Original-Cin TIFF Picks, Wednesday, Sept. 13

By Jim Slotek, Karen Gordon and Kim Hughes

I Love You, Daddy (Special Presentations)

Wednesday, Sept. 13 (5:30 p.m.). Ryerson Theatre. Sunday, Sept.. 17 (2:30 p.m.). Scotia 4

Writer/director/star Louis C.K., who’s fielded real-life accusations of sexual misconduct of late, all but tackles celebrity shame head-on with this obvious homage to Woody Allen’s Manhattan (shot in black-and-white with a May/December subplot). Louis plays Glen, a successful TV producer who’s smitten with a pregnant movie star (Rose Byrne) and willing to screw over another actress to get her. Meanwhile, his unambitious, manipulative teen daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) is seduced by his hero, a 68-year-old reputed-child-molesting film auteur (played with honeyed charm by John Malkovich). Glen’s objections, balanced against his hypocrisy, provide food for thought in the age of social-media shaming. There’s some very funny dialogue and uncomfortable moments and Edie Falco is terrifully acerbic as Glen's long-suffering production head/conscience. - JS

 Louis C.K. goes fully Woody Allen in I Love You, Daddy

Louis C.K. goes fully Woody Allen in I Love You, Daddy

mother! (Special Presentations)

Wednesday, Sept. 13 (9:30 p.m.). Princess Of Wales Theatre

You pretty much know going into a movie by American auteur Darren Aronofsky that you likely won’t leave the theatre feeling neutral. His allegorical “mother!” is already dividing critics and audiences alike. (For the record, we’re on the “Yea” side.) A married couple (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem)  live quietly in his family’s gorgeous country house that they’re restoring after a fire. Well, mostly she is. He’s a writer seemingly in the grips of writer’s block, and indifferent to his beautiful, supportive wife. One night there’s a knock on the door and, to her utter surprise, he invites an apparent stranger (Ed Harris), whom he finds fascinating, to stay the night. The next day his aggressive wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up. Chaos ensues. It’s an unpredictable ride and a fascinating one. - KG

DARKEST HOUR (Gala) 

Wednesday, Sept. 13 (11:30 a.m.) Elgin. Saturday, Sept. 16 (12 p.m.). Princess Of Wales Theatre. Sunday, Sept. 17 (3:30 p.m.). TBLB 2

And the Oscar goes to... There’s always a certain percentage of Oscar buzz at TIFF. But even this early in the season, the raves about Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill turn out to be highly justified. Oldman is in almost every scene in this film, that covers Churchill from becoming Prime Minister through to the Dunkirk evacuation. Churchill wasn’t popular with his own party, nor liked by the King, and was haunted by previous failures (especially the Gallipoli massacre). Darkest Night gives us a human look at how Churchill dealt with the pressures of living up to his own convictions. This isn’t sexy stuff, but the force of Oldman’s masterful performance should be seen on the big screen. - KG

  Rajkummar Rao  plays real-life jihadi terrorist Omar Sheikh in Omerta

Rajkummar Rao plays real-life jihadi terrorist Omar Sheikh in Omerta

OMERTA (Special Presentations) 

Wednesday, Sept. 13 (9:30 p.m.). Scotia 2. Saturday, Sept. 16. 2:45 p.m. Scotia 2

There've been a lot of making-of-a-jihadi movies of late, without a lot of real light being shed on the phenomenon. In Omertà, India's Hansal Mehta (Shahid) doesn't even really seem to try to make a human being out of Pakistan's Omar Sheikh, a notorious jihadi whose career moves - from kidnapping tourists in the '90s to the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 - seem simply a case of a sociopath getting bolder as he gets older. Rajkummar Rao as Omar does do a remarkable job conveying a man of easy charm, increasingly obsessed with his status as a veritable rock star of jihad and with his own clippings. But as a portrait of an individual, it's as deep as a network TV movie. More of a monster movie really. - JS

MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE (Special Presentations)

Wednesday, Sept. 13 (9 pm), ScotiaBank 1.

Millennials believing that nefarious goings-on in Washington DC are something new will marvel at this brilliantly calibrated and very timely re-telling of the Watergate scandal from the perspective of the whistle-blower who, as this film’s rather clunky title reveals, literally brought down President Richard Nixon’s White House in 1973 by leaking information to the press when the government refused to police itself. Liam Neeson is quietly volcanic (yes that can exist, oxymoronic as it sounds) in the title role, capturing all of Mark Felt’s contradictions. Writer/director Peter Landesman’s background as a journalist serves him well here; shooting on a digital camera with vintage anamorphic lenses gives his film a smudginess that evokes the claustrophobia inside the FBI. - KH

A FANTASTIC WOMAN (Special Presentation)

Tuesday, Sept 12 (6:30 pm), Elgin Theatre; Wednesday, Sept. 13, (12:15 pm), TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

A kind of a thriller, an unusual love story, and nuanced character study of resilience, Chilean director Sebastian Lelio’s new film has echoes of his 2013 entry, Gloria, about a middle-aged woman finding her freedom, but with an interesting twist. About 20 minutes into this film about Marina (a terrific Daniela Vega) — a waitress and part-time singer whose middle-aged lover, Orlando, dies of a sudden stroke — we realize Marina is a transgender woman. The consequences of that mean complications with his family, law enforcement and simply having a place to live, spin out, in a quietly affirming story of everyday heroism that suggests a more subtle version of mid-career Pedro Almodovar. - LL

KINGS (Gala Presentation)

Wednesday, Sept. 13 (6:30 pm), Roy Thomson Hall; Thursday, Sept. 14 (2:30 pm) Elgin; Sunday, Sept. 17 (12:30 pm), ScotiaBank 1

Set in 1992 Los Angeles, Kings follows a single mother — who is black — as she attempts to gather her scattered brood with the help of a cranky neighbour — who is white — while the city erupts in violence following the acquittal of the cops accused of beating Rodney King. What’s presumably intended as a hands-across-the-water story scans as racially tone-deaf. It’s also stilted and predictable, a fact stars Halle Berry and Daniel Craig seem uneasily aware of as the action unfolds. Hopes were riding high that director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, whose lovely 2015 feature debut Mustang snagged an Oscar nod, could pull this off. It’s questionable whether anyone could… or should. - KH