TORONTO – A little bit of Seattle came to the Toronto International Film Festival last night, and got a standing ovation. Megan Griffiths’ “Lucky Them,” a sweet and wise romantic comedy about a rock journalist (Toni Collette) looking for the musician boyfriend who disappeared long ago, had its world premiere at the Isabel Bader Theater, and it’s definitely a crowd-pleasing hit. Cinematographer Ben Kutchins captures the night neon of Capitol Hill and the Market and turns it into a wonderland, and Collette and Thomas Haden Church (as a friend who aids her in her search – by making a documentary out of it) make a marvelous screwball comedy duo. I saw Griffiths at the post-screening party and she was having a wonderful time, as was writer/producer Emily Watchtel – who spent 11 years getting this project made. Expect distribution buzz to start soon, maybe even today.
“Lucky Them,” with its perfectly cast central pair, made an interesting bookend to today’s first film: “The Love Punch,” starring Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson as a divorced couple who must join forces to get back their pension money by stealing a diamond on the French Riveria. Yes, the plot’s that silly, and the writing and directing sloppy, and the whole thing utterly ridiculous – but Brosnan and Thompson have such chemistry and charisma that they almost make it all bearable. Almost. Collette and Church, though, show you what a difference a screenplay and a director make. (Though Wachtel noted, in the post-screening Q&A, that not all of “Lucky Them” was on the page. “You can’t script Thomas Haden Church,” she said.)
Also good: Ralph Fiennes’ “The Invisible Woman,” in which Fiennes directs as stars as Charles Dickens, in love with young actress Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones). Smart, elegantly filmed and thoroughly literary, it tells a little-known story with grace. Fiennes practically leaps off the screen as Dickens; Kristin Scott Thomas is haunting as Nelly’s stage mother.
And also good: my back-to-back interviews today, with Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Fifth Estate”) and Hugh Jackman (“Prisoners”), which had a few of my friends swooning at just the mention of their names, and had me racing down the sidewalk (they were, of course, at different hotels) and not minding a bit. For the record: Cumberbatch does not like the term “Cumberbitches” (which is what his female fans have called themselves) and has politely asked that they change it to “Cumber Collective” or something like that. And Jackman’s got another movie musical in the works (the story of P.T. Barnum, though it’s not “Barnum” the musical), and some day would love to remake “Carousel.”
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Tomorrow: four movies in a row – how will they go? And will I be brave enough to sample the poutine they sell at the main festival multiplex? We shall see.