Toronto International Film Festival 2012 - UPDATE #10
Eat Sleep Die
Directed by Gabriela Pichler
Eat Sleep Die is a fairly typical kitchen-sink European drama that's elevated by the strength of star Nermina Lukač's authentic, lived-in performance, as the movie, which follows Lukač's Raša as she attempts to cope with the sudden loss of her job, primarily comes off as a deliberately-paced character study that is, ultimately, only effective (and affecting) in fits and starts. Filmmaker Gabriela Pichler has employed precisely the sort of jittery, documentary-like visual style that one has come to associate with movies of this ilk, with the subdued atmosphere perpetuated by an almost egregiously thin narrative that's often just as tedious as it is engrossing. It's worth noting, however, that Pichler has peppered the proceedings with a handful of undeniably captivating sequences (eg Raša and her coworkers learn that layoffs are imminent), and it's not until the film lumbers into its excessively uneventful midsection that one's interest is seriously tested (ie the lack of momentum becomes somewhat oppressive). Though the viewer remains entirely invested in Raša's fate (ie she's just such a sympathetic figure), Eat Sleep Die, saddled with a repetitive second half and a palpably overlong running time, is unable to wholeheartedly become the gripping drama that Pichler clearly wants it to be - which is a shame, certainly, given that the movie is admittedly quite well made and flawlessly acted.
Makinov's Come Out and Play
Directed by Makinov
MEXICO/95 MINUTES/MIDNIGHT MADNESS
A remake of the 1976 thriller Who Can Kill a Child?, Makinov's Come Out and Play follows American tourists Beth (Vinessa Shaw) and Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) as they leave Mexico's mainland to visit a small, idyllic island that's just a short boat ride away - with the pair's discovery that said island appears to be deserted merely the beginning of a horrific journey. Filmmaker Makinov has infused the proceedings with a gritty feel that's clearly been designed to evoke the low-budget horror fare of the 1970s, with the movie's irresistibly old-school atmosphere perpetuated and heightened by its down-and-dirty visuals, impressively menacing score, and slow-moving, tension-building narrative. (In terms of the latter, the persistently deliberate pace is often alleviated by the ongoing inclusion of suspenseful and flat-out enthralling sequences.) It is, as such, relatively easy to overlook the few missteps within Makinov's screenplay, with the most obvious and apparent example of this the protagonists' penchant for behaving like horror-movie cliches (eg they split up when they should be sticking together). And although the film admittedly does begin to run out of steam as it passes the one-hour mark - ie there's a pronounced emphasis on the central characters' attempts at evading and hiding from their pursuers - Makinov's Come Out and Play builds to a very strong climax that ultimately confirms its place as a slightly uneven yet stirring horror effort that bodes well for the mysterious Makinov's future endeavors.
Directed by JT Petty
USA/85 MINUTES/MIDNIGHT MADNESS
It's difficult to recall a film so handily thwarted by its visual presentation, as Hellbenders, directed by JT Petty, suffers from the worst, most incoherent use of 3-D since the needless gimmick's recent resurgence - with the increasingly infuriating atmosphere highlighting the movie's many problems and, ultimately, transforming the whole thing into a seriously intolerable experience. The storyline follows a ragtag group of off-kilter priests, collectively known as the Hellbound Saints of Brooklyn Parish, as they attempt to stop a supernatural force from wiping out humanity, with the priests' efforts complicated by a malevolent force that seems to have the ability to possess anyone that gets in its way. It's a relatively compelling premise that's squandered from the word go by writer/director Petty, as the filmmaker has suffused the narrative with an almost astonishing number of ill-conceived elements - with the most disastrous example of this undoubtedly the unconvincing, desperately over-the-top dialogue that Petty has layered into the proceedings (eg the scripter seems to believe that the continued use of the word "cocksucker" is nothing short of hilarious). Far more problematic is the movie's progressively stagnant atmosphere, as Petty, presumably in an effort at overcoming a shoestring budget, sets the majority of Hellbenders' midsection within the confines of the protagonists' cramped offices - with the stagy, unreasonably talky vibe inevitably transforming the film into a seriously claustrophobic piece of work. (There's admittedly one sequence that kind of works, as the gang attempts exorcise the aforementioned force and it subsequently jumps from body to body, Shocker style.) By the time the aggressively (and tediously) over-the-top climax rolls around, Hellbenders has certainly established itself as a persistently misguided waste of time - with the movie's lamentable, atrocious 3-D presentation exacerbating its myriad of deficiencies.
Directed by Henry Alex Rubin
USA/115 MINUTES/SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS
The fiction debut of Murderball co-director Henry Alex Rubin, Disconnect tells three mostly separate stories concerned with the impact of the internet on its characters' lives - with the movie focused on a young boy (Jonah Bobo's Ben) who becomes the victim of cyberbullying, a couple (Alexander Skarsgård's Derek and Paula Patton's Cindy) whose identity is stolen, and a twentysomething (Max Thieriot's Kyle) who makes his living taking his clothes off online. Rubin, working from a script by Andrew Stern, has infused Disconnect with an inherently engrossing feel that proves instrumental in the movie's success, with the impressive list of performers - the cast includes, among others, Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, and Andrea Riseborough - merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the film's many, many pleasures. The almost disorienting atmosphere of the outset, perpetuated by the separate storylines and Rubin's patience in allowing things to unfold, gives way to a palpably spellbinding feel that persists virtually without interruption right through to the emotionally devastating conclusion. And although each of the three story threads remains compulsively watchable, there's little doubt that the movie is at its best when focused on the cyberbullying subplot - with the palpably heartwrenching nature of this aspect of the proceedings heightened by Bateman's impressively commanding turn as Ben's grief-stricken yet inquisitive father. The end result is a consistently compelling and surprisingly moving drama that remains a cut above similarly themed fare, and it's ultimately clear that Rubin has instantly established himself as a director worth watching (and following).
