Welcome to the Larry411.com Guest Columnists! April 27, 2013
In my travels to the best film festivals in…
On Friday, September 5, 2014 I attended the exciting World Premiere of Welcome to Me at the Toronto International Film Festival. The sold-out screening was held in the elegant 2000-seat Princess of Wales Theatre. The film was a selection in the Special Presentations section.
Director Shira Piven directs from a sharp-witted screenplay by Eliot Laurence, with an all-star cast featuring Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Wes Bentley, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, and Linda Cardellini. An accomplished award-winning stage director and actress, Piven appeared in producer Will Ferrell's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Step Brothers. Her debut feature, Fully Loaded, won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the 2011 Palm Beach International Film Festival. She followed that up in 2012 with The Beast and the Angel. Welcome to Me is her third directorial effort.
Legendary comedienne Kristen Wiig plays Alice Klieg in a classic twist on the "ordinary (wo)man in an extraordinary situation" narrative. In this case, she's more than just a bit extraordinary to begin with, and travels a path that can be lifesaving or deadly, depending on one's perspective and knowledge of mental health issues. To delve further into the plot here would reveal spoilers, which I try to avoid at any cost. So I'll just say that the film is a raucous comedy with frighteningly dark undertones, dealing with some very difficult subject matter that can be very controversial in the context of the film's humor. I'll leave it to you to decide if you want to be more aware of the details by looking up a basic synopsis.
In addition to 139 episodes of NBC's Saturday Night Live from 2005-2014, and over 40 films, Wiig has the distinction of having appeared in five of my festival favorites over the years. These include Meet Bill (Toronto 2007), Adventureland (Sundance 2009), Whip It (Toronto 2009), Paul (SXSW 2011), and Bridesmaids, which I saw as a work-in-progress print at SXSW in 2011. The rest of the lead actors' filmographies are similarly filled with award-winning modern classics.
Cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards worked alongside John J. Campbell and the late Harris Savides on many of Gus Van Sant's films, including Mala Noche, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho (for which he received an Independent Spirit Award nomination), Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, To Die For, and Elephant. He is also a favorite of Larry Clark, having shot Kids and Another Day in Paradise. Other notable credits include David O. Russell's Flirting with Disaster, James Mangold's Cop Land, Crossroads, How to Deal, The Break-Up, First Snow, Knocked Up, Love Happens, The Road (one of my TIFF 2009 Top 10), Couples Retreat, The Change-Up, Wanderlust, Lovelace (one of my Sundance 2013 faves), and Delivery Man.
The veteran creative team also included editors Josh Salzberg and Oscar-nominated Kevin Tent (for 2011's The Descendants). Tent has dozens of multimillion dollar blockbusters to his credit, but he's a star in my book if only for having edited Disconnect, one of my Top 8 from TIFF 2012 and Top 15 of the Year. The score was composed by David Robbins while Clayton Hartley, a favorite of producer Will Ferrell, served as Production Designer in a film whose sensory impact owes much to sets and art direction. Hartley's numerous credits include Hoosiers, Jerry Maguire, The Other Sister, Almost Famous, American Wedding, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Kicking & Screaming, Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, Semi-Pro, Stepbrothers, She's Out of My League, The Other Guys, We're the Millers, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Executive Producers were Margot Hand for Vancouver's Bron Studios and Robyn Wholley for Gary Sanchez Productions. Welcome to Me was produced by Aaron L. Gilbert for Bron Studios, Kristen Wiig, and Marina Grasic, along with Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell, and Piven's husband Adam McKay for Gary Sanchez Productions.
For a synopsis see the festival's official page.
Director Shira Piven was brought onstage to introduce the film by TIFF Senior Programmer Jane Schoettle, who selects many of the American indies featured here every year. Piven then invited Kristen Wiig and Linda Cardellini to address the audience. Piven returned for a hilarious post-screening Q&A, joined by (left to right in group photos) producers Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, Aaron L. Gilbert, screenwriter Eliot Laurence, and producer Jessica Elbaum, along with stars Linda Cardellini and Kristen Wiig.
Here are some pictures I shot during the intro and Q&A:
NOTE: D Films picked up Welcome to Me for Canadian distribution. United Talent Agency (UTA) and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME) are handling domestic sales and seeking a U.S. distribution deal.
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In my travels to the best film festivals in…