Movie Article

Toronto Film Festival: A Critic's Take

Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, and Nicole Kidman were some of the stars at Toronto this year

My highlights of the 2010 festival included movies about a ballet dancer whose push for perfection pushes her over the edge, a man who lets his true self emerge, a boy who befriends a vampire, and a gent who pulls a rabbit out of a hat. Some musings:

Black Swan
I wasn't sure whether to throw roses or giggle by the time Natalie Portman leaped to stardom in her remarkable performance as an obsessive ballerina in Darren Aronofsky's mad pirouette of a dance fantasy. Either way, I was mesmerized.

Beginners
Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor play father and son in Mike Mills' beautifully shaped and shaded autobiographical drama, my favorite movie of the festival. Dad's just out of the closet in his 70s, son's just getting the hang of a girlfriend (Inglourious Basterds' Mélanie Laurent) in his 30s. (In a sadder, more conventional domestic drama, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play grief-stricken parents of a dead young son in Rabbit Hole.)

Let Me In
Once I got past my harrumph that there's no reason to remake the perfect Swedish lonely-boy-and-vampire-girl movie Let the Right One In, I could admit that this American version is a thoughtful iteration. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz are terrific as boy and undead girl.

Meek's Cutoff
Set on the Oregon Trail in 1845, Kelly Reichardt's typically observant, finely chiseled film about lost pioneers marks a bountiful reunion of the singular director of Wendy and Lucy and star Michelle Williams.

Barney's Version
The only experience more pleasurable than watching Paul Giamatti inhabit the deeply flawed soul of novelist Mordecai Richler's great creation Barney Panofsky is watching Giamatti in a virtuoso duet with Dustin Hoffman as Barney's dad, a retired cop.

The Illusionist
The Triplets of Belleville maestro Sylvain Chomet creates this emotionally rich animated story (based on a script by the late, legendary Jacques Tati) of a shabby old French magician whose tricks dazzle a young Irish scullery maid.

Originally posted Sep 24, 2010 Published in issue #1122 Oct 01, 2010 Order article reprints
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