In recent years, the purpose of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has been to un-officially kick off the awards campaigns for eventual Oscar winners like Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, and 12 Years a Slave. The same thing is happening again this year, with plenty of Oscar buzz being thrown the way of Reese Witherspoon in The Wild, Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, and Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. However, each one of those movies came into Toronto with distribution deals already in place and release dates long since announced, with Nightcrawler hitting theaters 10/31, Wild on 12/5, and the other 2 in early November.
Unlike those four, most movies don’t come to TIFF with such guarantees. These are the movies for whom exhibition in TIFF is not simply the start of a publicity campaign but instead the hopeful start of business negotiations with distributors which can help ensure that at some point down the road the movie will get a chance to be seen by the general public. Sometimes distributors overpay, sometimes the film ultimately fails to deliver at the box office (like Jason Bateman’s directorial debut Bad Words), and sometimes even after getting a deal a movie may take forever to come out (like TIFF 2013 entrant Horns).
It’s a bit of a crapshoot, to be sure, and this year gave us Nick Kroll taking a semi-dramatic turn, Chis “Captain America” Evans doing his best Before Midnight impression, Adam Sandler aiming for respectability again, a couple of biopics (one about Bobby Fisher, the other about Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys), a western starring TV’s Hannibal Lecter, a career-defining performance from Julianne Moore, and buzzy new films from Ben Stiller and Chris Rock. So, here are 10 of the biggest movies which went into TIFF 2014 with unsure futures and came out with distribution deals:
Star Power: Rose Byrne, Nick Kroll, Bobby Cannavale, Joel McHale, Bobby Moynihan, Jane Krakowski and Josh Charles. It’s the directorial debut of Ross Katz, an Oscar-winning producer.
Basic Plot: A young, narcissistic entrepreneur (Kroll) who crashes and burns on the eve of his company’s big launch. With his entire life in total disarray, he leaves Manhattan to move in with his estranged pregnant sister (Byrne), brother-in-law (Cannavale) and 3-year-old nephew in his suburban childhood home — only to become their nanny. And hilarity ensues?
The Buzz: “It’s not perfect, but as far as feature debuts go, there’s very little you can fault Adult Beginners for. Slightly pedantic and maudlin at times, with telegraphed metaphors and rushed pacing, it’s still hard to call any of these hiccups major flaws.” – IndieWire
Who Bought It?: The Weinstein Company/RADiUS. The buzz is that Radius is planning a theatrical release for second quarter 2015, though nothing is official yet.
Before We Go
Star Power: Chris Evans and Alice Eve in what is actually Evans’ directorial debut
Basic Plot: Over the course of one New York night, two strangers form an unlikely bond based on the conflicts in their own lives.
The Buzz: “Too evocative of other, much better movies like the BEFORE series or LOST IN TRANSLATION.” – JoBlo
Who Bought It?: The Weinstein Company/RADiUS; No official release date yet
Star Power: Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi
Basic Plot: A generational cobbler in New York who has taken over his father’s business discovers that when he uses his father’s old sewing machines he becomes the people whose shoes he is repairing. Magical-realism ensues!
The Buzz: “A movie like this, in which not a single scene comes together, in which almost nothing makes you laugh or cry or think, reminds you that it’s truly a miracle when movies work at all.” – GrantLand – Not a single positive review on RottenTomatoes yet
Who Bought It?: Image Entertainment, with the intention is to open it next year in a multi-platform release strategy ala Snowpiercer. No official release date yet.
The Last Five Years
Star Power: Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan, directed by Richard LaGravanese (Beautiful Creatures)
Basic Plot: Adapted from Jason Robert Brown’s off-Broadway musical about a Jewish man and his shiksa goddess girlfriend who recount the history of their relationship in reverse, her at the ending of it, him at the beginning of it
The Buzz: Mixed –
Positive Review | It’s easy to fall in love with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan in this heart-breaking musical two-hander, as they retrace a love affair from opposite ends.- Variety
Negative Review | “The Last Five Years” is the full blown musical that Kendrick seemed destined to make, but unfortunately it’s too much of a good thing, a film that’s ultimately for musical enthusiasts only.” – IndieWire
Who Bought It?: The Weinstein Company, who actually bought it right before Toronto and immediately announced a February 14, 2015 release date
Love & Mercy
Star Power: Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti and John Cusack, with a script by Oren Moverman who also wrote the bizarre Bob Dylan film I’m Not There
Basic Plot: The life of reclusive Beach Boys songwriter and musician Brian Wilson (Paul Dano in younger years, Cusack in older years), from his successes with highly-influential orchestral pop albums to his nervous breakdown and subsequent encounter with controversial therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Giamatti).
