INSIDE OUT: TORONTO LGBT FILM FESTIVAL May 26 to June 6 at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West). $11-$14, galas $20-$25, passes available.
>>> OTHER PEOPLE (Chris Kelly, U.S.). 97 minutes. Thursday (May 26), 8 pm, TIFF 1 and 3. Rating: NNNN
Make sure you bring kleenex to the fest’s opening gala, a funny and heartfelt look at David (Jesse Plemons), a gay aspiring comedy writer who returns from New York to his family’s home in Sacramento to spend time with his mother (Molly Shannon), who’s dying of cancer.
The premise is hardly new – see last year’s James White – but first-time director Chris Kelly, a writer for both SNL and Broad City, brings authenticity to almost every moment. (One unusual drag number, while fun, goes on too long.)
Plemons (unrecognizable from Breaking Bad) and SNL alum Shannon deliver lived-in performances, with solid support by Bradley Whitford (as David’s unaccepting dad), June Squibb, John Early and (in one of his last screen roles) the great character actor Paul Dooley.
>>> RE-ORIENTATIONS (Richard Fung, Canada). 66 minutes. Saturday (May 28), 12:30 pm, TIFF 2. Rating: NNNN
Thirty years after Orientations, his groundbreaking video about queer Asian Canadians, director Richard Fung checks in with seven of the 14 original subjects to see how things have changed.
Of course, the developments have been huge: gay marriage, the trans movement, label fluidity, AIDS awareness, the decline of the bar and the rise of the hookup app. Racism still exists, however, masked as “preference” online and South Asians, especially after 9/11, have experienced unsubtle discrimination.
Fung puts these and other changes in context by talking with various experts. But the film’s emotional heft comes from the interviewees, who, faced with their younger selves, get to reflect on the passage of time.
And Fung’s tribute to the three subjects who are gone is tasteful and touching. A necessary document.
THE INTERVENTION (Clea DuVall, U.S.) 90 minutes. Tuesday (May 31), 9:30 pm, TIFF 1. Rating: NNN
Peter and Ruby’s marriage looks like a living hell, leading their friends to invite them on a weekend retreat that’s actually an intervention to convince them to divorce. Problem is, their own relationships kinda suck, too, so who are they to cast stones?
Writer/director Clea DuVall juggles all the parts and keeps it interesting – we know someone’s relationship is going to blow up, we just don’t know whose – and her cast is first-rate, especially Cobie Smulders as Ruby, everybody’s favourite dyke Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is The New Black) as a new lesbian not sure she’s through with the penis and Melanie Lynskey as a juicer who could use her own intervention.
I don’t mind the silly idea that none of these so-called friends has ever raised the marriage issue to their troubled pals, but if you’re going to trap us with a bunch of all-white entitled 30-somethings – except for a younger love interest played by Alia Shawkat (Amreeka) – can you give them some depth? We know nothing about what these people do, what matters to them or how they connect to anything other than each others’ relationships.
SUSAN G. COLE
>>> GIRLS LOST (Alexandra-Therese Keining, Sweden). 106 minutes. June 5, 4:45 pm, TIFF 2. Rating: NNNN
A magic-realist fantasy about three teenage girls (Tuva Jagell, Louise Nyvall and Wilma Holmén) who discover a weird flower that can temporarily turn them into boys, Girls Lost arrives at Inside Out after premiering at TIFF last fall with none of its compelling strangeness diminished.
Adapting Jessica Schiefauer’s Swedish YA novel Pojkarna, writer/director Alexandra Therese Keining crafts a queasy parable about power and identity as the bond between her young protagonists (played in male form by Emrik Öhlander, Alexander Gustavsson and Vilgot Ostwald Vesterlund) splinters once they get a taste of testosterone.
The story swings from comedy to drama, from pulp to naturalism, but somehow the whole thing feels of a piece, juggling ideas and tones in a consistently fascinating manner.
BURN BURN BURN (Chanya Button, France). 106 minutes. Sunday (May 29), 9 pm, TIFF 2. Rating: NNN
Two close female friends go on the road to scatter the ashes of their not-always-lovable pal Dan at various locations. He’s made a series of videos that the duo is meant to view along the way that explain the meaning of each chosen site and, at the same time, challenge the women personally.
Alex (Chloe Pirrie) has just discovered her girlfriend in bed with someone else, while Seph (Laura Carmichael) is ambivalent about her nice-guy boyfriend. They’ve also withheld secrets from each other.
There’s a paint-by-numbers feel to Chanya Button’s road movie: a visit to an estranged mom, getting too drunk at a party among strangers, soulful confessions. But it’s fun seeing Carmichael (Lady Edith in Downton Abbey) being a bad girl, and the film has a big heart.
FIRST GIRL I LOVED (Kerem Sanga, U.S.). 91 minutes. June 3, 7:30 pm, TIFF 2. Rating: NNN
Honestly, you’d think we’d had enough of this kind of teen-based coming-of-age pic.
Writer/director Kerem Sanga’s script checks all the right boxes: geeky baby dyke Anne (Dylan Gelula) attracts the popular girl, Sasha (Brianna Hildebrand), and they get it on. Popular girl can’t face what they’re doing and treats baby dyke badly.
But what’s interesting here is the relationship between Anne and her best friend, Clifton (Mateo Arias), who’s not so happy about her new connection. It’s unusual for a story, especially a queer one, to show this kind of sensitivity to a teen male-female friendship.
LITTLE MEN (Ira Sachs, USA). 85 minutes. June 1, 9:45 pm, TIFF2. Rating: NNNN
Ira Sachs, director of Keep The Lights On and Love Is Strange, returns with another finely attuned study of New York life, this time looking at the fast friendship between two 13-year-olds: Brooklyn loudmouth Tony (Michael Barbieri) and more reserved Manhattan transplant Jake (Theo Taplitz), whose parents have inherited the building in which Tony’s mother has a dress shop.
Sachs casts a pretty wide net in Little Men, using the two kids as a dramatic pivot for several other stories that unfold around them and complicate their relationship.
The young stars are terrific, but really the whole cast is great Greg Kinnear and Paulina Garcia are particular standouts as Jake’s father and Tony’s mother, who let us see how their personal baggage makes a minor business conflict into an irreconcilable war of wills.
The movie’s stakes are small, but don’t let that fool you: this is a nuanced, thoughtful drama about people figuring out who they are. They’re just, you know, little.
Get the full Inside Out schedule here.
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