Stars and silver linings at the Toronto International Film Festival

Posted: September 11, 2012

This story is taken from Steven Rea's blog, "On Movies Online," at . He is blogging from the Toronto International Film Festival.


Whenever you get a kazillion movies playing in the same town in the same two weeks, which is what's happening right now at the Toronto International Film Festival, prominent themes start recurring (aging is one this year, but so is promiscuous, prodigious youth.)

By fluke of timing, I saw two films back to back: Looper, the time-travel thriller with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis playing the same guy separated by decades, until they're together in the same place at the same time, and Smashed, a terrifically smart L.A. indie starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead ( Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Aaron Paul ( Breaking Bad) as a couple of desperate twenty-something alcoholics.

Completely different pics, except that both use the classic Richard and Linda Thompson song "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" at key points in the soundtrack. In Looper, it's when Gordon-Levitt's hit-man character goes to a nightclub for some intimate R&R with a topless Piper Perabo. But this verse probably did it for Smashed writer/director James Ponsoldt, who deploys the tune in a boozing montage:

A couple of drunken nights rolling on the floor

Is just the kind of mess I'm looking for.

I'm gonna dream till Monday comes in sight

I want to see the bright lights tonight.

'Silver Linings' Oscar gold?

Saw Silver Linings Playbook Sunday morning, David O. Russell's adrenalized adaptation of Matthew Quick's novel about a guy with bipolar disorder (Bradley Cooper), released from the psych ward and sent home to his parents' house to try to get his life back together - and to reconcile with his wife, who has left him. And left him with a broken heart and a restraining order.

Robert De Niro and Oscar-nominee Jacki Weaver ( Animal Kingdom) are Dad and Mom, and this is the best stuff De Niro has done in ages. And then there's Jennifer Lawrence, showing the fierceness and finesse on display in her breakout Winter's Bone, but more so. Her character, like Cooper's, is a head case, and the no-filters back-and-forth between them is exhilarating.

And then there is Philly, and the Eagles. Shot all around town (Ridley Park, Upper Darby, Jewelers' Row, the tailgate-crazy parking lot at the Linc), Silver Linings Playbook hinges, emotionally and narratively, on the win/loss record of the team's season.

Cooper wears a DeSean Jackson jersey on his first meetup with Lawrence, and De Niro sports an Eagles sweater and keeps an Eagles kerchief, freshly ironed and folded just so, on the couch during game time for good luck. I've heard that the NFL wouldn't sign off on Silver Linings Playbook because it depicts gambling - elaborate spreads and parlays - but if that's so, the league is about the only group of people that aren't going to endorse this emotionally raw, raucous film.

The Toronto International Film Festival gala premiere won a standing O, the capacity audience applauded mightily, and people were buzzing about the film for the rest of the day. Silver Linings Playbook is set to open Nov. 21. Excelsior!

Kristen! Selena! Keira! A paparazza's dream

Kristen Stewart emerged from seclusion, post-infidelity blowup, for the Toronto premiere of On the Road. . . . Selena Gomez jetted in from Venice for the premiere of Spring Breakers, boyfriend Justin Bieber in tow. . . . Keira Knightley was all gowned-up for the debut of Anna Karenina. . . . Bruce Willis is here for Looper, and so is Emily Blunt. . . . Dustin Hoffman makes his directing debut with Quartet. . . . James Franco is hanging around (he's in Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, too.). . . . Amy Adams is here (for The Master) . . . Ben Affleck (for Argo). . . . A blonde Rachel McAdams (with Passion, from Brian DePalma). . . . Tom Hanks and Halle Berry (they span centuries together in Cloud Atlas). . . . Ryan Gosling ( The Place Beyond the Pines). . . . Bradley Cooper ( Silver Linings Playbook, The Place Beyond the Pines). . . . Marion Cotillard ( Rust & Bone). . . . Christopher Walken ( Seven Psychopaths, A Late Quartet). . . . Colin Farrell ( Seven Psychopaths). . . . Johnny Depp (promoting the doc West of Memphis). . . . If you're not walking the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival, you're nobody. Nobody. No one at all.

Joaquin Phoenix unleashed

Almost an hour late for its 9 p.m. start on Friday at the Princess of Wales, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master finally had its Toronto International Film Festival premiere, but not before before Joaquin Phoenix - hammy and hypnotic as an epically unstable World War II Navy vet taken under the wing of Philip Seymour Hoffman's charismatic cult leader - worked the crowd, swerving off the red carpet to gladhand fans. Phoenix, wearing a black suit and tie and a mighty grin, was joined at the premiere by costars Amy Adams, Ambyr Childers and Madisen Beaty ("Hey, is that Anna Paquin?" a guy in the ticket holders' line yelped) and writer/director Anderson himself.

Looper star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in his Hit Record T-shirt, obliged the photogs on the red carpet, and a serious fan spotted Gary Oldman walking up to the marquee and went tearing after him, returning triumphantly with an autograph.

Sat down with Anderson for a quick interview the following noon. He'd just heard that Phoenix and Hoffman were to share the best-actor prize at the Venice Film Festival. Anderson won the directing prize, too, though he didn't mention that. Pieta, Kim ki-duk's ultraviolent Korean pic, drank The Master's milkshake, though, winning the Italian fest's best-film prize.

Anderson talked about shooting in the unwieldy but magisterial 70mm format, and about almost shooting in Philadelphia (ultimately, The Master was made in the San Francisco Bay area), and about wrecking a couple of his actors' takes because he couldn't stop himself from laughing. In one of those scenes, Adams, playing the watchful wife of Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd, joins him in a bathroom to, um, help him relax. The squawks coming from Hoffman's mouth are not to be believed.

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at

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