To say that I’m happy to be taking a week off to attend TIFF 2013 would be an understatement. In addition to my annual festival-going excitement, this year’s fest means a week off from a very taxing work life. So, I’m more than a little elated for the break. Hooray! As I walked to my first screening yesterday, and towards my 23 hoped that I’d be stepping back into the familiar world of line buzz, celebrity sightings, great movies and more than a little creative inspiration.
Thankfully, night one was a success in all those regards, and I went home thinking, “That’s why I love coming to TIFF!”
I arrived at the Bader about an hour and 15 minutes before showtime, and there were already about 50 people lined up. I took my spot and noticed a quartet of very Hollywood, very self-important PR types working the ticketholders line, trying to get people to sell back their tickets. From what I could gather, these PR folk needed extra seats for sponsors and friends of the filmmakers. They were offering people $60 per ticket, admission to the after party, tickets to the next day’s screening, tickets to the premiere of Gravity (the Sandra Bullock/George Clooney space drama)… but no one was selling. To watch these PR types in action was to witness stereotypes in full swing, as they tried to make the after party sound like it would be a super-exclusive, star-studded bacchanalia and talked about Gravity as though it were the hottest ticket at the fest (it’s really not). It was a bit like they all fell right out of a cliché.
One woman farther up in line eventually changed her mind and took them up on their offer. I’m not sure what the eventual sale price was, but I gather the PR folks promised her party tickets. I really hope the Hollywood types held up their end of the bargain, and that the ticketseller and her friends wound up having a great night… but the cynic in me fears they didn’t get in to any party anywhere and are kicking themselves this morning. While waiting to be let in to the theatre, I chatted with a mom and daughter behind me in line, both of whom were fest newbies. (Our conversation began with our mutual amusement at the PR folks.) They told me about attending the 30th anniversary screening of The Big Chill the night before the night before, complete with many original cast members in attendance, I told them about how to buy same-day tickets. Conversation really does make standing-in-line time pass so much more quickly.
My first film of the festival was Lucky Them (6/8), director Megan Griffiths’ light-hearted drama about Seattle music journalist Ellie (Toni Collette), who’s tasked by her editor (Oliver Platt) with tracking down a missing, presumed-dead, once-lauded singer-songwriter. Oh, and said singer-songwriter was also Ellie’s great love of days gone by, so her journey to uncover his whereabouts, and to find out once and for all whether he’s dead or alive, is complicated by her own abandonment scars. Lest you think this flick’s a downer, Thomas Haden Church co-stars as a socially awkward, ridiculously wealthy would-be documentarian, who decides to tag along and document Ellie’s search. Collette and co-star Ryan Eggold (who delivers a star-making turn as a charming singer who snags Ellie’s heart along the way) were in attendance with Griffiths for a post-film Q&A, which was nice. And, I found out later, John Turturro was also somewhere in the audience, checking out the world premiere.
Buoyed by some great performances and a terrific soundtrack, the film is pleasing and enjoyable… but not quite the overwhelming, knocked-out-of-the-ballpark piece of cinematic amazingness programmer Jane Schoettle (whose picks I tend to like) promised in her pre-film intro. Note to moderators: please temper those intros a smidge and maybe don’t oversell a film before it starts. You’re raising expectations to a point where they most likely will not be met, and setting the audience up for a whole lot of “oh… well, that was o-kay, I guess, but…” post-film reactions.