Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TIFF 2010 reviews: Submarine

Not once have I actually gone to any of the festival screenings of films that have won awards at TIFF. Sometimes one can pick up on the buzz, the news of Slumdog Millionaire of Juno enrapturing audiences and getting a healthy shove towards award season spreads meme-like through the ticket holder and rush lines, but not once have I actually caught any of the festival hits during the run of TIFF. Today’s screening of Submarine made me think I was witnessing this year’s surprise in the making. Imagine a Wes Anderson re-imagining of the early Adrian Mole books and you’ve got the wonderfulness that is Richard Ayoade’s debut feature. Ayoade is probably best known to Anglophile hipsters from TV shows like “The Mighty Boosh” and “The IT Crowd,” on both sides of the camera; he’s your standard BBC-produced actor-writer-director. Submarine was one of my gotta-see picks, but I actually traded a premiere ticket for this second screening (damn Sunday night scheduling, with count ‘em FOUR flicks I wanted to see all playing simultaneously the other night). It made the list due to, well, being set in my beloved Wales. I’m a man of simple pleasures. Plus it stars Sally Hawkins, who’s rapidly becoming one of my absolute favourite British actresses.

The whole cast is stellar: Cymru native Craig Robinson stars as this year’s cinematic Holden Caulfield, and shares a scene with his Hawkins that’s a master class in whipcrack comic timing and reaction shots. Also on hand is Noah Taylor, all grown up from his earlier arthouse starmaking roles in The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting; Paddy Considine, an absolute riot as a bullshit-peddling self-help guru with the world’s reigning champion comedic mullet (Submarine is set in late 1986, so it’s not just an ironic affectation) and, though I hadn’t made the connection until she first appeared onscreen, Yasmin Paige from "The Sarah Jane Adventures" who, if Matt Smith shows up at the Womb premiere tonight, makes this quite the Russell T. Davies’ casting office day for me.

The main reason I was pissed for not getting the opening night of The Trip in the ticket draw was missing what I assumed would be the funniest Q&A of the festival. This one made up for it. Ayoade was already playing to an adoring crowd when he riffed on the various viewers sidling up the aisle and was typically British in his self-deprecating comments as to his directorial skills. In all honesty I don’t know if Submarine is bound for the Audience Award this year; the programming assistant who intro’d the screening did say that there had been a bit of a groundswell after opening night and the director and cast were suddenly finding themselves doing a fair bit of press, so maybe I’ll be cheerfully proven wrong. At any rate, it’s a complete gem, the best thing I’ve seen so far. (****)

I waited to say hello to Robinson and Paige afterwards, and they charmingly posed for a pic together. Turns out Robinson’s from just near Cardiff and seemed pleased when I mentioned that I was in love with the town and was looking forward to going back. I also think I surprised Paige by mentioning my Sarah Jane fandom; I actually just watched the ep. yesterday in which Maria and her dad move to America and I couldn’t resist asking if she returned later in Series 2. Sadly, no. Oh well. I parted with a “Croeso i Toronto,” which got a smile from Robinson, though I suspect I may have mutated the “T” a bit, dammit.

Okay, back out to grab an early dinner, hit the box office to see if I’ll be going to Midnight Madness tonight, and to the Scotia to get in line far too early for Womb.

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