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« TIFF: Kate Winslet Goes Couture in 'The Dressmaker' | Main | Review: The Perfect Guy »
Tuesday
Sep152015

TIFF: "Room" is a Total Knockout

Nathaniel popping in from TIFF for a short note from a simply delirious high before an attempt at desperately needed sleep. I've just seen Lenny Abrahamson's Room (adapted for the screen by the novelist herself Emma Donoghue) and it is incredible. I lost track of how many times I teared up and I kept realizing my face was freezing into long-held expressions of wonder or terror. And it's funny at times, too. Both halves of the story, 'inside and outside' you might call them, are entirely compelling. A

At the Premiere
The audience gave the director a long standing ovation tonight and stood right back up minutes later when he brought out the film's stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who deliver one of the most symbiotic screen duets in memory. He is only eight years old but was seven when they filmed the picture and his work is easily on par with Quvenzhané Wallis's much ballyhooed turn in Beasts of the Southern Wild in terms of completely natural and riveting child performances. Brie Larson, as we already knew from Short Term 12, is a wonder with child actors, and she's just as Oscar-worthy this time in a complicated haunting role.

I spoke with the director at the after party briefly to congratulate him on how cinematic it was (somehow I expected something more stage-bound) and he asked if I'd read the book ("no") and that I should. He did worry a little about people reading the book directly beforehand and having a "double image" in their mind when watching. Donoghue, for her part, is thrilled with the film version. She said something along the lines of 'I don't want to denigrate my own craft, but there are some places only the cinema can go' on stage tonight.


Oscar Chances: Let's just say they'd better. This is not just an actor's film or a literary rooted triumph. The sound, cinematography, editing, design and music are all beautifully handled. As for Jacob Tremblay, if he's Oscar nominated he'll become the youngest male actor ever so honored* 

*this is an estimate. Justin Henry (Kramer vs Kramer, 1979 Best Supporting Actor) was 8 years and 270 days old  and Jackie Cooper (Skippy, 1931 Best Actor) was 9 years and 20 days old when they were nominated, so unless Jacob's birthday (unknown at this writing) was some time ago and he's already close to 9, he'll take the record away from them. It's the lead role but with child actors they nearly always push them supporting: think Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon who is in 93% of her movie but we'll see.


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Reader Comments (28)

Thanks for the review. The book was so engrossing and haunting. When I heard Brie Larson was cast in the movie I was excited. Very glad to hear the movie works and is so good.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdaisy

I took classes with Larson at the Lee Strasberg Institute. She's just as compelling in person and very serious about her craft. She's also very well versed in film. I remember her talking at length about the Criterion Collection. I was fascinated by her but she still manages to be approachable and very funny as well. I'm elated that she seems to be carving a respectable career path.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

How is Joan Allen?

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Looking forward to seeing it at the BFI LFF next month. Also happen to be binge watching The United States of Tara and amazed by how much Larson is bringing to what would be a stock eye-rolling teenager in lesser hands.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

Nat please say Joan Allen is good in it.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

OMG I want her to win the Oscar, but part of my heart wants Lily Tomlin to get it for Grandma.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbluemoonz02

Joan Allen - How is she though?

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGolden

Thank yo for making me feel more secure in my undying faith for this film.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterConMan

In my estimation, after Steve Jobs and probably The Danish Girl, Adapted Screenplay is very fluid this year. I'm predicting Donoghue gets a nomination considering its her own work, and especially considering how publicly she just praised the craft of screenplay adaptation.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

I watched the TIFF press conference online and got choked up when Larson revealed some stuff about her own childhood. Wow. She is a remarkably poised young woman, and a terrific actress. Plus, loved when Tremblay described where he did his schooling on set: "In a room. But not a bad room." Ha! Can't wait to see this one and glad to know it's a good adaptation of a fantastic book.

Looking forward to more of the TFE team's list of TIFF reviews.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Such a long time Joan Allen has been in a movie with Oscar chances!

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

It's Joan Allen you guys, I am sure she's pretty great :)

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Thrilled, thrilled to hear it! I was sucked into the book in a major way, and it had so much cinematic potential. Good things for Brie Larson are always welcome

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

I was kind of middling on this project at first, but I think the trailers have been wonderful, so it may turn out to be a surprise hit (relatively speaking) for A24. I love that Abrahamson cast not only Joan Allen but also William H. Macy as the parents - they are way too underused in current films.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I'm super excited to see this film! I'm happy it's so well-received it seems.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Joan Allen is good but it's not an Oscary type part if that's what y'all are asking.. This is basically a two-hander movie (Brie & Jacob) so everyone else gets very limited things to do.. though the guy playing Joan & William's lifelong friend (i didn't recognize the actor - i think he's canadian) is really charming and gets a playful scene or two.

September 16, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

So happy for Brie! She came so close with Short Term 12 -- hopefully she makes it all the way this time.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Is Brie Larsen the new Michelle Williams? They should totally play sister!

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

saying Jacob Tremblay is on par with Quvenzhané Wallis is not really a good thing in my book... I despised everything about her performance...

I LOVED Lenny Abrahamson's last movie, Frank, very funny and very stylish, and I read some reviewers who hated Room's visual style - clumsy zooms and slow motion. If Abrahamson downplayed the visuals for Room, he must have had his reason, ´cause he definitely knows his way around a camera; see Frank for proof of that.

Lenny must've believed Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay should be the main focus - and I'm all for that; love Brie Larson so much.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Oh, I want this for Brie so badly. Read the book when I heard she was cast, and the whole time I saw her as the character and thought, "If handled well, this is a nomination." The book is so focused on the boy, the mother could go supporting. Is the film the same way or would it be absurd to put Brie in supporting? The book kept me up late into the night wondering how the escape would go, so I am a little bummed that the trailer spoils that part.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commentershawshank

Let another lesson in avoiding test screening rumors. When this showed to focus groups a few months back, the word out of the screenings was that it wasn't that good. Glad to hear that that initial rumor was incorrect.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I can't wait for this film. I know it was only a small role, but I completely fell in love with Brie Larson in Trainwreck. I really am throwing all of my energy toward Brie to help her succeed. There should be an entire army of young actresses who are given a chance to be the next wave, and not just Jennifer Lawrence at $20 million per picture. Go Brie.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

Brie was phenomenal in Short Term 12, and she should have been Oscar-nominated. An amazing actress and I hope she gets in the AMPAS short list this year. This film sounds incredible.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Ulrich -- well you'll understand that it's meant as a compliment because most people were gaga for her work and I personally think Jacob is even better. (I loved Quvenzhane but i thought the nomination as a stretch.)

September 16, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Brie Larson is doing the work Elizabeth Olsen should be doing.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJonathon

Oh man, the Hollywood Elsewhere post about "Room" is staggering.

September 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

I liked the book much more than I expected to, and when I heard Brie was cast I knew it would be gold. (assuming they cast the kid well, which it sounds like they did.) There's something so compelling about her, even though at first glance she looks like literally the girl next door. Maybe that's part of her appeal.

September 17, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

If the film is really this good I'm afraid what may hold back its Oscar chances is the distributor - I'm thinking there is no company more inept at distribution and campaigning than A24. That we have to wait till 2016 to see The Witch while they are just sitting on the movie and Halloween is next month is unbelievable

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersati

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