TIFF ’14 – Day 4: Uncomfortably Numb

Simon Pegg has a cold one.
Hector and the Search for Happiness: Simon Pegg has a cold one.

On Saturday night I attended the premiere of Roger Waters The Wall, a concert movie with the latest iteration of the musical masterpiece (less Pink, more war). Besides dozens of Waters’ fans , a small but loud group of Israel supporters  stood at the opposite side of the street and complained about the presence of the musician at TIFF (their signs were somewhat clever: “Hey, Waters, leave those Yids alone”). The former leader of Pink Floyd -a renown pacifist- previously condemned the bombing of Gaza, and the lyrics of “In the Flesh” have rubbed a portion of the Jewish population the wrong way for a while now. All of us going into the theatre were shamed for attending the show. Waters shrugged off the situation. He said he wasn’t going to start apologizing now. He turned 71 that night.

My Sunday wasn’t nearly as eventful. Not movie-wise at least.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (United Kingdom, 2014): Simon Pegg’s efforts to succeed outside the Edgar Wright canon and the Mission: Impossible saga continue. As the title character in Hector and the Search of Happiness, Pegg is a therapist with a serious case of ennui. How can he provide any relief to his patients if he is deeply unhappy himself? (this, despite being rich and dating the lovely Rosamund Pike). In an effort to escape his funk, Hector sets up to go around the world, discover what makes people happy and apply the proper corrections to his life.

As likeable as this male-equivalent to Eat Pray Love is, Hector has its fair share of problems. The protagonist’s observations are between obvious and inane. That would be forgivable next to the questionable portrait of the African continent. An army of cliches and absolute lack of subtlety make an entire segment of the movie hard to palate, a faux pas that reverberates for the rest of the film. It would have helped to identify the country Hector is visiting and not just identify it as “Africa”. Two prairie dogs way into self-help movies.

It Follows (USA, 2014): Just when you think there is nothing new under the darkness, the horror genre delivers a surprise free of zombies, vampires and cutlery-wielding serial killers. It Follows is an STD allegory that also applies to the lingering effects of sexual assault trauma. Jay (Maika Monroe, Short Term 12) is a comely 18 year-old who becomes stuck with a sexually transmitted haunting. The ghost in question is a relentless force that can adopt any shape and it’s out to get her. The only thing going for her is speed (the spirit moves slowly) and the possibility of passing the disease along, and it may not be enough to get rid of the spook.

The compelling premise is executed deftly. It even lands the ending which is where most of this clever flicks fail. While sex is a major element in the film, the teenagers featured in It Follows are fairly normal, adding another layer of realism to the proceedings. It Follows has distribution locked up for Canada, so get ready. Four prairie dogs keeping their distance.

It occurred to me that…

…Kevin Smith can only make one kind of movie: The talkie, low-budget comedy. His new foray in horror, Tusk, is clever in theory (man is turned into a walrus), but the execution is undisciplined and the make-up (the movie’s lynchpin), not up to par.

…Director Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Happy-Go-Lucky) is a very matter-of-fact filmmaker. He is also very relaxed. I said “Mr. Leigh…” and he corrected me immediately: “Call me Mike.”


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Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.