In the ninth part of our TIFF 2012 preview, Andrew Parker takes a look at Spring Breakers, Imogene, and The ABCs of Death. Follow all of our TIFF 2012 coverage at criticizethis.ca/tiff.
Spring Breakers * Criticize This! TIFF Pick *
Director: Harmony Korine
Oddball provocateur Harmony Korine hasn’t lost any of his trademark weirdness with his most mainstream film to date, but he has upped his game both as a story teller and as a visual stylist. Filled with a shocking amount of heart and wit within its wall to wall T&A sleaze and with a surprising amount of heart and sincerity, it’s a film no one knew Korine had in him.
Skewering indie movie conventions and MTV reality show culture, the film follows four university aged best friends (all played by former kid show starlets, including Selena Gomez) as they travel to St. Petersburg, Florida for spring break after three of them pull off a heist to make it down there in the first place. After one of their many out of control nights lands them in prison, they get bailed out by a skeezy drug lord-slash-rapper (James Franco, with grills and cornrows) that’s taken a creepy shine to them.
The cast gets the joke and is game for even the most bizarre sequences of depravity and debauchery, but they also play everything perfectly serious. That makes the film alternately funnier (although it’s never meant to be “fall out of your seat” funny) and a lot more serious when about halfway through the gang begins to splinter. Korine still knows how to shock and awe, but now he’s also learned how to entertain.
Rating: **** (out of five stars)
Friday, September 14 at 9 p.m. at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Directors: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman
While Imogene star Kristen Wiig finds a decent showcase for her comedic abilities in almost everything she does, as a film Imogene is a bit of a mess. It’s a subdued and unconvincing mish-mash of indie quirk that feels slapped together rather than confidently assembled. It has moments of belly laughs, but they’re few and far between as the film grows almost insufferable as it goes on.
After faking a suicide attempt to get back at a former lover, Wiig’s titular NYC playwright is sent back to live with her loopy gambling addict mother (an underused Annette Benning), her sheltered crustacean loving brother, mom’s “CIA agent” boyfriend (a great, and again underused Matt Dillon), and the lodger currently rents out her old bedroom (Darren Criss).
Wiig and company try to get something working, but with pacing so slack it feels like entire important scenes are missing and a thoroughly unbelievable premise, Imogene never catches on. Also, the filmmakers’ desire to cram as much outlandish quirk into a single film is beyond annoying. There’s no point to have running gags about a human sized hermit crab shell or CIA snoops other than to have them pay off late in the film, but they’re so stupid that it’s hard to care what happens to them. I supposed it also doesn’t help that there isn’t a single likable or relatable character in the film, which might have worked in a film that was actually funny or satisfying.
Rating: ** (out of five stars)
Sunday, September 16 at 11:30 a.m. at the Ryerson Theatre
The ABCs of Death * Criticize This! TIFF Pick *
Directed by: Various
Featuring a very high ratio of hits to misses, this horror movie anthology has a simple premise behind it: 26 horror and suspense directors from around the world each get a letter of the alphabet and have to find something starting with that letter to kill someone with. Sure, not all of them are excellent and two of them leave a lot to be desired, but for a collection of this scope, going 24 for 26 overall is pretty astounding.
We’ve been asked not to leak who directs what exactly, nor would we dream of it since each director had total creative control over what they made. The real joy here is how one never knows what they are going to get. Some shorts are funny and some sad. Some are gory or sexual and others are low key or abstract. Some are entertaining and silly, while others are political or designed to offend. It’s a grab bag of fun where even if you don’t like something, another story will be along in roughly 5 minutes or possibly less.
Letters to watch out for: A, D, K, Q, R, V, W, X, Y
Rating: **** (out of five stars)
Friday, September 14 at 11:59 p.m. at the Ryerson Theatre
Saturday, September 15 at 3:15 p.m. at the Scotiabank
Sunday, September 16 at 9 p.m. at the Scotiabank
TIFF 2012 runs from September 6 – 16. For more information, visit tiff.net.
Top image: A scene from Spring Breakers. Courtesy TIFF.