Monday, September 12, 2005

TIFF Entry #8: Maggie!

Today was the day.

Today was the day when, at long last, Maggie Gyllenhaal and I would meet.

Okay, maybe we didn’t meet, but we were in the same theater at the same time and, after all these Maggie-free years, I say: close enough!

In fact, today brought with it a veritable CAVALCADE of celebrities at Maggie’s film’s world premiere! I’ve never been to a more star-studded screening at the fest before…like, ever.

More on that later.

I kicked off today with The Quiet (5/8), a rather dark drama about a deaf teenager (Camilla Belle), who goes to live with a foster family after the death of her father. The parents (Martin Donovan and Edie Falco) welcome her, but their angry-cheerleader daughter (Elisha Cuthbert) does not. She treats her new “sister” like an emotional punching bag, but it’s not long before we find out why. I won’t spoil the movie by revealing much more, but suffice it to say that behind every angry young teen lies a reason for the anger.

The film was directed by Jamie Babbit, whose work I love and who’s directed, among other things, But I’m a Cheerleader, episodes of Gilmore Girls and a good chunk of the now-defunct but no-less-brilliant series, Popular. On my way into the screening, I saw a woman sitting on the floor outside the theater entrance and thought to myself, “That kind of looks like Jamie Babbit.” But I wasn’t sure, since I’ve only ever seen her from really far away before. Turns out I was right, because a few moments later my film festival friend Ann (who’d gone out to get a coffee) sat down and told me she’d just overheard Jamie being introduced to someone.

Anyway, this screening marked a Film Festival First for Vickie: I asked my very first EVER post-screening Q&A question! It was a monumental moment. Of course, me being me, it had to be twinged with comedy. See, we were in a big theater and I was sitting near the back. So, when I raised my hand (and mine was the only one raised) in the semi-dark, the moderator turned in my direction, pointed in my general vicinity and said…

“Yes. You sir!”


I looked around. Was she talking to me? She kept pointing at me. “Sir, go ahead!”

I pointed at myself and made the universal “ME???” face. Jamie, at the microphone, said re: me, “I think that’s a ma’am.”

(cue riotous laughter)

I yelled out, “Yeah, I’m a ma’am!” then asked my question.

Now, for those of you who don’t know me or what I look like, I’d like to assure you that, in actual fact, I look nothing like a man. I did, however, have my hair pulled back into a chignon (thanks, Tyra!), so maybe the moderator just thought I was a tall, skinny guy from that far away.

But my question incident wasn’t even the highlight of that particular Q&A. A few people later, this disembodied voice from somewhere in the middle of the theater piped up with the longest, most incoherent question in film festival Q&A history. One of the (completely unknown) supporting actresses was also in attendance, and this woman began her rambling incoherence by saying, “I have a question for the actress.”

The woman then launched into this soliloquy about how she knows the actress was just playing a role, but the emotions were so painful and real that they must be rooted in personal experience…and did she have personal experience with her character’s issues because she (the woman asking the question) had a similar history to that of the character and blah blah blah blah blaaaaaaaagh. It seriously felt like she was talking for a good five minutes straight. Now, the actress’s character was a complete beee-YOTCH cheerleader who taunts another girl she believes is gay…because of her own internalized homophobia.

So I thought to myself, “Is this woman asking if this actress is gay in real life?!?! That’s kind of nervy!”

The actress made her way to the microphone and very politely replied, “I’m sorry. I don’t really know what you’re asking.” No kidding. Neither did anyone else in the theater. Unfortunately, the woman then re-asked the entire question in a relatively un-altered way that was no less vague or confusing. The actress tried her best and actually offered a very thoughtful, eloquent answer about finding some ounce of humanity in her character and expanding on that kernel of truth. She ended by saying something about believing that her character was just confused and lashing out.