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
UNITED KINGDOM/94 MINUTES/MASTERS
The big gimmick behind Everyday is that it was shot in bits and pieces over a five year period, and although the effect can be startling, the movie remains hopelessly uninvolving for much of its brief-yet-not-brief-enough running time. The almost egregiously thin storyline, which revolves around the imprisonment of John Simm's Ian and the impact it has on his wife (Shirley Henderson's Karen) and four children, plays a key role in the film's palpable downfall, as there's just never a point at which Winterbottom, working from a script cowritten with Laurence Coriat, is able to wholeheartedly capture the viewer's interest or attention - which is a shame, certainly, given that the movie does include a few promising sequences at its outset. (The best and most obvious example of this is Karen and the kids' initial visit with Ian in prison.) It's only as time progresses that Everyday slowly-but-surely begins to morph into a curiously tedious piece of work, with Winterbottom and Coriat's uneventful and increasingly repetitive sensibilities resulting in an absence of momentum that's nothing short of disastrous. And although there's an authenticity here that's admittedly impressive, Everyday ultimately comes off as an abstract, almost impressionistic portrait of frustratingly undeveloped characters (ie why is Ian in prison? how long is his sentence? etc, etc) - with the novelty of the prolonged shooting schedule only able to carry the proceedings so far before one's patience wears out.
Here Comes the Devil
Directed by Adrían García Bogliano
An uncommonly tedious horror effort, Here Comes the Devil follows married couple Félix (Francisco Barreiro) and Sol (Laura Caro) as they're forced to conclude that their adolescent children (Michele Garcia's Sara and Alan Martinez's Adolfo) have changed (for the worse, of course) after emerging from a mysterious cave. It's a seemingly can't-miss premise that's squandered from the word go by director Adrían García Bogliano, as the filmmaker has infused the proceedings with a palpably low-rent feel that's heightened by his oddly (and distractingly) over-the-top visual choices. Far more problematic, however, is the amateurish bent of literally every single performance here, with the laughably incompetent work from the various actors lending the movie the feel of a collaborative community project (ie one can envision the crew from Be Kind Rewind cranking this out over a weekend). The hopelessly dull atmosphere is perpetuated by a slow-moving pace and an emphasis on pointless chatter, and although Bogliano has punctuated the narrative with a handful of appreciatively brutal moments, Here Comes the Devil grows more and more uninvolving and, frankly, frustrating as it progresses - with the headscratching conclusion ultimately cementing the movie's place as a persistently misguided bit of avant-garde horror.
Do Not Disturb
Directed by Yvan Attal
FRANCE/92 MINUTES/SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS
Proof that it's not just Americans cranking out pointless remakes, Do Not Disturb, an adaptation of Lynn Shelton's 2009 comedy Humpday, follows straight friends Ben (Yvan Attal) and Jeff (François Cluzet) as they drunkenly agree to have sex on camera for a porn competition - with this decision predictably triggering a series of long, drawn-out conversations. It's clear immediately that filmmaker Attal isn't looking to deviate from Shelton's marginally-superior predecessor, as Do Not Disturb possesses a similarly subdued feel that's most keenly reflected in its low-rent appearance (ie Attal apes Shelton's down-and-dirty, documentary-like visual sensibilities). There's little doubt, then, that leads' palpable charisma (and their chemistry together) is slowly-but-surely suffocated under the weight of the film's progressively redundant atmosphere, and it doesn't help, either, that Attal and co-screenwriter Olivier Lécot have suffused the thin narrative with a talk-heavy vibe that compounds the movie's sluggish pace. It's subsequently not surprising to note that the film wears out its welcome to an increasingly demonstrable degree, as Attal, perhaps in an effort at stretching out the movie's running time, prolongs even the simplest of sequences far, far past the point of one's ability to care - with the most obvious example of this the climactic stretch revolving around Ben and Jeff's hotel-room exploits (ie there's a montage of the two men eating hamburgers!) There admittedly does exist the possibility that viewers with little or no knowledge of the original might find something to embrace here, but it's just as clear that Do Not Disturb, for the most part, comes off as a sporadically charming yet utterly needless piece of work.
Directed by Dror Sabo
ISRAEL/99 MINUTES/CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA
Eagles follows grizzled former soldiers Efraim (Yossi Polak) and Moshka (Yehoram Gaon) as their dull, monotonous lives are thrown for a loop after a friend is killed in a fatal hit and run collision, with the film, for the most part, revolving around the pair's efforts at avenging said friend's death and their subsequent transformation into ass-kicking vigilantes. It's interesting to note that before it becomes consumed with the revenge-fueled antics of the central characters, Eagles comes off as a surprisingly grim little drama that explores the various difficulties and indignities associated with aging - with this reflected especially in Efraim's bitter (and near-constant) voice-over narration. There does reach a point, however, at which the movie begins to radically change gears, as filmmaker Dror Sabo, working from Daphna Levin's screenplay, places an increasingly prominent emphasis on Efraim and Moshka's decidedly less-than-savory extracurricular activities. And while it's impossible not to get a kick out of the two characters' violent retribution against, for example, a callous litterer ("the streets are filthy; someone has to clean up the garbage!"), Eagles has been hard-wired with a distinctly erratic feel that grows more and more problematic as time progresses - with the hit-and-miss vibe compounded by a decidedly tedious subplot detailing Efraim and Moshka's past encounters with the same woman. (It doesn't help, either, that Sabo proves unable to satisfactorily wrap up either storyline.) Eagles is, in the end, best described as a well-intentioned misfire, as there are simply too many elements here that fall flat and it's ultimately impossible to shake the feeling that Levin simply bit off more than she could comfortably chew.