Vancouver International Film Festival is in full swing, and the 2014 line-up is as diverse and exciting as ever. We at Zouch are up to our eyeballs in great films, and will be bringing coverage and reviews throughout the festival.
Maps to the Stars
David Cronenberg / Canada, France, Germany / 95 mins
Turning his camera on the depravity and detachment of Hollywood, Canadian auteur David Cronenberg returns to form with Maps to the Stars after 2012’s disappointing Cosmopolis. Following the overlapping stories of an aging actress desperate for a role (Julianne Moore), a foul child star (Evan Bird) and his parents (John Cusack and Olivia Williams, channeling the vapid soul of Kris Jenner), a wide-eyed burn victim eager to taste the glamour of Tinseltown (Mia Wasikowska), and a limo driver/acting hopeful (Robert Pattinson), Cronenberg blends the surreal with satire in surprising, sometimes puzzling ways. All of the characters start as cliches before taking very dark and complex turns, in a story that is densely plotted but often abstract. Reminiscent of Mulholland Drive and The Player, Maps to the Stars can be flawed and perverse (it is, after all, Cronenberg) but is constantly engaging and buoyed by strong performances across the board.
Men, Women and Children
Jason Reitman / USA / 116 mins
I’ve never been the biggest Jason Reitman fan – his films always seem to be right on the precipice of being great but become cloyed by a heavy hand, or overtly commercial instincts that were perhaps genetically inevitable for the director. Juno and Up in the Air both had the strange effect of being very culturally of-the-moment yet at their core rang false. His latest, Men, Women and Children is perhaps his most topical film but thankfully offers many strong performances and an often tasteful approach to examining the role of the internet, social media and smart phones on the lives of two generations clearly divided by the technology. Yes, there are hints of Crash in the way these characters embody contemporary cliches and have storylines that interweave before resolving with tidy morals, and perhaps this material would have been better suited for television, where characters and stories can develop nuance over the course of several episodes, but there is just enough density and humour to make this a very watchable movie with its heart in the right place. (And for the record: Adam Sandler is quite good, perhaps at his best since Punch Drunk Love.)
Upcoming screenings: Oct 01 03:00 pm – Centre for Performing Arts
Jason Bourke / Canada / 88 mins
An all-British Columbia production fittingly making its world premiere at VIFF, Black Fly is a passion project of writer/director Jason Bourke’s, an acclaimed documentarian and television director, responsible for 2013’s Music for Mandela. Inspired by true events from his own childhood, Bourke takes us to seedy, backwoods BC for a 1980’s-set thriller about two reunited brothers caught in the throes of violence and murder. After Jake (Dakota Daulby) returns to his family home that is currently occupied by his charismatic dirtbag brother Noel (Matthew MacCaull) and his mopey prostitute girlfriend Paula (Christie Burke), things quickly unravel for the makeshift family after a chance altercation with a biker gang. Beautifully shot in the metro Vancouver area, Black Fly is at times melodramatic and heavy-handed, but certainly pumps some new life into the crazy-guy-in-the-forest genre (that’s a genre, right?) with a carefully plotted tale that gets grizzly in all the right places.
Upcoming screenings: Sep 30 04:00 pm – International Village #10
Listen Up Philip
Alex Ross Perry / USA / 109 mins
The problem with films about generally unlikable characters is that it takes a very deft hand to not make the film, you know, unlikable. Alex Ross Perry (The Color Wheel) gives a valiant effort with some serious marquee talent at his disposal but ultimately delivers an indie that feels very film school, from its predictable defiance of story convention or morality, to wearing its influences (late 80’s Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach and The Royal Tenenbaums) on its sleeve with such beaming pride as to almost cheapen the work it references. Jason Schwartzman is cast to type as a smarmy, narcissistic writer with no apparent redeeming qualities and an inexplicable capacity for winning (and ultimately breaking) the hearts of gorgeous women. He leaves New York and his girlfriend (Elizabeth Moss, always wonderful) behind to live in the country with an aging idol, played by Jonathan Pryce, who is at least able to imbue his drunken egomaniac with a charm that Schwartzman totally lacks. There are some solid laughs and sharp moments of promise in the film’s first half, but the film unravels when it becomes clear that Philip isn’t going listen up, smarten up or grow up. It’s not exciting to see a character incapable of growth – it’s a chore.