Midway through the Toronto International Film Festival, the general consensus here seems to be one of vague discontent. It's not that the movies are awful: It's more that they're often just not good enough to get excited about.
One example is Breaking and Entering, director Anthony (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley) Minghella's sophisticated, highly watchable drama about the relationship between a London businessman (Jude Law) and the mother (an excellent Juliette Binoche) of the teenage thief who burglared his office. The movie, which marks Minghella's first original screenplay since 1991's Truly, Madly, Deeply, has the breadth of a novel, grappling with everything from marital dysfunction and parenting to the plight of refugees. But there's something overly schematic and stilted about the film, which seems to be striving for the moral complexity and quiet intensity of a Krzysztof Kieslowski picture, but is far too pat and contrived to get there.
Departing from the mockumentary format of his previous three films (Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind), director Christopher Guest takes on the ridiculous vanity and inflated egos of the film industry in For Your Consideration, about the making of a low-budget movie that becomes a possible Oscar contender. Although it's often very funny, the movie still isn't as clever or inventive as I hoped it would be. Yes, the Hollywood Access spoofs are hilarious. But it's not like we've never seen those before.
The Fountain, a metaphysical, sci-fi tinged meditation on love, death and immortality spanning more than 1,000 years, certainly does not lack for ambition, maintaining Darren Aronofsky's track record as an iconoclastic, daringly original filmmaker. The movie, which stars Hugh Jackman as a scientist and Rachel Weisz as his terminally-ill wife, is stuffed with both trippy ideas and romantic passion. But it is also the kind of picture that is easier to respect than to like: Like Steven Soderbergh's Solaris, The Fountain is a love-it-or-hate-it experience that some people will embrace passionately, while others will walk away from puzzled, if not baffled. I'm somewhere in-between.
Peter O'Toole canceled a planned visit to the festival due to health reasons, which is a shame, since his name is being bandied about as a probable Best Actor Oscar nominee for Venus. O'Toole is the main reason to see the film, playing an aging actor who forms a surprising bond with a spirited teenager (Jodie Whittaker). But the movie, directed by Roger Michell, is a one-trick pony, its premise never leading anywhere other than the expected.
Running out now to get in line for the press screening of the controversial D.O.A.P., or Death of a President. The movie doesn't start for another hour, but festival screenings this year have been unusually packed, and with all the attention the film is getting, I'm probably already too late soo snag a seat.