Welcome to the Larry411.com Guest Columnists! April 27, 2013
In my travels to the best film festivals in…
On Sunday, September 8, 2013 I attended the highly anticipated gala World Premiere of All the Wrong Reasons at the Toronto International Film Festival. The sold-out event was held at the Scotiabank Theatre. The film was a selection in the Discovery section.
All the Wrong Reasons is a little gem of a Canadian indie from writer/director/producer Gia Milani. Cory Monteith stars as James Ascher, a hard-working department store manager who's perhaps a bit too earnest for his own good. Wife Kate (Karine Vanasse) works in store security, confined to a back room by herself lest she come into physical contact with any of her co-workers. Intrigue surrounds her enigmatic phobias. Then there's Nicole (Emily Hampshire), a frazzled cashier struggling to raise a child on her own. Denis Theriault provides much of the movie's comic relief as chipper Radley Weil, who hopes to step into Ascher's shoes someday. Then there's film festival icon Kevin Zegers as an injured fireman trying to make his way back onto the force.
Milani has executive produced several television movies and short films, in addition to writing, directing, and editing. She won five awards at her native New Brunswick’s Silver Wave Film Festival in the span of four years (2006-2009) for her work alongside All the Wrong Reasons producer Tony Whalen. This is the first feature for both, and what an auspicious big screen debut it is.
This literate ensemble drama, sprinkled with real life humor, is destined to be a bittersweet experience for viewers. It's one of the late Cory Monteith's final two films (both debuted here at TIFF) and his legacy as a kind soul and generous actor, both on and off screen, is evident in All the Wrong Reasons right from his opening scene. He’s in charge, whether at work or home, and projects a “what you see is what you get” personality that’s incredibly endearing.
The movie boasts dynamic performances across the board. While the narrative primarily revolves around Monteith, nobody strikes a sour note here. Hampshire, like most of her country's acting counterparts, has dual careers in television and cinema. Notable features which crossed over into the US market include It's a Boy Girl Thing (which also starred Zegers), The Trotsky, Cosmopolis, and My Awkward Sexual Adventure. As Nicole, her vulnerability and fear of being hurt is palpable and painful to watch at times. Like most of the characters, we root for her to find strength and survive. Québecois Vanasse has an equally impressive résumé that spans both big and small screens in Canada. She presents a tough exterior that belies the pain beneath, which becomes apparent as the plot progresses. Theriault offers a sly smile and tension-breaking laugh whenever he’s onscreen.
Then there’s the familiar face of Kevin Zegers, who always turns in a stellar performance, as readers of this site know. He excels at playing the sweet young man with the soul of a child, and nails it here. He may hold the record for appearances at the Toronto International Film Festival -- he had six titles at TIFF in a four-year span (including five in two years). The acclaimed Transamerica played TIFF in 2005. In 2007, he had the World Premieres of The Jane Austen Book Club, Normal, and The Stone Angel in Toronto. Then, in 2008, The Narrows and Fifty Dead Men Walking debuted at TIFF. I attended the premieres of four out of those last five. I also saw The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll at the CMJ Film Festival in New York and attended the World Premieres of Frozen at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010 and Vampire at Sundance in 2011 (in which his character, interestingly, is also named Simon). Zegers has over 100 movies and television episodes to his credit and only just turned 29. Snagging him for this one was a bold choice and winning move.
Milani assembled a crack creative team including some of Canada's finest craftspeople. Cinematographer Stéphanie Anne Weber Biron is no stranger to readers of this site. She shot Blackbird, which made my Toronto International Film Festival Top 10 last year and was one of my Top 15 Films of 2012. Biron was also DP on two of Xavier Dolan's pictures, both of which debuted at TIFF and made my respective Top 10s from those years, I Killed My Mother (2009) and Heartbeats (2010).
Like much of Biron’s work, All the Wrong Reasons has a distinctly intimate indie look and feel with the use of soft natural lighting and patient handheld camera. Shot in widescreen format, her style creates an ideal milieu for a character-driven story which requires focus on the actors more than fancy visuals. The store's security camera monitors are a ubiquitous presence as well, adding a voyeuristic flavor to the piece. Editor Thorben Bieger has an extensive background in Canadian shorts and television including both a Gemini Award and Directors Guild of Canada Award on his shelf. He keeps a rock-steady pace throughout the film – like Biron, he trusts the actors and Milani’s attention to detail to bring the narrative to life. Similarly, Emmy-nominated composer Ari Posner (ABC Family’s Get Ed) has penned a sweet, sparse score that’s judicious in its gentle presence, never distracting or overpowering.
Like previous festival favorites Disconnect and The Air I Breathe, the movie has several parallel storylines that intersect on occasion but don’t need to merge to complete a whole. Each can stand on its own. There are some serious psychological messages here as well, but as a non-spoiler reviewer I'll let you discover them. If audiences stay with it they’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking third act that’s worth the wait.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t make note of Cory Monteith’s passing and its relation to the movie. This is an excellent motion picture in its own right, and it would be the wrong reason to seek it out solely as a curiosity piece in his honor. But if it gets people into the theater, well, I can’t speak for the filmmakers but it would certainly be a nice tribute to his memory, and fans won't be disappointed.
At two hours, All the Wrong Reasons is a slow burn that takes a bit of patience. But the delightfully nuanced script creeps up slowly, then reveals itself magnificently with an unparalleled level of honesty. The layers are peeled away and we, as viewers, take on just a bit of the discomfort felt by these wounded, fractured characters. The empathy is emotionally powerful. Maybe we all see ourselves in one, or more, of these damaged individuals. Few among us won't be able to identify with their attempts to cope with, and overcome, the barriers holding them back. In that we can, perhaps, have hope and find inspiration.
NOTE: See my photos of the World Premiere Q&A. I selected All the Wrong Reasons for my Toronto International Film Festival Top Picks. It went on to win the festival's juried Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award. Gia Milani and Tony Whalen produced for Shore Road Pictures, along with Whalen's Strong Arm Pictures and Buffalo Gal Pictures' Phyllis Laing and Monique Perro. It was executive produced by Emily Alden along with Kirk D'Amico of sales agent Myriad Pictures. Distribution has been secured for several territories, including Pacific Northwest in Canada. Myriad and Preferred Content are US sales agents and a distribution deal should be announced shortly.
The official trailer is posted below along with a video of the post-screening Q&A (which, of course, necessarily contains spoilers). I asked the first question. A set of stills follows underneath the videos.
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In my travels to the best film festivals in…