By Jim Slotek, Liam Lacey, Kim Hughes, and Karen Gordon
New week, new crop ‘o’ movies. Wee!
Mon. Sept. 10, 9:30 pm, Winter Garden Theatre; Wed. Sept. 12, 1:30 pm, Elgin Theatre; Sat. Sept. 15. 9:45 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Less a movie than a capital-P performance by a haggard Nicole Kidman framed by necessarily underdeveloped supporting characters, director Karyn Kusama’s bleak drama scans like something intended to reap awards. Which is fine — Kidman is terrific as a deeply traumatized L.A. cop whose life, we learn through flashbacks, was carpet-bombed by an undercover assignment gone sideways. The narrative arc finds her Detective Erin Bell seeking to right past wrongs come what may. But there are points in Destroyer where you may find yourself wishing Kidman would get out of the way so that Tatiana Maslany and Sebastian Stan could suck up some oxygen of their own. KH
Life Itself (Gala)
Mon. Sept 10, 9:30 am, Elgin Theatre.
Fans of Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love, TV's This Is Us) know what’s in store with this syrupy drama about two families on opposite sides of the Atlantic that endure tragedy only to intersect many years hence. Sort of. In America, a young and deeply enamoured couple (Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde) prepare for the birth of their child. Their happiness is short-lived. Meanwhile, a Spanish couple (Antonio Banderas, Laia Costa) struggle first with third-party abandonment, then love, then illness and death. Long, earnest (and very script-y feeling) speeches are delivered, tears are shed, and the audience is emotionally manipulated. Still, everyone in the starry ensemble cast, which includes Annette Bening and Mandy Patinkin, feels completely bought in, adding sizzle to what old-timers might otherwise characterize as merely a grade-A Movie of the Week. KH
Kingsway (Contemporary World Cinema)
Mon. Sept. 10, 7:15 pm, Jackman Hall; Thur. Sept. 13, 5:45 pm, Scotiabank Theatre; Sat. Sept. 15, 9 am, Scotiabank Theatre.
Neurotic Matt (Jeff Gladstone) spots his wife’s car at a cheap motel. And though he accepts her dubious explanation, his sister (Camille Sullivan) and his mother (the exquisite Gabrielle Rose) do not, and begin taking control of the situation (while also taking charge of their own inert love lives). Vancouver director Bruce Sweeney’s film is, for what it’s worth, the best Canadian comedy of the year (despite our “funny” reputation, these are not easy to get made). And Rose and Sullivan are such a terrific mother-daughter act, they should have their own sitcom. Despite the cynicism, a heart beats in this movie. JS
Skin (Special Presentations)
Mon. Sept. 10, 11:30 am, TIFF Bell Lightbox; Fri. Sept. 14, 3:30 pm, Scotiabank Theatre.
Jamie Bell hits all the right notes as the heavily tattooed adopted son of a white supremacist leader (Bill Camp) who decides to make his break from the movement by having his white power symbols removed from his skin. Despite his past affinity for violence, a heart begins to make itself felt when he realizes he doesn’t want to hurt people anymore (the catalyst being his love for a single mom and her three daughters). The real scene-stealer in Israeli writer- director Guy Nattiv’s violent, believably paced, reality-based movie is Vera Farmiga as “Mom,” the matriarch of the racist-skinhead family, who wields soft-power maternal love and affection for her “lost boys” almost diabolically. JS
Woman At War (Discovery)
Mon. Sept. 10, 6:30 pm, Scotiabank Theatre; Wed. Sept. 12, 9:45 pm Scotiabank Theatre.
Quirk, thy name is Iceland. Benedikt Erlingsson directs this absurdist feature about a pleasant choirmaster named Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) who leads a double-life as an infamous, headline-grabbing eco-terrorist capable of bringing down a massive electrical tower with a crossbow. A jazz quartet follows her around, creating her own personal soundtrack. Later, when she entertains the idea of adopting a Ukrainian child, Ukrainian singer/dancers join the soundtrack troupe. Apart from making this all semi-convincing, Geirharðsdóttir has the extra task of portraying her own New Agey identical twin sister (who, as you can imagine, is a plot device). Absurdity with a serious message. JS
Papi Chulo (Special Presentations)
Mon. Sept. 10, 6 pm, Scotiabank Theatre; Sun. Sept. 16, 9 am, Scotiabank Theatre.
John Butler’s offbeat drama is about a distressed gay L.A. weatherman named Sean (Matt Bomer) who breaks down while on-air and is given a leave of absence to collect himself. The fact that he’s suffering the loss of a Latino lover gets complicated when he decides to immerse himself in a home improvement project and hires a middle-aged Mexican labourer named Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño). Despite Ernesto not understanding a word of English, Sean uses him as a sounding board, yakking incessantly on hikes and rowboat trips, while the dryly funny Ernesto relates his “adventures” to his wife by phone. At first annoyingly manic, the movie turns deeply melancholy as Sean faces reality about Ernesto and his own life. A slight story, but one that resonates with class and immigrant issues. JS