Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val

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Beau­ti­ful Boy

Di­rected by Felix Van Groenin­gen

When the story of David and Nic Sh­eff un­folded over a decade ago, it shaped pub­lic un­der­stand­ing of drug ad­dic­tion by shed­ding equal light on both ad­dicts and their fam­i­lies. David’s me­moir Beau­ti­ful Boy: A Fa­ther’s Jour­ney Through His Son’s Ad­dic­tion was grip­ping, while Nic’s me­moir, Tweak: Grow­ing Up on Metham­phetamines, was a har­row­ing first-per­son ac­count. They brought nu­ance, hu­mour, clar­ity and con­text to a bleak epi­demic strongly tied to a vic­tim-blam­ing nar­ra­tive.

Beau­ti­ful Boy, the film adap­ta­tion of both sto­ries, takes con­text out of the equa­tion, in­stead fo­cus­ing on style over sub­stance. Many of the film’s se­quences, par­tic­u­larly early on, are hin­dered by non­lin­ear vis­ual sto­ry­telling, which serves to dis­tract and con­found. The scat­ter­shot sound­track, which cob­bles to­gether ev­ery­thing from Mog­wai to Perry Como, oc­ca­sion­ally un­der­cuts the film’s most poignant mo­ments. In try­ing to rec­on­cile the two mem­oirs, the film fo­cuses on par­al­lels be­tween David (Steve Carell) and Nic (a phe­nom­e­nal Ti­mothée Cha­la­met) rather than try­ing to flesh out the char­ac­ters in­de­pen­dently.

Yet de­spite the lack­ing char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, Cha­la­met por­trays Nic with a haunt­ing des­per­a­tion, sell­ing the char­ac­ter’s ar­ro­gant sur­face while also show­cas­ing the agony be­neath. Though the film cen­tres on David be­fore slowly shift­ing the fo­cus to Nic, Cha­la­met shines from start to fin­ish. Carell de­liv­ers a solid per­for­mance as David, though his best mo­ments are all comedic, un­able to hit the dra­matic highs of his Os­car-nom­i­nated per­for­mance in Fox­catcher. Beau­ti­ful Boy touches on the heft of ad­dic­tion, but not as con­tex­tu­ally as David’s me­moir or as har­row­ingly as Nic’s. Rec­on­cil­ing both mem­oirs with Van Groenin­gen’s stylis­tic im­pulses leads to an un­even ef­fort. (Ama­zon Stu­dios) MATT BOBKIN

Cold War

Di­rected by Pawel Paw­likowski

Pawel Paw­likowski’s first film af­ter Ida won the Os­car for Best For­eign Lan­guage Film, Cold War is a visu­ally stun­ning love story loosely based on his par­ents. It fol­lows Wik­tor (To­masz Kot), a com­poser and mu­si­cal direc­tor, and the young, bold Zula (Joanna Kulig), who cap­ti­vates him when she au­di­tions for his Pol­ish folk mu­sic act. Fol­low­ing the en­tirety of their re­la­tion­ship, the film jumps through years at a time, and across the Iron Cur­tain, cre­at­ing a col­lec­tion of snap­shots of their in­tense, some­times volatile re­la­tion­ship. With time spent in Poland, Ber­lin and France, Paw­likowski ex­plores what it means to live and love in the spe­cific po­lit­i­cal land­scape of post­war Europe. Us­ing im­pec­ca­ble im­agery and evoca­tive mu­sic that changes with the nar­ra­tive, Cold War por­trays truths much larger than the po­lit­i­cal, but which are shaped by it nonethe­less. (Mon­grel) SARAH MEL­TON

Her Smell

Di­rected by Alex Ross Perry

As a rule, movies about punk-ad­ja­cent cul­ture can’t be done. And if any­one most cer­tainly can’t, it’s lit­er­ary indie faux-teur Alex Ross Perry. Her Smell is 134 min­utes long, and ap­prox­i­mately 120 of those min­utes of­fer full-fledged em­bar­rass­ment chills. The film stars Elis­a­beth Moss as “Becky Some­thing,” front­woman for Some­thing She — a punky power trio whose rise in the riot gr­rrl move­ment re­sulted in in­ter­na­tional fame. Though Perry de­nied the con­nec­tion in a post-screen­ing Q&A, Moss is un­de­ni­ably chan­nelling Court­ney Love. Be­cause of movie punk magic, how­ever, this ver­sion of Hole sounds a lot more like Live on Re­lease mish­mashed with Blink-182.

As Her Smell starts, we see Becky Some­thing throw­ing one hell of a hissy fit back­stage at a late-era Some­thing She show, long af­ter the band have stopped sell­ing out sta­di­ums, and in­stead pile up blow and chug hard liquor. The claus­tro­pho­bic and hi­lar­i­ously over­wrought shots see Moss de­liver faux-the­atre di­a­logue as she writhes around the sound­stage and rakes ev­ery­one near and dear to her over the coals. Aside from the odd cut to hand­held VHS cam­era flash­backs (all of which are, again, di­rectly mim­ick­ing early Kurt and Court­ney tapes), the film spends most of its time in the dim, dank back­stage area, and one can’t help but fear they’re go­ing to be stuck with Becky that whole time. There are mo­tives and ex­pla­na­tions that are never re­ally ex­plored — even Becky’s sub­stance abuse is­sues are only as­sumed un­til she men­tions so­bri­ety in the film’s 100th minute. Sim­i­larly, we never un­der­stand why Becky’s man­ager (Eric Stoltz), band­mates (Ag­y­ness Deyn and Gayle Rankin) or fren­e­mies (Am­ber Heard, play­ing a Lady Gaga type called Zelda) stand by her through her decade of bad be­hav­iour and com­mu­nity the­atre-cal­i­bre di­a­tribes. Of course, things do even­tu­ally hit the fan when Becky’s unchecked ego (or is it men­tal ill­ness? Or the drugs she was ap­par­ently do­ing at some point?) winds up push­ing ev­ery­one away. From there, she works with a young, up-and­com­ing act (Cara Delev­ingne, Ash­ley Ben­son and Dy­lan Gelula) and then even­tu­ally fucks that up too.

Moss de­liv­ers the sort of jar­ring and un­bear­able per­for­mance that crit­ics love to de­scribe as brave, but it gives the

BEAU­TI­FUL BOY

HER SMELL

COLD WAR

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