Hey, the hard-working film journalist has gotta play, too. Unlike some colleagues who disdain parties, with their trans fatty nibbles, I actively seek them out -- provided the party starts before 11 P.M. when I'd rather be flossing. After the day's quota of 4 or 5 films I need to knock back the chardonnay and talk to real people, else I start chatting up the mannequins in Renfrew's. Since leaving New York I've been lobbying for an invite to the exclusive Sony Pictures Classics Party. But I'm not proud about accepting invites from all the C-list events clamoring for my attendance.
So the other evening found me cabbing it down one of Toronto's meaner streets to a rather grungy reception behind an Irish pub. The hors d'oeuvres might have been haggis on toast and I didn't even know what film was being feted, but what the hell, it was mellow late summer in Toronto and there was a terrace out back and a cool band with electric keyboard and a vocalist in black leather mini.
The previous evening found me at an event in trendy Yorkville -- sort of Toronto's answer to South of 14th Street -- at a party for "The Vintner's Luck" by Niki Caro. I trotted out my very decent French to chat with its stars Jeremie Renier (the kid from "La Promesse" all grown up) and gorgeous Gaspar Ulliel of "A Very Long Engagement." One delightful guy turned out to be the husband of film's female star Vera Farmiga, who is even more beautiful in person than on screen, and radiant from recent motherhood. We all, we discovered, like to hike the Shawangunks.
I asked Farmiga how she'd dealt with an implausible plot twist for her character in "Up in the Air" (I won't reveal it, but trust me, you'll spot it) -- a plot twist that only a male director would have let by. Farmiga answered at length but I couldn't hear what she said. Evening highlight was a mini-concert by New Zealand's Topp Sisters, lesbian identical twins and world renowned yodellers who are also featured in a bio pic here.
Social low point to date: the bash for the Abu Dhabi Film Commission on the roof of the Hyatt Regency, which offers a grand view of the CN tower, 2nd tallest building in the world. It was 8 P.M., I hadn't eaten since breakfast, and an exotic evening was promised. Getting off the elevator I literally fell into some major cleavage. Wonder if the publicists contract with a special hot bod agency to populate their shindigs, nothing but a Ten need apply. None of the suave types at the party showed an inclination to talk to me. Now, this is precisely what people fear at parties. Undeterred, I focused on a bank of monitors featuring Abu Dhabi camels and what looked like outtakes from "Lawrence of Arabia." Various perfumes were displayed on crystal kiosks. I pinched a bottle for my daughter (the bottle said CK Free, which was either the perfume's name or free swag).
Then I posted myself near the kitchen and when the chow came out, lunged. The food was first rate and never stopped coming. "I see you have a hand free," said one server, handing me soup in a shot glass as I scarfed a mini burger. The Canadians are rarely sarcastic, so this was refreshing.
Finally, the publicist, hearing the words Huffington Post, introduced me to the head of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission. I asked him what kinds of films would be showing at the upcoming Abu Dhabi fest (now headed by Peter Scarlet, formerly of Tribeca). He replied he didn't know. Also on hand was the top gun His Excellency, but the publicist said she hesitated to introduce me on account of protocol, what kind I'm not sure. So I introduced myself. Whatever the protocol, I think I blew it and hope I don't have a fatwa on my head.
Finally spotted an American film person, but he pretended not to recognize me. I've noticed that the Canadians are on a different wavelength than some American journos: they'll talk to you even when the advantage for them is not hugely and immediately evident. I think that the magical disappearing act of so much print media stateside has altered behaviour for the worse, and many of us turn territorial and guard our outlets like country dogs.
As for movies, a stereotype has emerged across several films in the festival: the self-pitying, sell-destructing male in full late-life crisis. Such is the unattractive hero of "Solitary Man, "directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien and starring Michael Douglas. A former hotshot car dealer rich enough to have his alma mater's library named for him, the Douglas character is a womanizer with heart trouble. Especially ominous is the fact that he refuses to pursue diagnostic tests. His gf Mary-Louise Parker makes the error of asking him to accompany her daughter up to college for her admissions interview. Borrowing from the playbook of other aging Lotharios, Douglas ends up in the same bed as the daughter, who is more than game.
Douglas's infraction boomerangs when the gf finds out, and through her rich dad's connections kills the job that would put Douglas back in clover. Though he's now broke and on the skids, neither the pleas of a devoted daughter nor his ex wife's willingness to take him in can keep the old goat from bedding women, including his daughter's friend.
Michael Douglas sure looks worse for the wear -- is Catherine, who grows younger looking by the year, wearing him out? But he still has that wonderful grainy voice we learned to love from Gordon Gekko. Spoiler alert: best moment is the film's reveal that Douglas has refused to be responsible and get a medical workup because he wants to live whatever life is left on his own terms. His compulsive shagging is meant to compensate for no longer being top dog. And heart meds, one could suppose, might crimp his ability to perform. At this point you kind of admire the guy's stance -- but the reveal comes too late to save the film.
P.S. I finally got my invite to the Sony Pictures Classics Dinner. But the dinner had taken place the night before.