Original-Cin TIFF 2019 Picks: Tuesday, September 10

By Jim Slotek, Liam Lacey, Kim Hughes and Karen Gordon

Bleary eyed but unbowed, we soldier onward!

Judy (Special Presentations)

Tues. Sept. 10, 6 pm, Princess of Wales Theatre; Wed, Sept. 11, 11 am, Elgin Theatre.

The big news about Judy is the performance of Renée Zellweger, who has morphed herself into Judy Garland so beautifully that it is possible at times to forget who is under the short, dark curly hair. This is an Oscar-bait performance about the last year-and-a-half or so of the superstar’s life. Incredibly, Garland is broke, homeless and can’t do the thing she wants most: make a home for her two young children. The only paying gig she can get is an extended run at a supper club in London, but once there she is hobbled by nerves, alcohol, drugs and her own demons. There are other terrific performances here including Finn Whitlock, as Garland’s much younger love interest. The film is based on a play and makes an awkward and uneven transition to the screen, but Zellweger is worth the price of admission. KG



Motherless Brooklyn (Special Presentations)

Tues. Sept. 10, 9:15 pm, Princess of Wales Theatre; Wed. Sept. 11, 1:30 pm, Princess of Wales Theatre; Sun. Sept. 15, 9 am, Scotiabank 1.

Kind of Chinatown East. For this directing-starring turn, Edward Norton radically adapts Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel about a private detective with Tourette’s, placing it in New York in the ‘50s, with the social-historical subtext of corruption within the brutalizing urban renewal projects of infamous city planner Robert Moses. Norton checks all the genre boxes with style and flair, fills the two-and-a-half hour movie with atmosphere, and skillfully delivers his verbal “tics” almost like a second, unconscious stream of dialogue. A project with a high degree of difficulty, but Norton pulls it off. JS

Chicuarotes (Contemporary World Cinema)

Tues. Sept. 10, 9:15 pm, Scotiabank 1; Wed. Sept. 11, 6:15 pm, Scotiabank 3; Fri. Sept. 13, 5:15 pm, Scotiabank 13.

Gael García Bernal's frenetic and grimly funny second directorial feature locates his homeland of Mexico the way few outside its borders see it: not with glorious, sun-drenched beaches to the left and vicious drug gangs to the right but with ordinary people struggling to overcome the hurdles in the middle amid a system seemingly built to keep them down. Young friends Cagalera (Benny Emmanuel) and Moloteco (Gabriel Carbajal) are desperate to make money and transcend their station, and a series of ever-more brazen crimes (robbery, then kidnapping) toss the pair onto a destructive path and opposite even more damaged souls. Loyalties fall apart, and people die. Yet amid the violence, García Bernal’s story clings tight to its humanity. KH



The Laundromat (Special Presentations)

Tues. Sept 10, 2:15 pm, Elgin Theatre; Fri. Sept 13, 5 pm, Elgin Theatre; Sat. Sept. 14, 3:15 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1.

Mixing fact with fiction and real characters with imagined ones to tell the story of the Panama Papers scandal and the bring-down of the law firm that helped the world’s richest avoid taxes though byzantine shell companies, director Steven Soderbergh’s starry tale invites the appropriate indignation. It also scribbles outside the narrative lines before, fatally, devolving into a soapbox rant led by an otherwise reliably great Meryl Streep. It’s hard to watch The Laundromat and not make mental comparisons to The Big Short; Soderbergh and longtime screenwriter Scott Z. Burns have their own style, for sure, but the subject matter is so close and was so brilliantly handled in Adam McKay’s dark rumination on the American housing bubble that this feels like an also-ran. Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas as scheming Panama-based lawyers Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca break the fourth wall to address the audience directly, but the film’s multiple, free-standing mini-stories hobble whatever momentum they achieve while further snarling an already labyrinthine tale. KH

Read our overview of TIFF 2019