Moviehole at the Toronto Film Festival – Part 3

“Borat”, “Stranger than Fiction”, “For Your Consideration”, “10 Items or Less”


TORONTO PART 3

If you thought “Stranger than Fiction” was an original idea, then think again. Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam’s Waiter deals with a similar theme, in this off beat story about a fictitious waiter who manipulates his own destiny by entering the real world of the screenwriters creating him. While it’s unlikely the film will get a wide distribution outside of Holland and other European territories, pic has a more grounded and dramatic feel to it than its more mainstream Hollywood counterpart. van Warmerdam is the writer, director and star and handles all duties with crisp precision. Wonderfully observant, the film is bound to turn up at festivals and should be sought out.

In contrast, it’s likely that Sacha Cohen’s “Borat” will be a huge money maker for distributor Fox, and deservedly so. Possibly the funniest and most outrageous comedy to hit screens in a decade, Cohen’s mockumentary of his Borat, discovering America pokes irreverent fun at gays, Jews and Pamela Anderson. Calling the film politically incorrect is an understatement, as there are sequences that make R-rated comedies such as Wedding Crashers, tame by comparison. This is a hard R, yet while one squeams at the sight of him wrestling with his naked, overweight producer, one is also laughing uncontrollably at the sheer audacity of it all. “Borat” is a brilliant satire on cultural diversity, which never allows the audience to rest. From its opening credits, Cohen’s Borat is a comic force of nature, a`one-of-a-kind- character that is unforgettable and pure genius. If you are not offended by gags such as the Running of the Jews, then you’ll laugh till you cry at the monumental insanity and of the year’s funniest and most brilliantly outrageous film. [Speaking of which, you can view the trailer here]

“10 Items or Less”, written and directed by the talented Brad Silberling is low budget independent cinema at its best. Not a great film, by any means, but a sprightly, delightful comedy with an adept Morgan Freeman as an actor doing research in a supermarket as he prepares to play a night manager of a similar establishment. A chance meeting with a tough cashier with loftier aspirations, changes both of their lives. This is not a sentimental film as it may sound, but a chance to see Freeman show how deft he is at doing comedy, and he works wonders here, opposite the luminous and talented Paz Vega of “Spanglish” fame. A very light-on-its-feet comic charmer, shot in about two weeks, 10 Items or Less is getting a US release later this year and is worth checking out, for its irresistible charm and moments of pure, genial comedy. It’s an unexpected treat.

Caught up with Penelope Cruz in Toronto’s Intercontinental Hotel, who talked about the ease of working with Almodovar on “Volver”. She played down her Oscar chances, spoke at length about the ups and downs of her career, and was charming, forthright and fascinating. Don’t miss my exclusive interview coming soon. I also attended a dinner for “Pan’s Labyrinth”, and sat near the formidable Guillermo Del Toro. What can one say about him that hasn’t been said: affable, charming, larger than life and never dull, though he did insult me for having coke, not a glass of wine, to toast his new movie. He also confirmed, along with Ron Perlman who was there, that “Hellboy 2″ will start shooting in April/May for Universal. Fans will be excited, but meanwhile, his latest film remains the must see of the year, when Picturehouse – which also generously hosted this dinner – releases the film in December.

Perhaps the most disappointing film thus far, was Christopher Guest’s unusually stilted “For your Consideration”. Throwing out the mockumentary format that proved so brilliant in his last three films, this time we have a more straightforward narrative comedy about an Indie film that suddenly attains some unexpected Oscar buzz. Here is a film with plenty of moments, but as a whole, it lacks the satiric bite that so beautifully defined Guest’s previous work. Of course, there are cast members who do their shtick with comic finesse, such as the wonderful Fred Willard as co-host of an Entertainment Tonight-type TV show, and occasional moments by Catherine O’Hara in the film-within-the-film sequences. Perhaps because one has high expectations that can’t possibly live up to “Best in Show”, the group’s best film, that “For your Consideration” doesn’t quite live up to its full potential. It seems that Guest’s direction needs tightening up and even some of the improv is less spontaneous. There are moments where one smiles, laughs a bit but it has a lack of energy that never gains the kind of comic momentum we expect. Perhaps this time around, Mr Guest’s heart wasn’t in it.

More from Toronto coming soon.

- Paul Fischer