Monday, September 12, 2011

TIFF: Family Ties That Bind, Gag and Sometimes Kill

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 5:10 PM

Emile Hirsch and Matthew McConaughey star in Killer Joe
  • Emile Hirsch and Matthew McConaughey star in Killer Joe

Three movies, three families, three levels of dysfunction. From Killer Joe to Your Sister’s Sister to Coriolanus, it has been quite a day at the Toronto International Film Festival.

I honestly don’t know what to think about Killer Joe. It is alternately obscene and entertaining with what has to be the most blood-soaked black comedy in film history.

There are so many things wrong about Killer Joe’s plot, beginning with Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) a Dallas cop who moonlights as a sadistic killer. When a low-rent family (Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon) hire Joe to knock off a woman for a life insurance payoff, Joe takes the family’s prepubescent daughter (Juno Temple) as a “retainer.” What follows is a series of vile and lurid events. The script is by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts and behind the camera is none other than William Friedkin (The French Connection). This movie is so far from the outer bounds of good taste that it’s destined to become a cult classic.

Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt star in Your Sisters Sister
  • Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt star in Your Sister's Sister

The world premiere of Your Sister’s Sister proved to be a fun, touching art-house favorite.

Written and directed by Lynn Shelton (Humpday), Your Sister’s Sister tells the tale of sad sack Jack (Mark Duplass) seeking solitude in a Pacific Northwest cabin—visitors to the Puget Sound will quickly identify the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. But complications surface when Jack ends up sharing the cabin with his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) and her sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). On paper, the premise is improbable. On film, it works surprisingly well.

Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler star in Coriolanus
  • Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler star in Coriolanus

From prickly family tension to bloody battles among kin, Coriolanus leaves few prisoners.

Ralph Fiennes has found great success as Coriolanus' director/star where some have soared with Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh, Henry V) and some have failed (Mel Gibson, Hamlet). Fiennes’ Coriolanus works best when few, if any, lines are spoken, especially in the explosive 21st century military showdowns. Coriolanus is Shakespeare’s second longest play, so it's no wonder why it had yet to see any successful film adaptation. But employing battle-tested director of photography Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker) was inspired strategy. Gerard Butler, Jessica Chastain and Brian Cox round out the cast, but the spoils of war go to Vanessa Redgrave, who plays Coriolanus’ mother Volumnia, and proves that war on the homefront can sometimes be the ugliest.

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