It feels like we're living in a Chastainaissance with Jessica Chastain's presence being felt throughout the festival, her face on all marquees and billboards. Starring in two films, plus having a new mini-series debuting on HBO this week, her moment has arrived.

Her latest film, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” finally made its debut to rapturous enthusiasm, cementing her as an early Oscar favorite.

The film, of course, chronicles the rise and fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, played by Andrew Garfield and Chastain. Even for those who think they know the story, Director Michael Showalter (“The Big Sick”) and producer Chastain wade through the absurd and scandalous to reveal just how unhinged this couple became.

The film, which opens Friday, contains some of the most impressive hair and makeup artistry you will find within any film this year.

The Bakker story would sound like fiction to those uninformed about how everything unraveled in real time on "The Praise The Lord Club," one of the most watched networks in the late 80s. Equal parts ridiculous and at times moving, the filmmakers present a different side of Tammy Faye that will be up to the audience to embrace or reject.

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye" will release in theaters Friday.

CANADIAN TALENT EMERGING

From colorful and vivacious to the feature debut of Director Bretten Hannam, exploring Mi’kmaq (First Nations people, indigenous to the areas of Canada) culture in the coming of age story “Wildhood."

This is the type of hidden gem that the Toronto International Film Festival gets praise for finding and shedding light on. While it’s easy to get caught up with the big titles and stars of the festival, “Wildhood” is an example of giving emerging, diverse, filmmaking talent a chance to be seen.

The story follows a rebellious teenager named Link (Phillip Lewitski) struggling with his sexuality and protecting his little brother from an abusive father. They run away from their trailer park ilk to find a mother who abandoned them.

Their journey leads them on back roads and into the path of Mi’kmaq teen Pasmay (Joshua Odjick), rejected by his religious family. The three boys find people along their route who knew Link’s mom and hitchhike their way toward clues of her whereabouts.

Hannam’s coming of age story stands firmly on original ground, rich in culture and its exploration of sexuality. It’s equal parts tender, brash, raucous and sensual. It’s an ironically beautiful film that follows teenagers through mud, wilderness and depravity.

Film Boutique purchased "Wildwood," which doesn't have a pending release date yet.

BEST PICTURE FOR BELFAST?

Something else to know, the press screenings are called P&I screenings (press and industry), they're no fan-fare screenings and are usually held earlier in the morning.

The public screenings to more popular films are usually in the evenings at larger one-screen venues. With that being said, most press don’t give audible responses during a film, nor do they applaud at credits like in public screenings where the filmmakers are typically present.

There are rare times, however, when a film is so powerful, even the cold-hearted film critics can’t hold back their applause. This occurred a few years ago with “Green Book," and it happened again Sunday at “Belfast."

Director Kenneth Branagh’s latest is an homage to his heritage, his family and country. While the film starts with striking color images of modern day Belfast, it leaps over a wall taking us back to 1969 in black and white.

We follow young Buddy (Jude Hill) whose carefree childhood is being interrupted by the civil war in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants. Buddy’s parents (Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan) are indifferent to the religious argument — everyone is accepted in their household — but they begin to realize the city they love is no longer safe for their children.

Ciarán Hinds, Buddy’s grandfather Pop, after decades of playing villains, mobsters and supporting roles, steals the film with a moving performance that might land his first Oscar nomination. Dornan and Balfe also are wonderful in their roles as parents struggling to make right decisions. Judi Dench as Granny also is the perfect touch. The script is full of innocent sarcasm and charming spirit that keeps a smile on your face nearly the entire picture.

Branagh uses classic Hollywood cinema as a moral detector for Buddy, a child who loves film at an early age, and steals the audience's heart from scene one. More so than the editing, its the film's good timing that keeps it humming along. While the film is quite good overall, it has an ending that’s beautifully executed, a message of acceptance and tolerance.

Focus Features will release “Belfast” in theaters Friday, Nov 12.

FINAL FIGHT

The final in-person screening of TIFF 2021 also uses black and white to tell the past and color for the present.

“The Survivor” is the true story of Harry Haft (Ben Foster) who became an established boxer in America after surviving the concentration camps. Once nicknamed the Pride of Poland, Haft’s nightmares of his past prevent him from becoming a champion.

An impressive cast including Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard and John Leguizamo, with Billy Magnussen as the deceptive Nazi who teaches him how to fight, and the delightful Danny DeVito.

Director Barry Levinson can sometimes get overly sentimental in his films, and “The Survivor” flirts with that notion here and there. It’s very successful in scenes of American characters trying to comprehend what survivors like Haft experienced.

Foster (“Hell or High Water," “3:10 to Yuma”) who's usually brilliantly typecast as the psychotic villain, harnesses that energy into the bitter and violent Haft.

The running time is long winded. Subplots and scenes could be shortened to strengthen the narrative. “The Survivor” flirts with originality in the boxing/sports genre, but as a Holocaust film, Levinson struggles to overcome some of the tropes.

“The Survivor” has no U.S. distributor.

Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. Visit texasartfilm.com.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Real Names required. No pseudonyms or partial names allowed. Stand behind what you post.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.