola in an unlikely love triangle set in an Orthodox Jewish community in London.

Director Lelio described it as a forbidden love story that causes a great commotion in the community. He added that he chose Weisz and McAdams because they had differences but also a similarity and he thought that would provide for great chemistry.

The night at the PoW closed off with Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, which sees Jennifer Lawrence as a young wife married to an older man (Javier Bardem). She’s working to make their house a home and get ready for their upcoming child, when strangers begin visiting the home.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Lawrence told reporters about her first time reading the script. “I threw it across the room and told him, ‘You’re a psychotic and this is a masterpiece.’ So no, I didn’t have any hesitations.”
Aronofsky said the film is a bit of mystery adding that, “As you watch it, you think you’re watching one thing and it becomes something else. It shifts again and becomes another thing. I like that, but I don’t want to give too much away about what it is. I encourage people to avoid spoilers and, if you’re up for the roller coaster ride, come take it.”

On the carpet, the director continued that thought saying that he wanted audiences to have a visceral experience and be on the edge of their seats.

Fans at the Ryerson Theatre were eager to see Battle of the Sexes, directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton. It tells the story of the 1973 tennis match that pitted Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) against the chauvinistic Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) in a $100,000 winner-take-all match.

Carell may be best known for his amazing comedic roles, but he’s turned in several great dramatic perormances. Faris said that comedic actors not only can do the drama but can easily tap into the pain that often fuels comedy. Carell believed that Riggs was more complex than people give him credit for, and saw the women’s movement and where society was going and thought he had an opportunity to make some money just as people were discussing equality. Billie Jean King attended the screening and said that knowing all the people in the story, the actors chosen did a great job being authentic and giving the people they portrayed dimensions. It was Stone’s first time portraying a real person and she said King was present for her and generous with her time and information.