The closing night gala screening at the Toronto International Film Festival is often the kiss of death - for the audience at least. After 10 days of movies, red carpets, shmoozes, parties and - ugh! - the legion of hangers-on, everybody who's anybody has packed up and gone home and they've taken the good films with them.
Anybody remember Edison, the heavily TIFF-hyped closer a couple of years ago? Thought not. The obnoxiously bad cop actioner starring Justin Timberlake opened big in Germany (is there anything the Germans don't like? Oh, yeah, right...) and then went direct to DVD with the more direct title Edison Force (in case anybody didn't realize this was a bad imitation of an even worse 80s action movie). Timberlake may have brought sexy back but I bet he wishes he could take that stinker back.
So, my point: TIFF has announced this year's closer - Emotional Arithmetic, directed by Paolo Barzman, starring Gabriel Byrne, Susan Sarandon, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer and Roy Dupuis. Great cast all around. It's a made-in-Quebec drama about three Holocaust survivors who reunite for a dinner party after 40 years apart (according to the TIFF press release). Sounds like just the kind of high note the festival wants to leave its audience with. Not.
Now, I'm not saying it's a bad movie. I haven't seen a single frame of it. And it has to be better than Edison. Hell, even an Edison Twins feature film would be better than Edison. I'm just not sure a Holocaust drama is exactly closing night material, the kind of film that has people coming out of Roy Thomson Hall buzzing about a great cinematic experience and wishing the festival would last just one more day. Then again, maybe it's meant to convey the feelings of the TIFF staff, by this point walking zombies looking for a stiff drink and a very long nap.
Of course, as everyone knows, the real closing night film is whatever über-programmer Colin Geddes has cooked up for Midnight Madness. So if you really want to end your festival experience still hungry for more movies, skip the gala and check out whatever ghoulies, ghosties and kung fu serial killers Geddes has up his sleeve.