The 42 nd Toronto film festival was notable for a very strong appearance of female endowment not least an lovable coming-of-age slapstick directed by Greta Gerwig
It may not have the glamour and appreciation of opportunity of Cannes, the romance of Venice or the boutique cliquishness of Telluride, but for sheer magnitude and scope, the Toronto international cinema celebration( 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 means various happenings. The first, and least welcome, of these is queues. Miles of them, snaking around the streets of the city for blockings and be administered by organizations that border on the Kafkaesque. Punters join them automatically, sometimes without knowing what they are waiting for. But the queues are there for a ground, which makes us to the second point: the sheer number of chatter names. The timing of Toronto and its size means that it is an ideal platform on which to test whether a standing claim has the legs to make it a hopeful in the honors race.
Early express suggest that it’s going to be another hard-fought engagement in the best actress category, with a affluence of meaty, female-driven narrations. And the crowd-pleasing Battle of the Sexes , the most recent from the Little Miss Sunshine leading duo of Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, is top of the list. Starring Emma Stone as tennis player Billie Jean King, the movie tells the story of the much-publicised 1973 tennis equal between King and ex-champion, and self-proclaimed male-chauvinist boar, 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 words with her own sexuality. Stone is terrific, throwing King a steely sweetness and a disarming vulnerability. And although some of the overt antediluvian sexism from the commentators sucked audible gasp from the gathering, the topics- equal money and equal opportunities for women, LGBT acceptance in play- persist depressingly timely.
Another powerhouse female leading comes from Jessica Chastain, playing the eponymous central character in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial introduction, Molly’s Game . This is pretty much the archetypal Sorkin project- a slick firework parade of showy dialogue and jostling ideas and a prime persona with a humor that Chastain holds like a flick knife. Based on a real-life character, Molly is a former Olympic-standard skier turned hostess of unlicensed, high-stakes poker games, who experiences herself at the center of an FBI investigation. While Sorkin panders 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.