10:28pm PT by Scott Feinberg
Toronto 2011: Day 7 Recap
Today was essentially as great a day as one could possibly hope for at the Toronto International Film Festival.
I started off my morning by interviewing one of the most exciting young stars working today, 27-year-old Olivia Wilde, who is in town to promote the comedy Butter. Wilde couldn't have been more lovely or candid during our time together, and I can't wait to share video of it very soon.
Then, I decided to walk, rather than ride a cab, over to the Scotiabank Theatre for a few screenings, and I'll forever be glad that I did. Why? Because in the middle of one street I ran into the great film critic Roger Ebert (who is one of my heroes both for the great work that he has done/continues to do and for the way he has bravely carried on in the face of thyroid cancer) and his wife Chaz Ebert (who I have long admired from afar for the way that she has supported her husband through his struggle, and had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with at a dinner on Saturday night). At Chaz's invitation -- she knows how much I love Roger -- I walked a few blocks with them and shared a bit about my own background in film. Roger couldn't verbally respond, of course, but he reacted to what I was saying by giving me, every so often, his trademark thumbs-up. I have had a lot of memorable experiences at this year's TIFF, but nothing tops those few minutes for me.
I eventually turned around and headed back toward the Scotiabank, where, at the urging of a publicist friend, I attended a screening of Luc Besson's The Lady. The drama movingly chronicles the true story of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) and her husband Michael Aris (David Thewlis) and the sacrifices that they made to try to bring democracy to the southeast Asian country after decades of an oppressive military dictatorship. It is well acted, beautifully made, and chronicles an important chapter of history with which many in the West are unfamiliar, so I was very pleased to hear, just hours after I saw it, that its U.S. distribution rights were picked up by the Cohen Media Group. Nominations for its actors' understated performances seem like a long shot, but I imagine that some of its below-the-line people could register if a proper campaign is funded. Incidentally, Burma -- and, to an extent, Suu Kyi -- were featured in Burma VJ (2010), a great documentary that received an Oscar nod just two years ago.
I then rushed across the theater and made it just in time for Bruce Beresford's Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, which has been ruthlessly maligned by some pundits this week, but which I found to be perfectly pleasant and enjoyable, if not great. The primary reason that the film got made, I imagine, is that the great two-time Oscar winner Jane Fonda agreed to play its eccentric matriarch, a grandmother whose long-estranged daughter (Catherine Keener) shows up at her home -- with two kids in tow (the girl is played by Elizabeth Olsen of Martha Marcy May Marlene) -- after separating from her husband. Fonda teaches them all to loosen up and helps each of them find a bit of romance (Olsen with Chace Crawford) during their stay, and has several lines of dialogue (one involving "cock-blocking") that made this writer literally laugh-out-loud. It blows my mind that she is only three years younger than her father Henry Fonda was when he made On Golden Pond (1981), which finally brought him an Oscar; Jane just seems so much more vivacious at this stage of her life than he did (or most people do). I'm tremendously excited to report that she has agreed to grant me an interview at some point soon -- possibly even tomorrow -- and I look forward to bringing the audio of that conversation to you as soon as possible thereafter. PLM is still seeking domestic distribution.
My final screening of the day was Oren Moverman's Rampart, which reunites him with his muses from The Messenger (2009) Woody Harrelson, in the central role of a crooked cop, and Ben Foster, who plays a homeless veteran. Like Drive, this film revolves around violent encounters; has a very distinct mood throughout it; and features an excellent supporting cast (including Foster, Ned Beatty, Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright Penn, Ice Cube, and Steve Buscemi). As you may recall, we premiered the first clips of the film, which I would urge you to check out. Harrelson's performance is absolutely worthy of awards consideration, in my estimation, and I can't imagine that the film's U.S. distribution rights won't be scooped up in the very near future.