Rebecca Hall plays Christine Chubbuck, a Florida TV newscaster who shot herself in the head live on air in 1974. The film Christine looks at her state of mind in the weeks leading up to her death and the personal and professional problems that contributed to her breakdown. Chubbuck repeatedly rejected attempts by her doctor and mother to help, refusing medication and therapy, believing she could deal with it alone. The state of women working in news in that era was difficult; many were unwelcome in old boys’ clubs and she railed against it. Chubbuck couldn’t get the kinds of assignments she wanted and was stuck covering featurettes on local oddballs. She pestered the news director to give her a meaty story and when he finally agreed, she made a hash of it. She was a brilliant person judging from the film’s portrayal of her and had supportive friends, she just wasn’t sure of her own worth. She had also recently been rejected by the news anchor with whom she had gone on her first date. Christine is a dark, stifling and fascinating piece, beautifully made, humane and earnest, and never exploitative.
Ben Affleck is The Accountant, a math savant with autism that makes it difficult for him to interact normally. His military father raised him alone, teaching him and his brother martial arts and strategic thinking in order to survive an intolerant world. The Accountant as he comes to be known by federal and international law enforcement authorities has found a career in black money, “uncooking” the books of drug cartels and mobsters. He works out of a suburban strip mall, just a quiet, ordinary man seeking to improve the lives of his clients as he sustains a “normal” front. Meanwhile federal agents are on to him and his far reaching business dealings just as the latest company he’s working for, a robotics prosthetics company, asks him to find out why their money is disappearing. He has an enormous amount of inside information and the kind of brain that retains it all so he’s a major threat. The first two acts are solid, but as the multiple storylines intersect and cram together and the body count climbs, it falters.
Follow a vanload of itinerant teens selling magazines under a tough boss in American Honey, and you’ll be entertained and shocked. Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough plays the hardnosed leader and Shia LeBeouf is her enforcer, keeping the kids on course even as he goes way off course. They knock on doors and tell different stories to potential clients and are generally rejected. Sasha Lane plays the newest recruit who has escaped a difficult, dead end life for a fresh start and loves the gang’s unity and freedom. She emerges from her old shell and starts again. Warning, it’s heavy on drugs and alcohol use, sex scenes and it’s nearly three hours long. For anyone thinking this “youthquake” is unsettling and unfamiliar, remember that younger generations have always been like this!
Unless is a heart-wrenching story of a family in crisis, based on Carol Shields’ novel. It is set in “Orangetown” (shot in Orangeville) and the gritty streets of Bloor St West in Toronto during a bitterly cold winter. Suburban housewife Catherine Keener is devastated when her daughter, played by Hannah Gross, suddenly disappears. Days go by and she happens to drive across Bloor St. and sees her daughter sitting in front of Honest Ed’s under a blanket, holding a sign reading “Goodness”. She rushes to her but her daughter is completely mute, unable to communicate. The family is in shock but come to accept that they are powerless to bring her home. They sit with her on the street for weeks, simply being there and love bombing her. Paul Gross’ daughter does a superb job as a teen in crisis and Keener is at the top of her game. Unless is one of my favourite TIFF films this year and I advise you to see it, and take your tissues. You’ll cry for days.
Complete Unknown stars Rachel Weisz as just that. Her character has a radical lifestyle, reinventing herself as a different person, with a different profession and changing identities when she feels the current persona is “finished”. She becomes proficient in assumed careers – teacher, marine biologist, surgeon and pianist. When we meet her, she has assumed new identities nine times, moving around the world for years and presumed dead by those who knew her. But she suddenly appears at a dinner party hosted by her ex-husband (Michael Shannon) and his current wife. She confesses her story to the guests who are shaken and horrified. Strangely, her ex is intrigued and they leave together to try on personalities. A woman (Kathy Bates) falls on the street and hurts her ankle so they come to her rescue as orthopedic specialists. Later, Weisz’ character confesses she wrangled her way into her ex’ social circle to connect with someone who knew her when she was just one person. He tells her to stop and settle and she says “Stop and be who?” Its such an interesting concept, and so well-acted by Weisz and Shannon.
The National Geographic Channel presents the two hour movie Killing Reagan, on Sunday directed by Rod Lurie, whose films and TV shows, including The Contender, Deterrence, Nothing But the Truth and TV series Commander-in-Chief deal often deal with presidential politics. This special presentation movie concerns the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, a moment frozen in time for many of us, a shocking event carried out by a movie star obsessed John Hinckley who did it to impress Jodie Foster. The film looks at Hinckley, the troubled young man, who had previously attempted a hit on Jimmy Carter. Cynthia Nixon plays fierce mother lion Nany Reagan whose powerful personality and hold over her husband found her guiding his actions, policies, thinking, in short, his life and the life of the USA. This from a scrappy former Hollywood B-film star. Tim Matheson plays Reagan as we saw him on television, a warm and fuzzy, ditzy former A – list movie star. The film is highly entertaining, informative and brings the era vividly to life even as it reflects the political world today. On the National Geographic Channel Sunday Oct 16th, 8 EST.
If you’re still missing Downton Abbey, its creator Julian Followes has a treat in store. He presents the series Doctor Thorne set in the same upper crust world as Downton, in an earlier time. Anthony Trollope’s novel of the same name highlights the strict and severe limitations of living in Victorian England in which one had a “place”, a “class” from which one never dared deviate. Arranged and fortuitous marriages meant to shore up poor aristocrats, or class-jump, inheritance strictures to control others, and lots of behind-the-scenes whispers are the world of the Greshams and the Thornes. We have the drunken local rich man, a Knight of the Realm and his equally drunk, nasty son who will inherit it all, the sweet virginal young thing who doesn’t realise she could be an heiress, the kindly doctor who attempts to bridge the social order to make things better for all concerned, the domineering mother who steers her children to ensure her future comfort, well it’s all just another day in upper crust Somerset. The period details and bucolic settings are the stuff of dreams. Tom Hollander, Ian McShane and Alison Brie, as the blunt American, star. On Amazon Video Digital HD and DVD Oct. 17 and 18th.