Daniel Radcliffe stars in The F Word. Photo courtesy of Tiff.net

TIFF Reviews: The F Word and Labor Day

In Arts & Life /

By Erica Gulliver

The F Word

Director: Michael Dowse

The F word. No, not that F word — though just as complicated. This F word refers to that dreaded type of relationship with no easy escape: the friend zone.

Michael Dowse (Goon, Fubar) directs Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) in this story of a complex friendship. Radcliffe plays Wallace, a quick-witted, nerdy underdog who meets Chantry (Kazan) at a friend’s party, where they bond over romantic poems made from magnetic fridge words. Chantry turns out to be equally quick-witted — to a point where you may begin to wonder if people can really be this witty all the time.

Nevertheless, the dialogue is clever and certainly reflects the story’s origins as a play (Toothpaste and Cigars) by Canadian playwright T.J. Dawe.

After Wallace and Chantry’s initial encounter, the film follows the usual rom-com story arc: the underdog searches for ways to reveal his feelings without ruining the friendship or getting punched by the girl’s boyfriend, who happens to be an equally good guy. Despite being slightly formulaic, the film succeeds with wit, charm and humour.

Not to be ignored is the impressive cast of young supporting actors, including Megan Park (TIFF Rising Star) and Adam Driver (HBO’s Girls).

The film also does a great job of unabashedly showing off the city of Toronto. The F Word does embrace some unnecessary animation gimmicks but, within the over all success of the film, its flaws can certainly be forgiven.

 

Labor Day

Director: Jason Reitman

Between his TIFF debut with Thank You for Smoking in 2005, his live reading of Paul Thomas Anderson’s porno-drama Boogie Nights this year, and his latest cinematic venture, Labor Day, Jason Reitman has become a Toronto International Film Festival favourite — and with good reason.

His newest movie centres on a reclusive mother (Kate Winslet) and her 13-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), who tries his best to make up for everything that’s lacking in his mother’s life — particularly love. Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped convict, stumbles into their lives bloody and bruised, and with little choice the family takes him in. They ultimately gain more than they ever expected as individual stories begin to unravel and lives begin to intertwine.

Reitman does a very good job of balancing the reality of the situation with the romanticized images each character holds of the others. Winslet seems to have mastered playing “ugly” characters beautifully, and Brolin, while in a role typical of him, certainly brings a sense of tenderness and surprise to convict Frank. James Van Der Beek makes an appearance as a local police officer and Tobey Maguire narrates.

Of particular note is the musical score, which does a fantastic job of building emotion and tension.

The film preaches the importance of simple moments and interactions in a person’s life and the lasting effects these moments can have on you and who you might become.

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