The Buzz: A mostly good music biopic that doesn’t always feel like a music biopic –
Positive Review | “Emerges as a weighty, fitting salute to Wilson’s restless creativity and a touching celebration of the love that would prove to be his salvation.” – ScreenInternational
Negative Review | “The result is a disorienting and disappointing experience that finds one thinking a bit too obsessively about how little Dano and Cusack look alike.” – MovieMezzanine
Who Bought It?: Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions; Currently scheduled to come out in Australia and New Zealand the day after Christmas. No U.S. release date yet.
Star Power: Tobey Maguire, Live Schreiber, and Peter Sarsgaard, with a script from Steven Knight (Hundred Food-Journey, Eastern Promises) and directed by Ed Zwick (Glory, Legends of the Fall, That Last Samurai, Love & Other Drugs).
Basic Plot: Tobey Maguire stars as enigmatic U.S. champion Bobby Fischer, and Liev Schreiber as the Russian champion Boris Spassky whom Fischer challenged in an historic match that captured the world’s attention. The drama covers Fischer’s rise leading up to the historic match.
The Buzz: Fairly well-liked but not loved
Positive Review | “The gripping period film, rigorous in its reconstruction of the recent past, proves that the game of chess can be cinematic in well-edited doses, and that Tobey Maguire as Fischer can sustain a serious, albeit quirky drama.” – ScreenInternational
Negative Review | “Zwick’s film sets the stage for a brilliant intellectual showdown, then hides away its content, as if worried he’s going to scare us off with too much chess. He castles and fritters away his pieces, angling for a dull draw.” – DailyTelegraph
Who Bought It?: Bleecker Street; Several European release dates for early 2015, but no U.S. release date yet
Star Power: Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal!), Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eva Green, Jonathan Pryce
Basic Plot: Mikkelsen stars as a Danish settler in 19th century America who sets out to avenge his family only to then be betrayed by his fellow townspeople.
The Buzz: Somewhat lukewarm
Positive Review | “The Salvation is assembled of nothing but the most elemental components of the Western, which gives genre specialists a lot to recognize and analyze and newcomers something to enjoy for its own sake.” – HollywoodReporter
Mixed/Negative Review | “…a loving and in fact overly adulatory genre film which is not so much a take on the revenge Western as a deeply faithful recreation of it, at times so faithful as to veer dangerously close to pastiche.” – IndieWire
Who Bought It?: IFC Films acquired North American rights after Cannes, and Universal acquired the international rights at Toronto. No U.S. release date yet.
Star Power: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth.
Basic Plot: Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested.
The Buzz: You hear more about Julianne Moore’s performance than the actual film
Typical Review | “The toll the disease takes on the life of a brilliant linguistics professor is superbly detailed by Julianne Moore in a career-high performance, driving straight to the terror of the disease and its power to wipe out personal certainties and identity.” – HollywoodReporter
Who Bought It?: Sony Pictures Classics; No U.S. release date, but you’d expect it to come out sometime before the end of the year to be eligible for the Oscars as everyone swears Moore’s is now a shoe-in for a nomination
Star Power: Written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock with an all-star cast of Rosario Dawson, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Cedric The Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Michael Che, and Jay Pharoah. Beyond that, it has some heavy duty producers, including Scott Rudin, Jay Z, Kanye West, and Questlove.
Basic Plot: A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancé talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show.
The Buzz: There’s a good reason a bidding war broke out over this movie – it’s legitimately great, with not a single negative review on RottenTomatoes yet
Typical Review | “Top Five is a film broad and filthy enough for multiplex appeal, but also sufficiently arch to satisfy those who fancy themselves a little more sophisticated.” – Guardian
Others are calling this Chris Rock’s Annie Hall.
Who Bought It?: Paramount paid a whopping $12.5 million for the worldwide distribution rights, though they’ve yet to announce a release date
While We’re Young
Star Power: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Greenberg).
Basic Plot: An uptight documentary filmmaker and his wife find their lives loosened up a bit after befriending a free-spirited younger couple.
The Buzz: Possibly one of Baumbach’s best
Typical Review | “The most hilarious Woody Allen film in years is directed by Noah Baumbach, with Ben Stiller as basically an updated version of the idealistic documentary filmmaker the Woodman played in Crimes and Misdemeanors.” – HollywoodReporter
Who Bought It?: A24, although they may not have finalized the deal yet
What do you think? Which of these 10 sounds the most promising to you? Or, better yet, are there any movies on this list you know right away that you will/will not see? I’m personally most intrigued by Salvation, Last Five Years, and Adult Beginners. What about you? Let me know in the comments.
Source: News of all of the deals came from Deadline