Today I’ll just go in the order I saw them because I want to talk about Rampart first. And be sure to check our coverage of TIFF days 1-4, Tiff day 5 and Tiff day 6 of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Rampart – This is the best cop movie since Training Day and a cop drama on par with The Shield. Woody Harrelson plays notorious Rampart cop whose nickname is Date Rape Dave, and it’s a good thing. He allegedly (but really did) murder a known rapist but they could never prove it. Dave has values and even when he’s controversial, he’s so smart and diplomatic about it the administration can’t just make him go away. It’s a powerful character piece. The smile Harrelson does is something I’ve never seen in any of his performances before. It’s a powerful reveal of the character in tough times and confident times. The film addresses the politics of post-Rampart police work. Some of the harsh real world realities of the street beat are under liberal scrutiny now. It’s fascinating to watch a smart character make decisions. The script reveals its characters without explaining overtly. Some conversations are actually things the characters can’t admit on the record, some are just classy, elegant banter. The sexual relationships are so messed up but seem sincerely loving. Oren Moverman is two for two. He really captures the essence of drama, where you can make all the right decisions and it’s still not the solution to the problem.
Dark Girls – From director Bill Duke comes an engaging documentary about colorism. I actually didn’t know that within the African-American community, there were biases against darker pigments. Duke and co-director D. Channsin Berry interview women who share their stories, men who weigh in on their preferences and experts both cultural and psychological. It comes down to pretty universal concepts. Parents need to teach their kids good values, so that girls grow up with self-esteem and boys grow up to appreciate them. This can be the beginning of that process for the next generation. At barely an hour long, the film says everything it needs to and it includes many human moments from the interview subjects, so it’s not all stuffy talking heads. For what it’s worth, I would do just about every lady interviewed in this film, so I’m helping the cause.
Lovely Molly – The latest film by Eduardo Sanchez is at least slightly better than The Blair Witch Project, in that it’s not one of the worst movies ever made. So that’s an improvement. Actually, Lovely Molly is quite good. It’s got tons of creepy moments, way scarier than a bundle of sticks and a pile of rocks. Much better cinematography too.
The film still intersperses video camera footage but it’s essentially a narrative film. She actually does put the camera down when scary stuff starts to happen, but of course it’s placed artistically. There’s a really sympathetic performance from newcomer Gretchen Lodge as Molly, a newlywed going through a drug relapse, mental breakdown and a possible possession. The many nude and sex scenes are classy and still revealing. Even the darkest moments have a certain beauty to them. The dialogue is sharp too, dealing with mature themes like the economy, addiction, spirituality and grown-up sex.