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TFF2014 – Mommy/Wild/Tales Of The Grim Sleeper

2014 September 2
by profwagstaff

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power
“Power” by Adrienne Rich


MOMMY (2014)

Directed by: Xavier Dolan
Written by: Xavier Dolan

Mental illness is on everyone’s minds these days. Ever since the death of Robin Williams, people have been talking about depression. That’s great. It’s an amazing thing and, truly, the ONLY good thing to come out of his suicide.

Mommy is about another kind of mental illness. In the film they call it ADHD…but it’s also something much more. Steve Depres (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) is HIGHLY disturbed. He lashes out. He screams profanities at his mother, Diane (Anne Dorval), whom he’s abnormally attached to. He does and says awful things, thinking they’re hilarious. And he can be very violent.

When Steve is released from the institute that he’s been incarcerated in, Diane has to take care of him, even though she’s economically and emotionally not ready for him. She loves him completely, but she just doesn’t know how to take care of a near criminally insane 15 year old.

Enter Kyla (Suzanne Clement), a former teacher who has a bundle of emotional issues herself. She stutters and doesn’t like to go outside. Her husband and daughter are pretty much completely detached from her. When she patches up an injury on Steve’s leg, the three people become tentative friends. Very tentative.

This isn’t your normal, everyday “Teacher Helps A Kid And Learns Something About Herself” movie. Not at all. Xavier Dolan is too smart for that. What he’s done instead is push three broken people together, broken them some more, put them back together a little bit and then…well…just see the movie.

Dolan has become somewhat of a enfant terrible at film festivals. At age 21, he won the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes with his first film, I Killed My Mother. He’s made four more films since then and, reportedly, they’re all amazing. (Honestly, I had never heard of him before I saw Mommy.) They’re all also about growing up in Canada. Most of them are about being gay or transgendered.

One of the people I saw the film with came out of the screening jumping up and down, calling the film “electric.” I wasn’t jumping up and down, but I can see where she was coming from. The performances were certainly electric. There’s not a bad one among the three principles who could all end up winning multiple awards this year.

There’s not a false note to be seen through the entire film, including the 1:1 aspect ration that most of the film is shot in. It really does make the viewer claustrophobic, just like the characters must be feeling when they feel stuck with each other. There’s also, at times, a horror aspect to it because you just don’t know what’s right around the corner. Not that there’s any horror in the film, but there’s still that tenseness felt throughout.

Mommy is a fucking amazing film. It’s one that I would not suggest to any of my friends who are struggling with their own illnesses, but maybe to any of their loved ones, if only so they can see that they honestly don’t have it so bad. Steve is far worse than anyone they have to deal with.


WILD (2014)

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee
Written by: Nick Hornby
Based on memoir by: Cheryl Strayed

Last year at Telluride, there was a movie called Tracks about a young woman who decided to search for herself by hiking the Australian Outback. The last year that I came out here before that, there was a movie called Into The Wild about a young man who decided to lose himself in the Alaska tundra. One movie ended well, the other didn’t.

Either way, there seems to be a theme: Young person leaves everything behind to be one with nature in order to figure out who they really are. And the stories are all true.

This year, we get Wild, the story of Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon). Cheryl left her home in Minneapolis after she and her husband (Michiel Husman) divorced. The two still love each other very much, but she just couldn’t keep her life together enough to have…well…anyone, really. She was a broken woman.

That’s when she decided to hike the entire 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. From Mexico to Canada. With hardly any training at all.

She was a little bit stupid, yes. She didn’t check any of her equipment before she left and didn’t really know what she was getting herself into. But, unlike Alexander Supertramp, she didn’t do anything that she knew could kill her.

Throughout the movie, we get glimpses into Cheryl’s life and why she felt the need to do this. I won’t say too much, but the reasons do involve her ex-husband and her beloved mother (Laura Dern).

I will admit that it seemed a bit long, but not so bad that it made too much of a difference. The only real complaint I heard from other people was Reese. They said that she was unbelievable in the role. I disagree. I think she was really good. It was perfect to choose such a “girl next door” type for this movie. Cheryl is a normal woman, not some tough chick. The things that she went through are things that anyone can go through. I went through them to a MUCH lesser degree when I took my three month trip around the US. I know other people who are going through similar (but, again, not as bad) things right now. Everyone goes through them to an extent. We all need to find ourselves. It’s good to see someone that we can sort of relate to going through it. (Not to mention that she kind of looks like Cheryl a little bit.)

The film took place in 1995 and it really showed how little has changed as far as how women are treated in the last 10 years. She gets picked up by a few frightening folks who she has every right to be scared of. Yeah, it turns out that most of them are benevolent, but it really shows things from a woman’s point of view. And when one of them may not be so benevolent…things get incredibly scary.

So, yeah. I really liked this movie a lot. More than I really thought I would. I haven’t seen any of director Jean-Marc Vallee’s other films (including Dallas Buyer’s Club), but I can see this one having a similar awards season, as far as acting is concerned. Possibly even writing.

Wild touched me in a way I wasn’t sure that it would. It was definitely worth seeing.


Directed by: Nick Broomfield

2010. South Central, LA. A man is arrested for murdering at least ten prostitutes. No one in the area believes that he did it. They all thought he was a stand-up guy. One of the good ones. A best friend of the community and someone who would give you the shirt off his back.

But the more filmmaker Nick Broomfield interviews Lonnie Franklin’s friends, the more he finds out that they think he MIGHT JUST have done it. Maybe he wasn’t such a great guy after all.

And how did he get away with it for over 20 years?

Really, THAT is the story here. The LAPD, according to just about everyone in the film, just doesn’t care. They actually feel like Franklin was doing them a favor by killing (possibly over 100) crack addicted hookers. Some of them even see him as a hero and he probably wouldn’t have been arrested if their hand hadn’t been forced.

How do we know they didn’t care? Broomfield was able to, with the help of one of Franklin’s ex-girlfriends, find some of the “missing” girls pretty easily.

South Central has been one of the hardest parts of LA for decades. You’ve heard of it. Rappers rap about it. Movies are made about it. It’s a rough place. Broomfield found a close-knit community that took care of its own, sometimes to its own detriment. If they had just looked at the behavior of Franklin, maybe they would have seen patterns and called someone. But they only saw a friend and neighbor.

Broomfield really brings out the love that some of these people have for each other, but he also shows the danger of the area. He and some of the folks who are helping him are in some pretty serious danger from someone throughout some of the filming. Enough to make it a frightening experience for him and his crew.

I went into Tales Of The Grim Sleeper thinking that I was going to see a Cropsey-like doc about a creepy serial killer. Instead, I saw a very real story of racism in one of the biggest cities in the US.

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