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« What the hell did I just watch? A festival quartet | Main | Review: Bridget Jones's Baby »
Saturday
Sep172016

TIFF: Strange Weather and Handsome Devil

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

Despite the buzz from festivals usually circling around pre-sold films and major Oscar hopefuls, there are always minor gems to be found amongst the clutter which are still seeking distribution. Here are two I hope get picked up, a very accessible Irish boarding school drama (without the benefit of any big name to sell it) and an American indie starring Oscar winner Holly Hunter.

Strange Weather
(Dir. Katherine Dieckmann, US)
Take a look at that still above. Now look way to your out of focus far right. See the girl in pink tank and jean shorts? That's Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Leftovers), one of the best actresses working who is still not a household name or an Emmy or Oscar nominee! But, yes, movie still providers to festival guides, Holly Hunter is the draw here. She plays Darcy Baylor, a bohemian mother of meager means (a Holly specialty - see also Thirteen) who lost her only child to suicide years before the film begins. She has never quite been the same and her fierce best friend (Carrie Coon), her best friend's girlfriend (Andrene Ward-Hammond who is also in Loving this year) and her ex-boyfriend (a soulful Kim Coates from Sons of Anarchy) are concerned about her all over again when a couple of chance encounters reveal something she didn't know about the day he died. Though the plot can be (okay is) convoluted, the writing is otherwise strong with well defined characters, great conversations (it's partially a road trip movie), and a ineffable central arc that Holly Hunter has no trouble selling because she is Holly Hunter and goddamnit we don't appreciate her enough. Though there are a couple of bumpy patches in this road with wonky cuts, shots, and transitions -- perhaps budget trouble? -- and that aforementioned convoluted story might be difficult if you're not into the actresses. But if you aren't, your loss! I could have watched these characters/actors for another hour. I'll take a spinoff series with Carrie and her lesbian lover please! B/B- 

Handsome Devil 
(Dir. John Butler, Ireland)
This Irish boarding school drama about a redhead student who cares nothing for sports at a rugby-mad school is sweet goodhearted fun. It risks being a little 'This is a Teen Movie!' annoying and unrealistic in its construction (complete with occasionally snarky narration) but the friendship at its center between music-loving Ned (Fionn O'Shea) and strong and silent rugby star Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) is really well done and fills up the heart of this accessible mainstream charmer about "otherness." The undervalued / always terrific Andrew Scott (Pride) plays the gay teacher who encourages Ned & Conor in their odd couple friendship and their off-sport pursuits. You know we've come a long way when a movie with a rather large LGBT element is not even listed with a key word of LGBT in the festival guide! (Director John Butler made one previous feature called The Bachelor Weekend which we reviewed a couple of years ago which also starred Andrew Scott. He's made a leap forward with this second feature.)  B

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Reader Comments (7)

I want a fifth nomination for Hunter. Criminal she's drifting. Hollywood undervalues its homegrown female talent. Since all of Holly's previous nominations are in odd number years ending in either 7 or 3 ('87, '93, '03) 2017 is ideal for a Holly Hunter renaissance. I miss her being critically lauded.

September 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

/3rtful - i just want her nominated again within next few years so she can match Diane Keaton's record of once every decade.

September 18, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Hunter already shares a twice nominated in each category record with Julia Roberts and Roberts shares the once per decade consecutively with Keaton.

September 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Love your takes on TIFF films. Great job! Keep em coming!

September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNico

I hope this makes more $'s the B Vs S.

September 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordon

I'm sooo glad Holly Hunter has another lead role. Thankfully, because she has her paycheck from BvS, she can go off and pursue juicy leading roles even if they're on a smaller scale.

September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMatt St.Clair

Yes Carrie Coon is so painfully underrated for an actress who can easily transition from stage to film to TV. For my money, she SHOULD HAVE BEEN nominated for an Emmy twice already for the also crazily underrated series, The Leftovers.

September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

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