The 42 nd Toronto film festival was notable for its strong show of female flair not least an charming coming-of-age comedy directed by Greta Gerwig
It may not have the glamour and feel of occasion of Cannes, the romance of Venice or the boutique cliquishness of Telluride, but for sheer magnitude and scope, the Toronto international cinema gala( or Tiff, to give it its perkily approachable abbreviation) is hard to beat. Even having cut its programme by 20% this year( about 60 films fewer than previous instalments ), Toronto is a monster of an event.
This intends several happenings. The first, and least accepted, of these is queues. Miles of them, snaking around the streets of the city for blockages and managed by arrangements that border on the Kafkaesque. Punters join them automatically, sometimes without knowing what they are waiting for. But the queues are there for a rationale, which draws us to the second point: the sheer number of hum names. The timing of Toronto and its length means that it is an ideal platform on which to test whether a renown name has the legs to make it a competitor in the accolades race.
Early express suggest that it’s going to be another hard-fought duel in the best actress category, with a wealth of meaty, female-driven tales. And the crowd-pleasing Battle of the Sexes , the most recent from the Little Miss Sunshine sending duo of Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, is top of the list. Starring Emma Stone as tennis player Billie Jean King, the cinema tells the story of the much-publicised 1973 tennis competitor between King and ex-champion, and self-proclaimed male-chauvinist animal, Bobby Riggs( Steve Carell, all tragicomic bluster and condescension ). But more than that it’s a love story, in which King, hopelessly smitten with hairdresser Marilyn( Andrea Riseborough ), was necessary to terms with her own sexuality. Stone is terrific, committing King a steely sweetness and a disarming vulnerability. And while some of the overt antediluvian sexism from the commentators described audible gasp from the gathering, the topics- equal remunerate and equal opportunities for women, LGBT acceptance in play- abide depressingly timely.
Another powerhouse female pas comes from Jessica Chastain, playing the eponymous central capacity in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game . This is pretty much the archetypal Sorkin project- a slick firework showing of showy dialogue and jostling ideas and a prime persona with a ingenuity that Chastain maintains like a switchblade knife. Based on a real-life reputation, Molly is a former Olympic-standard skier shifted hostess of unlicensed, high-stakes poker games, who find herself at the centre of an FBI investigation. While Sorkin indulges in a few too many self-congratulatory segues and prosper, as long as Chastain is on screen- and she’s rarely off- the movie has a crackling force and propulsive drive.