Forget Mayweather versus McGregor, today I had front row seats to Close versus Pryce in The Wife (world premiere at TIFF), a heavyweight acting battle that goes the full 12 rounds. On the surface a wonderfully happy autumn couple, Glenn Close plays the long-suffering but loving wife of a famous author (Jonathan Pryce) who’s just learnt he’s to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. She is his rock; she softens family arguments, picks food from his beard and makes sure he takes his pills on time. But on the trip to Sweden to conclude the ceremonies, cracks begin to appear in their relationship and heartbreaking truths emerge. Christian Slater oozes as the sycophantic and unwelcome biographer scratching around for dirt. A 45 Years within the literary world, it’s a powerful drama that showcases in particular Glenn Close’s luminous power as an actress - in a role that could see her in awards contention next February. I watched it saddened to think it might be too old fashioned to be heard in today’s noisy film market, but I was instantly put right by a 5-star review in The Guardian.
Since first seeing him, as we all did, in Doug Liman’s Swingers, Vince Vaughn has always been an actor you’d much rather have a beer with than cast in your film. That ends here. Lean(ish), muscular and shaven-headed, he’s almost unrecognisable and at his career-topping best in Brawl in Cell Block 99, a Grindhouse-infused cult delight that played Midnight Madness tonight. But ‘Brawl’ isn’t for everyone, so approach with caution. Hand on heart, it’s the most violent film I’ve ever seen. Gaspar Noé would blush, Tarantino would accept defeat, and Natural Born Killers would play on the BBC on Christmas morning. Despite being a patriot and a good old guy, Vaughn winds up in jail and falls under a murderous ultimatum issued to him by the Mexican Cartel, who have kidnapped his pregnant wife - he must ‘earn’ a transfer to a more dangerous prison to pull off a hit. Vaughn rolls his sleeves up to get the job done, and so the blood starts to flow, the bones crack and the skulls crunch. It's ridiculous, ballsy, outrageous, and quite a bit of fun if you leave your liberal principles in the cloakroom. Releasing in the UK this October at a late night drive-in near you.
A quick mention for Diane Kruger for her Cannes best actress-winning performance in In the Fade from Turkish/German director Fatih Akin (Head On, Edge of Heaven). The film enjoyed its North American premiere tonight with Ms Kruger in attendance, and will be released next year in the UK. The German language drama does rely heavily on Kruger, but it's one of the most authentically searing and truthful performances of the festival, as she plays a bereaved wife fighting for justice for the death of her family in a nail bomb attack.