Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

With George, Brad and Madge away, time for TIFF's young stars to play

Your Sister's Sister

The George/Brad/Madonna show had blown town, so Tuesday night's annual InStyle/Hollywood Foreign Press Association party at the Windsor Arms was all about the next generation. The place was wall-to-wall giant paper roses and waifish up-and-comers. Lily Cole, star of The Moth Diaries, Mary Harron's film about vampires at a girls' boarding school, set the physical standard – everywhere you looked it was long legs, enormous eyes and smooth cheeks no surgeon can deliver.

At the ripe age of 33, writer-director Jason Reitman was the vet in the room, the unofficial uncle to every emerging filmmaker who longs to follow the success he's had with Thank You for Smoking, Juno and Up in the Air, which all launched at the Toronto International Film Festival. This year he's here as a producer, on Jeff, Who Lives at Home (directed by brothers Mark and Jay Duplass), and every time I turned around some young filmmaker was bending his ear.

In one corner, three of the most luminously promising actresses of their generation – Abby Cornish, 29; Jessica Chastain, 30; and Anna Kendrick, 26 (already an Oscar nominee for Up in the Air) – chatted away. In another, the English actress Felicity Jones, 27, perched delicately on a banquette. She recently played Miranda to Helen Mirren's Prospera in Julie Taymor's The Tempest, and sitting next to her, I could almost hear her career shifting into its next gear.

Story continues below advertisement

Jones is the new face of Burberry, and has three films at TIFF: Hysteria, in which she plays the good daughter to Jonathan Pryce; Page Eight, where she's the troubled daughter of Bill Nighy; and Like Crazy, a love story with complications unique to her generation. She plays a London girl in a long-distance relationship with an L.A. boy (Anton Yelchin, who was also circumnavigating this party), who discovers that all the social media in the world pales next to old-fashioned physical connection. She and Yelchin, along with writer-director Drake Doremus, improvised all their dialogue, a trend in this generation. More on that in a minute.

In the middle of the room, the newly minted writer-director Dee Rees was telling her story – a familiar one at TIFF, but one that never grows old. She spent six years getting her film, Pariah, here – first as an intern on Spike Lee's Inside Man (2006), where she divided her time between "studying every move he made" and writing her own script; then by turning that script into an award-winning short; then finally expanding it into a feature at the Sundance Lab. Now she and her cast were here, basking in the limelight and eating the dish of the night, mashed potatoes with lobster.

Cast members from Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress were also wafting around like lovely reeds. Analeigh Tipton, who played Steve Carell's lovestruck babysitter in Crazy, Stupid, Love – and who is so new on the scene that the paparazzi outside were calling her "Ashley" – chatted about the differing interview styles of journalists at the Venice Film Festival versus TIFF. "In Venice, they all asked questions like, 'What are the existential implications of your actions?' " she said. "In Toronto, they all asked, 'What's it like to work with so many girls?' " She laughed. "Toronto is more fun."

Tipton's co-star, Greta Gerwig, 28, stood nearby. Her career is a model for her generation: She started out in the so-called Mumblecore movement with filmmakers like Lynn Shelton and the aforementioned Duplass brothers (who both have entries at this TIFF), where everyone used inexpensive digital cameras and shot in their living rooms while their friends-turned-actors improvised dialogue. (They hate the term Mumblecore, by the way.) Then she graduated to the still-indie-but-with-stars phase (she starred opposite Ben Stiller in Greenberg). And now she's in Hollywood films ( Arthur) and working for Woody Allen on his upcoming comedy The Bop Decameron.

Mark Duplass and Lynn Shelton are enjoying similar trajectories. See if you can follow me here, because they all work together, so it's wheels-within-wheels. Duplass has gone from making micro-budget indies to Cyrus, starring Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill; and now to Jeff, which stars Jason Segel and Susan Sarandon, and was produced by Reitman. Shelton, best known for the indie Humpday (starring Duplass) is here with Your Sister's Sister, starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Duplass again.

In a joint interview on Tuesday, Duplass and Shelton talked about this new style of filmmaking, a mash-up of Mumblecore (improvised dialogue, personal stories) and Hollywood (bigger stars and budgets). "We started with what I call a 'scriptment' – 70 pages, half script, half treatment," Shelton said. Then they developed their characters for eight months, mostly over the phone, and then shot with two cameras rolling so as not to miss any moments of truth. The style, they said, really speaks to their generation, who grew up with the faux intimacies of social media, but hunger for authenticity and connection.

Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin had less time to rehearse their characters for Like Crazy than Shelton's cast did. "We had a week, but we worked such long days it felt like two," Yelchin said. But they, too, relished the spontaneity and the truthful relationship with their characters that improvising provided. "Once you've done it, it's like you're in a cult," Jones said. "You want to do it again and again."

Story continues below advertisement

"Every movie I do, keeps getting better and better, and I keep working with more and more great people," Gerwig summed up. And then, sounding very young, she added, "But now I have to go home and go to sleep!"

By then it was midnight, and a couple of big guns had arrived: uber-mogul Harvey Weinstein, who produced the TIFF comedy Butter, and his star, Jennifer Garner (who's also a Reitman devotee; they made Juno together). At 39, Garner was a titch older than most of the talent here. But she had something they didn't – pregnant with her third child, she brought with her the next, next generation.

Report an error
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.