I just got in from a very full day. I left the condo at 7:45am and returned at 1:45am. I saw 4 films and countless celebrities…ranging from Emma Stone and Steve Carell to Judi Dench…and then several folks at a Fox Searchlight party including Nicholas Hoult, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Sarah Silverman, James McAvoy, and more.
The first film I saw today was a highly anticipated film (in some circles) from auteur Darren Aronofsky (director of BLACK SWAN). It’s called MOTHER!, and I absolutely loathed it. Though Aronofsky is a master craftsman, I’m simply not interested in his stories. I often find his metaphors rather obtuse, and in the case of this film, the violence and brutality in the third act is just too much. This is on the bottom of the list for me so far this year.
I cleansed the palette with JANE, a new documentary about Jane Goodall directed by Brett Morgen (director of THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE). This new film is largely constructed from footage that was recently discovered (thought to have been lost) that was shot in the 1960’s by renowned National Geographic photographer Hugo van Lawick. With a tremendous score by Philip Glass, the film is a love story and a gorgeous portrait of Goodall’s early monumental work with chimpanzees. To make it extra special, Goodall was in attendance, and seeing her speak has been a highlight of the festival. She’s so inspiring and commands attention through her passion, grace and eloquence. When she was approached to be a part of this documentary, she said “Not again,” but agreed nonetheless – and she said it’s been one of the best experiences of recounting her work. (below is a photo I took…there is no trailer available yet for this documentary)
VICTORIA & ABDUL, the new film by Stephen Frears, was next on the list. And it didn’t disappoint. (Fears has had an incredible career. From MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDERETTE to DANGEROUS LIAISONS to THE GRIFTERS to MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS to PHILOMENA – many of his films are quite special to me.) This elegant period piece is not at all stuffy or staid, it’s actually quite funny and charming, and the chemistry between Dench and Fazel is magic. This is a story about Queen Victoria’s later years and how she befriended an Indian man who was initially only intended to present her with a special gift from India. This true story, which was supposed to have been wiped from the history books by Victoria’s son – King Edward VII, was discovered several years ago by author Shrabani Basu. I know that our audiences are going to love this film when it opens on October 6. Extra special…Dench and many others were in attendance for a Q&A.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES was my final film of the day (though the after-party was something special too). Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris (directors of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), this film is so much more than the shenanigans of Steve Carell featured in the trailer. Based on the true story of Billie Jean King and her famous match with Bobby Riggs, we actually end up getting a lot of King’s personal struggle to live her own truth. With a strong screenplay and strong performances across the board, I think we’ll do well with this film when it opens on Sept. 29 (this date just got bumped up over the weekend). Extra special…Billie Jean King, Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, the directors and many others were in attendance for a Q&A.
After my final screening, I went to Fox Searchlight’s party that was held to celebrate the three films playing at the festival – BATTLE OF THE SEXES, THE SHAPE OF WATER and THREE BILLBOARDS. This was the party to be at last night. The cocktails and food were spectacular, and everywhere you turned, stars were everywhere – from Stone and Silverman to Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult. What a night!
Thanks for reading!