Friday, September 11, 2009

TIFF Day # 2: Perrier's Bounty & Bright Star

Once again, I feel I must start the daily recap with a complaint about TIFF, their line-ups and disorganization. Saw two movies today. At one, which was supposed to start at 5:45 - at the Ryerson which is usually the best run of all the venues, we were not let into the theater until 5:50, then had spend 10 minutes milling about before they got things going. The second - at the Visa Screening Room - we were let in at 8:58 for a 9:00 o'clock. And don't even get me started on how people with a Visa Gold or Platinum Card get let into that venue first. They didn't pay any more than I did, nor did they wait in line any longer. It's bullshit, and everyone knows it.

But anyway, onto the films themselves. The first was Ian Fitzgibbon's Perrier's Bounty (***) a fun, energetic Irish crime comedy starring Cillian Murphy as a man who can't seem to catch a break. He owes money to one gangster (Brendan Gleason), who sends his henchmen after him telling him if he doesn't pay up today, they will have to break two of his bones. He goes to another gangster (Liam Cunningham) to get the money, and instead gets hauled into a burglary. Then he returns home to find the henchmen ready to follow through on their threat, only to his friend Brenda (Jodie Whitaker) kill one of them. To add to his problems, his estranged father (Jim Broadbent) has decided to pick today to be the day to get back in touch with his son, because the grim reaper visited him and told him the next time he fell asleep, he'd die. The film is not nearly as busy, nor does it spend as much time trying to be hip as a Guy Ritchie film normally does. It would desperately like to be this year's In Bruges, and while this film is nowhere near that good, it is a helluva entertaining movie with great performances all around - especially Broadbent in an uncharacteristically vulgar role, and Gleason who chews the scenry magnificently. This will probably gather a nice little following when it's released.

Next up was Jane Campion's Bright Star (***), which while undeniably an improvement over her last two features - Holy Smoke and In the Cut - does not reach the heights she hit with films like Sweetie, An Angel At My Table, The Piano or The Portrait of a Lady. The film is about the two year romance between John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), that ended when the famed poet died penniless at the age of 25. The film is never less than utterly gorgeous to look at, with beautiful cinematography and art direction, and perhaps the best costume design of the year. The performances by Whishaw and Cornish are quiet, subtle and sensitive. Whishaw is a natural to play a poet - after all he played Bob Dylan via Arthur Rimbauld in Todd Haynes' I'm Not There - and here, stepping into the shoes to the great romantic poet, he does a very good job. Not always able to say what he means, he is always able to write it - and the poems and letters in the movie are beautiful. Cornish has never had a role this good before, and she makes the most of it. Not only does she look breathtakingly beautiful in almost every shot of the film, but she gets under Fanny's skin as well. Having said that though, the best performance in the film by far is by Paul Schneider as Mr. Brown, Keats' best friend, and intellectual snob and bully, who enjoys belittling Fanny for being frivilous and silly, until he realizes that she has an actual hold on Keats, then he can turn mean. It is a great little performance for him. The film moves at a languid pace - perhaps too languid in fact at times - and for a director who has been as sexually adventurous in the past, this film is remakably tame. The only time these two share a bed together, they remain fully clothed. Other than the constant stroking of Fanny's cat - which I am sure is meant to be dirty - their is very little hint of sexuality at all. Still though, Bright Star is a gorgeous, touching film that will surely please fans of costume dramas of this sort.

Tomorrow I will return with reviews of Jennifer's Body and Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon. I am still waiting for my first great film of this year's festival, so hopefully one of them will be it (I know which one I would bet on).


  1. Thanks for posting this Dave - my (limited) understanding of "Perrier's Bounty" is that Gabriel Byrne plays the Grim Reaper - can you confirm that?

  2. Bryne is does the voiceover narration of the film, and is never seen. I am not sure he ever identifies himself as the Grim Reaper, but looking back at the film, it would make sense.