TIFF 2009 Must See Films: ‘Get Low’, ‘Precious’ & ‘The Road’

Published 5 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 8:25 am,

precious film poster2 TIFF 2009 Must See Films: Get Low, Precious & The Road

The madness continues at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.

The talk of the festival right now is the performance of Oscar-winner Robert Duvall in his new film, Get Low, in which he portrays a hermit with a dark secret who comes out of hiding to confront the rumors about him in a small southern town in the 30s. Directed by Aaron Schneider, the film is very much like a Horton Foote story, with those flawed yet all-too-human characters standing front and center.

Duvall, who adored Foote, loved the role and gives one of the best performances of his career. In fact if you recall, it was in 1997 that the veteran actor was poised for similar acclaim with The Apostle, which knocked critics and the film world on their collective butts. Duvall went on to earn an Oscar nomination for that performance, and may do the same here provided Get Low is purchased and lands a distribution deal.

For me the best film of the festival has to be Precious, an astounding work that is likely the best American film of the year and in fact one of the finest achievements in cinema I have ever seen…period. From director Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer) the film is a searing look at the horrific life of an illiterate, obese black girl, who has twice been impregnated by her father, expelled from school and placed in an alternate school, all while facing a barrage of physical and verbal abuse from her mother. That the girl does not let this break her spirit is one thing, that she chooses to do so much with the life she has been given is a testament to her incredible strength of character. The film is based on the 1996 debut novel from poet/author, Sapphire.

Over the course of the film, the downtrodden girl gives birth to a son, befriends the girls and teacher in her new school and eventually breaks from her mother, even after being told she is HIV positive. The performances in the film are electrifying, as though the camera had been placed in the midst of life unfolding – rather than a narrative film, we are watching a documentary. This is more than mere filmmaking, this is a piece of someone’s soul up on the screen for all to see. A primal, raw, rage-filled scream for help that will streak through your body, burning into your mind,  scarring you so you never forget this film.

precious TIFF 2009 Must See Films: Get Low, Precious & The Road

Gabourey Sidibe is a revelation as the titular Precious, giving an edgy performance that on one hand will alarm viewers with its intensity, but then break your heart when her fears come pouring out. In an astounding performance of nearoverhwhelming power, comedian Mo’Nique inhabits the role of the abusive mother with a presence that is frightening. Her performance is all in her eyes, which are watchful with hate, looking for a reason, like a cobra to strike, and when she does, she becomes a force of nature. Both actresses seem destined for Oscar attention.

And yes Mariah Carey is in the film, and yes she is terrific. And nearly unrecognizable.

precious 2 TIFF 2009 Must See Films: Get Low, Precious & The Road

Check out the official trailer for Precious.

The film I have been anticipating the most, however, has been The Road – director John Hillcoat’s film adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel about a father and son’s journey across post-apocalyptic America. Some critics at both Venice and Telluride admitted to some disappointment with the film, and though I understand their issues with the work, I do not share their opinions. The film is a powerful, deeply emotional work filled with despair and pain, and anchored every step of the way by Viggo Mortensen in a strong performance that is largely physical.

As they journey through a dying landscape, watching trees crash down dead, searching for food and water, gas or shelter, and avoiding the tribes that have become cannibals in their efforts to survive, Father and Son forge a unique bond that makes them curiously dependent on one another. Yet we also understand the father is ill, and what he is ultimately doing is preparing the boy to be alone. Mortensen captures the wounded man’s pain in his wonderfully expressive eyes, and despite being faced with death all around him, he is a life force for whom survival is paramount.

the road still 1 TIFF 2009 Must See Films: Get Low, Precious & The Road

Robert Duvall (him again) has a wonderful cameo in the film as an elderly man The Man and The Boy encounter on the road, doing the same as they are, trying to stay alive and trying not to remember too much. Seeing the boy opens memories for him that are painful, and that he is not yet ready to speak of. Duvall gives a master’s class of acting in the scene around the campfire.

Is The Road perfect? No. It is unrelenting in its bleakness, and there truly is no hope as we see the world dying all around The Man and Boy. The performance of Kodi Smit-McPhee as The Boy is sometimes grating, though for the most part he and Mortensen have a nice chemistry.

the road mortensen mcphee TIFF 2009 Must See Films: Get Low, Precious & The Road
That’s it for now from the Toronto International Film Festival. More to come.

Source: John H. Foote, Film Critic/ Historian, Screen Rant Guest Reporter

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TAGS: get low, precious, the road

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  1. I can’t wait to see all three of these films! Most especially Precious. The way you described it I may need to have a hankie handy when I do see it.

  2. There isn’t enough caffeine in the world that would keep me awake through any of those films, ESPECIALLY Precious. I’d rather watch Pee Wee’s Big Adventure than that film (although The Road might be a Netflix pick up.) I like Duvall, I think he’s a great actor (Secondhand Lions was a very underrated film), but that first film sounds like a cure for insomnia.

    Another note…why do all these new films have such a depressing and somber tone to them? It’s not like we don’t get to see that EVERY SINGLE DAY in real life! I want some escapism and fun when I go to the theater. Not to walk out depressed after the end of the movie. I’ll take Wolverine or Transformers over that any day.

  3. Will definitely check out The Road, thanks for the heads up but Precious… not for me thanks. If I wanted to see misery, human suffering and horrific uncensored pain I’d just watch America’s Got Talent…

  4. “If I wanted to see misery, human suffering and horrific uncensored pain I’d just watch America’s Got Talent…”

    Rimshot – badda bing!

    :-P

    Vic

  5. Yada yada yada…Mr. Foote- fine job reviewing the films with an open mind. Your experience was translated incredibly well. Andy S.- “Run to the Hills” Eddie is probably too busy reading McCarthy right now anyway. I have been anticipating PRECIOUS long before I knew there was a “celebrity ” cast.
    jordi- nice joke! I’d rather see the movies! AGT is WAY too much pain for me!

  6. Make all your Christmas wishes come true with the Limited Edition ghd Precious gift set. Available now.

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