42nd Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Six

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017 by Ian Evans

There’s always a bit of melancholy when you hit day six of TIFF. Many great films ahead, but with the busy weekend in the rear-view mirror, the end is in sight.

Dee Rees’ Mudbound was the first gala at Roy Thomson Hall tonight. It’s an ensemble drama that stars Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund in a story of simmering racial tensions in the Jim Crow-era South of the 1940s. On a quick side note, this is yet another Netflix release premiering at the Festival. If you traditionally think of a film festival as a place where motion pictures destined for cinemas are shown, then you see what evolution festivals like TIFF are facing. With more people staying home and streaming, do the festivals have to follow where the audience is going?

Mitchell, who plays an African-American veteran who returns to the States to see that his battlefield heroics have not shifted the racist views back home, says he sees connections in this story with the story of his own grandfather, a veteran of the Korean War who had to return home and overcome hardships.

Mulligan felt that her character embodied strength. Mulligan was about to give herself a break from period films, but a thirty-minute Skype conversation with Dee Rees changed her mind as she was already impressed by her past films but loved her intelligence and thoughts on the project.

Mudbound was followed by Paul McGuigan’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, in which Annette Bening plays the real-life story of Gloria Grahame, an actress whose star faded as quickly as it rose. Grahame, who won the 1952 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Bad and The Beautiful, had worked opposite Bogart, Mitchum and Douglas. She had storied personal life, including marrying the son of her second husband. This film shows her relationship with British actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) in the latter part of her career when she was doing a play in Liverpool.

The two stars had nothing but compliments for each other. Bening said that she and Bell had great chemistry with each other, and that ease allows actors to open up and explore the characters. Bell called Bening “a master of her craft” who knows what she’s doing while he’s “still throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.”

Wonder Woman generated a lot of interest with audiences this year and some families might be shocked to know of its roots. Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston & the Wonder Women tells the story of William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), an American psychologist and his fellow academic wife (Rebecca Hall). They’re examining female sexuality in class and along the way enter into a polyamorous relationship with their lab assistant (Bella Heathcote). When events lead him to find a new line of work, he comes up with Wonder Woman, a comic book that not only deals with female empowerment, but also themes of dominance, submission and bondage. And you wondered what the origin of the magic lasso was.

At the VISA Screening Room premiere, Luke Evans said that people familiar with the Wonder Woman story will see elements of it in the life of the unconventional threesome. When the professor has to hide his lifestyle from others, you can see why he creates a character with a secret identity.

Fernando León de Aranoa’s Loving Pablo closed out the night at the Princess of Wales. Based on Virginia Vallejo’s memoir Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar, it stars Penélope Cruz as Vallejo and Javier Bardem as the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. At first she doesn’t question where his money comes from, but his violent ways cannot be hidden forever.

Bardem said the fascinating thing about Escobar that was interesting to explore was the duality of the public perception. He was a man who was hated and feared worldwide but also loved by some poorer people in his country who saw him as some form of a Robin Hood. Bardem said he didn’t want to humanize him but wanted to see what went wrong that made him capable of such atrocities. Bardem was playing opposite his real-life love, Penélope Cruz, and laughingly said the pair made a deal not to bring the intensity of the Escobar/Vallejo relationship home with them.