The disembodied voice in the audience then said, I kid you not, “Ohhh. I’m actually a little confused I think because I thought you were the actress who played Nina.” Elisha Cuthbert. She thought this tall brunette – who was specifically introduced by name – was short, blond-haired Elisha Cuthbert. So this woman had rattled off her epic question to the wrong actress. (cue more riotous laughter)

My second film of the day was the wildly erratic and mildly crazy drama Sorry, Haters (5/8), starring Robin Wright Penn as a woman who is, to say the least, totally bat-shit crazy. Insane. Off her rocker. Unbalanced. She takes a cab one night and slowly involves its unsuspecting driver (Abdellatif Kechiche) in the twisted reality of her life, intertwining her problems with his in increasingly dramatic and frightening ways. I had no idea what to make of this movie as I watched it – it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Very raw and gritty, shot on DV and laced with a sense of forboding and rage. It has an ending that left the audience slack-jawed and stunned, but that ending actually made me like the movie more, simply because it was so completely unexpected and dark. The post-film Q&A also helped me understand the movie better, which is nice. But the director said the film had been rejected by other festivals and, after watching it, I can see why. It’s some challenging material.

Number three for the day was Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (6/8) which, I’ll admit, was making me drowsy. Not because it was boring, but because I didn’t sleep well last night and the theater was kind of cold. It was relatively empty, too, which meant I had lots of room to relax. The film itself was very well done and wonderfully whimsical. It tells the story of a nebbish young man (voiced by Johnny Depp) who accidentally marries a dead woman (voiced by Helena Bonham-Carter) and who tries to choose between the worlds of the living and the dead. It’s fun, it’s cute and it’s even kind of moving. I cried at the end…but that may have more to do with my sleep depravation and hormones than anything else. Still, I enjoyed it immensely.

While in line for Corpse Bride, I realized that watching the demographics of festival lines is a fun pastime. The audience for Mrs. Henderson Presents was a sea of white hair, the audience at The Mistress of Spices was made up of a strong Indian contingent, and all the Goths were out for Corpse Bride.

Then…Maggie time.


And, with her, the aforementioned bonanza of celebrities! The ENTIRE CAST of Trust the Man (4/8) showed up for its world premiere! I mean, EVERYBODY! Maggie, Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Billy Crudup, Ellen Barkin, Eva Mendes and James LeGros! PLUS, all the celebrity boyfriends, girlfriends and siblings!

That means Claire Danes, Peter Sarsgaard and Jake Gyllenhaal were also there! (Oddly enough, Jake came to support Maggie but didn’t go to his own premiere for Proof later this evening.) And while it was kind of exciting to see the tall, lithe Maggie in person, it was a bit anticlimactic. Like, oh look! There she is! OMG! And then, nothing. Does this mean I'm over Maggie? I wonder.

Unfortunately, the film – directed by Bart Freundlich and chronicling the ups and downs in the relationships of two couples – was kind of meh. It had a number of funny moments, but it felt too busy…like there were so many little things going on but nothing terribly memorable. Ellen Barkin basically had a cameo, and Eva Mendes was barely there. On some level, I think it wanted to be a romantic comedy, but it didn’t win me over and was rather long and rambling. I have no idea why I continue to see Bart Freundlich movies, either, because I seem to have the same reaction to them all.

Bart also proved to be a bit of a Q&A mic hog. He and the cast went onstage to answer questions after the film, but he was doing all the talking. It wasn’t until Maggie (yay!) actually physically took the mic away from him and said something like, “I have something to say!” that anyone else had a chance to speak. Other cast members offered comments, but it was kind of the Bart Freundlich Show…which was kind of too bad, since I think most people wanted to hear from the actors.

The weather today was bearably hot and humid, but it’s supposed to be even hotter tomorrow…which means a mid-afternoon trip back home to change clothes may be in order.

Celebrity Sightings: A TON! Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Eva Mendes (!), Ellen Barkin, James LeGros, Peter Sarsgaard, Claire Danes, Billy Crudup and Jamie Babbit.

Roger Ebert Sightings: In what can only be described as a truly surreal moment: no Roger Ebert, but I did see Leonard Maltin!

Line Buzz: Negative buzz for Stoned, middling opinions of Be With Me, and good buzz for Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist, Manderlay and Adam’s Apple.

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