TORONTO - Opening night at the international film festival rarely offers a dull moment, and Thursday's 42nd annual kick-off didn't disappoint, either.
From some ever-sophisticated introductory remarks by festival Director and CEO Piers Handling (who announced earlier this month that 2018 would be his last at the helm after nearly 25 years); to a moving onscreen tribute to Bill Marshall (the recently departed co-founder of an event originally called "The Festival of Festivals"), to another lavish gala party at the TIFF Lightbox, featuring fine food and some creative entertainment opportunities, everyone again managed to break a proverbial leg.
And, in the middle of it all, of course. came the main event: the very cool sports movie,
"Borg/McEnroe," which earned continuous and thunderous applause over the final credits.
Before the film, TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey introduced director Janus Metz, who in turn brought on stage his three prime players: Sverrir Gudnason (Bjorn Borg),
Shia LaBeouf (John McEnroe), and always-terrific Stellan Skarsgaard (as Borg's longtime tennis coach).
All three men are particularly on point in this fast-paced film, but Gunderson's almost spooky resemblance to the net superstar he portrays makes him the continuous scene-stealer. Certainly, the rebellious LaBeouf also does well in capturing the emotions of the spirited McEnroe, whose temperament is even more legendary than that of the actor playing him.
All in all, the Swedish production, which so far has no release date in the U.S., is an intensely engaging story of a rivalry, with special focus on the duo's dynamic performances at the 1980 Wimbledon finals.
Speaking of focus, the schedule for TIFF Day 2 (Friday) seems to pay unique attention to the number of celebrities bringing their movies to town.
Leading the way, perhaps, is the one and only Lady Gaga, whose NetFlix documentary, "Gaga: Five Foot Two," premieres tonight. Gaga also holds court for a festival press conference.
Among others in town:
Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman, and Julianna Margulies for "The Upside," the remake of the French hit, "The Intouchables"; director David Gordon Green, Jake Gyllenhaal and Miranda Richardson for "Stronger," based on the true story of a Boston Marathon bombing victim; Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Julianne Nicholson and Allison Janney for "I, Tonya," about disgraced skater Tonya Harding; co-writer/director Armando Iannucci, Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, and Andrea Riseborough for "The Death of Stalin," a Russian satire from the creator of the multi-Emmy-winning "Veep."
First-time director Greta Gerwig, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, and Lucas Hedges with "Lady Bird," Gerwig's semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age tale; Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland with "The Leisure Seeker," a road-trip film about an aging couple; and Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci for "The Children Act," featuring a high-court case about a teen refusing to receive a blood transfusion because of religious beliefs.
Naturally, I'll be here, too. with continuing reports from the festival, which runs through Sept. 17. Check back with us tomorrow.
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