Toronto International Film Festival reports. Amir is already on the scene...
Amir here. The first couple of days at the festival have been so fantastic, surreal even, that I fear there’s no way to go from here but down. There’s been quite a lot of star gazing: Ryan Gosling, Snoop Dogg Lion, Selena Gomez, Abbie Cornish and the impossibly gorgeous Greta Gerwig. I also happened to run into the super lovely Ben Whishaw and most significant of all, had a one on one interview with William H. Macy for The Sessions. It was an amazing experience as Macy’s long been one of my favourite actors and to get to meet him in person was more than I could ask for. (The interview is forthcoming.)
The most unexpected of my encounters with the celebrities, however, happened at the screening of Noah Baumbach’s exquisite Frances Ha. Those of you following me on twitter have already seen my picture with the man in question but the story went as such: prior to the film, my friends and I were discussing which celebrities we most wanted to see and my pick was Ewan McGregor, who’s in town for the premiere of The Impossible; he's probably my favourite actor working today. Then, as we settle in our seats in the theatre, I look to a few rows ahead and lo and behold, McGregor – who is in no way involved with the film and is only there to see it – is sitting there, just chatting with a friend.
And then this happened...
Having worked behind the scenes at TIFF for so many years, I’ve seen a good share of celebrities but this was something truly special. The man is every bit as charming as you think he is and was nice enough to take this picture despite volunteers trying to fend me off. (The only experience that comes close to this for me was when I met Catherine Deneuve and embarrassingly called her Belle de Jour without saying another word.)
As for the films, the highlight has been the aforementioned Frances Ha. Baumbach’s previous films have never done anything for me, but this is his most refined work, and the funniest by a mile. Developed by himself and Greta Gerwig after the pair worked together on Greenberg, the film is about the 27-year-old Frances who’s yet to find her direction in her professional or personal life. She shares an apartment with her friend Sophie and works part time for a dance company, hoping to join on a permanent basis.
The film opens with rapid-fire banter between the two friends and despite it being genuinely hilarious, I immediately worried that the film was too self aware. But the tone changes after Sophie, during a particularly well-constructed subway sequence, informs Frances of her intention to leave the apartment. This launches Frances into a series of misfired attempts at detaching herself from Sophie and refocusing her life, and that oddly synthetic opening becomes the basis of a very real journey of self-discovery. Anchored by a smart and sensitive performance from Greta Gerwig, who builds both on her trademark off-kilter humour and the authenticity of her mumblecore works, Frances Ha is an energetic and emotionally rich portrayal of a generation that is too often misrepresented in American cinema. (A-)
Baumbach mentioned during the Q&A that their intention was really to make this all about Frances and what we see on the screen certainly gives that vibe. Though the film gives the impression that it is improvised, the reality is that on the contrary, it's very cleverly calculated. Like pieces of a puzzle, every artistic decision – from song choices like Bowie’s Modern Love to the Black & White cinematography that will undeniably be compared to Woody Allen’s Manhattan – falls into place to form a clear portrait of Frances.
In such a wide open field as this year's Best Actress race, distributors would be wise to push Gerwig’s flawless study of this endearingly impulsive, clueless character for recognition. The film might prove to be a niche item on the market – though I personally don't think it is; it’s much more accessible than Greenberg – I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t connect with Gerwig’s performance.