Can You Ever Forgive Me?
There were plenty of films premiering at TIFF that were based on a true story or inspired by real-life events but few had the caustic joy of Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? Based on the memoir by writer Lee Israel, Melissa McCarthy starred as a down and out biographer who becomes a literary forger to pay the bills. The low-key drama proved to be immensely appealing and the double act of McCarthy and Richard E. Grant won both actors some of the best reviews of their careers. Can You Ever Forgive Me? was an unexpected delight for many who had written it off as just another biopic thanks to its cutting wit and perceptive portrayal of a woman who is very difficult to love but still easy to root for.
2018 was a TIFF oddly populated with many stories about women musicians experiencing tough times. A Star is Born was the obvious one taking up much of the spotlight but there was also the very sweet if somewhat slight Teen Spirit, starring Elle Fanning, and the fiery emotional overload of Her Smell, featuring Elisabeth Moss in full Courtney Love mode. Yet the one that had the most divisive conversations surrounding it was Vox Lux. Directed by Brady Corbet and starring Natalie Portman, this very esoteric drama depicted a trainwreck popstar whose rise to fame happened on the backs of two major tragedies. Sia provided the songs, Scott Walker wrote the score, Willem Dafoe was the narrator, and the whole film proved to be even weirder than that combination of people suggests. This nihilistic story of the pitfalls of celebrity wasn't for everyone but those who loved it couldn't get enough of Vox Lux.
Watch: Vox Lux Trailer
British director Peter Strickland’s latest film wasn’t on many people’s radars once the festival started, but the moment news spread of this arthouse horror about a cursed dress that kills people, entrance to press screenings became a much-coveted privilege. With a premise like that, how could it not become one of the most talked about films of TIFF? In Fabric does indeed feature a cursed red dress that kills people, but it was also a fascinating homage to Hammer Horror and Dario Argento, with a hilarious satirical take on consumerist culture and Kafka-style bureaucratic nightmares. In Fabric won’t have a massive amount of mainstream appeal outside of festival season but it was a delight for those lucky enough to see it.
The legendary Japanese director Hirozaku Kore-eda took home the coveted Palme D'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival for Shoplifters. The film, already a commercial success in its home country, won over audiences with a similarly universal appeal at TIFF. The understated but deeply moving drama about a lower working class family who shoplift to survive and take in a young girl offered a touching but complex view of a very tough to understand group of people. Japan has already selected the film as their entrant for the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 2019 Oscars, so this one could continue its hot streak well into next year.
Many films premiered at TIFF’s Midnight Madness, bringing genre scares to the festival, although not all lived up to the hype. The Predator, in particular, proved to be a disappointment to many. Fortunately, David Gordon Green's sequel-slash-reboot of the Halloween franchise premiered to much greater excitement. The new film brings back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode and wipes the slate clean of many terrible sequels, leaving room for one of horror cinema's greatest villains to go back to basics. Excited fans who queued for hours to see the film’s midnight premiere were not disappointed.