TIFF23 Day 3: Dumb Money vs. American Fiction: Two Festival Highlights
An excited press corp started TIFF23 day three very early for Craig Gillespie’s “Dumb Money.” Opening at the end of September in theaters nationwide, the director of “I Tonya” and “Lard and the Real Girl” delivers the true story about Keith Gill (Paul Dano) and the Game Stop story that shocked Wall Street. Told in full “Big Short” style, it’s entertaining but with a lot of information to take in. Also in the cast are Seth Rogan, Shailene Woodley, and Pete Davidson.
Each time a character appears, we also see their net worth, which changes throughout the film. Like “Big Short,” a variety of everyday people are included in the story to illustrate how the financial phenomenon affected nurses (America Ferrera) or retail employees (Anthony Ramos). Full of energy, “Dumb Money” is a showcase for Dano’s evolving talent, who continues to prove there are no limits to the performances he can deliver.
One of the world premieres included first-time director Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction,” starring Jeffrey Wright. Funnier than “Dumb Money,” “American Fiction” is a dripping-wet satire of the modern Black experience in America. This oddball comedy, written with precision, allows Wright not only the chance to showcase leading actor talent but may also make him a contender for best actor in comedy categories.
Easily the funniest and most entertaining film of TIFF23 yet, this crowd-pleaser creatively skates around uncomfortable topics, never giving the audience exactly what they expect. Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz, Sterling K. Brown, and Issa Rae also star.
Vulgarity has never been as funny as in the “Wicked Little Letters,” reuniting Oscar winner Olivia Colman and Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley from “The Lost Daughter.” This very British comedy is somewhat of a true story about two neighbors who can’t get along because of their differences. The honorable and very religious Edith Swan (Colman) is receiving letters containing filthy language. She accuses the fowl mouth, unmarried and untamed, single mother Rose Gooding (Buckley), who lives next door.
When you thought you’d seen everything from Colman, she surprises again. While more than just a comedy of errors, “Wicked Little Letters” MVP is Anjana Vasan, the small town’s first female police officer who keeps the story moving to its conclusion, had a packed TIFF23 audience roaring with laughter. Also, Golden Globes bait, director Thea Sharrock (“Me Before You”) delivers a very accessible little film that balances essential subject matter with lots of entertainment.
No laughing matter, the sophomore feature from actor turned director Viggo Mortensen finds the actor in another western. The Frontier West from a woman’s eyes, played exquisitely by Vicky Krieps. “The Dead Don’t Hurt” lacks urgency and enthusiasm. Its slow pace eats at much of what Mortensen is trying to portray. The nonlinear and uneven narrative feels like a long-winded grandfather who can’t collect his thoughts to finish a story. The editing is no help here as we hit one cliché after another with genre tropes.
The film’s score, cinematography, and overall design won’t give you much to discuss. As the entitled, spoiled rotten villain, Solly McLeod is one of the film’s more energetic characters. His performance provides the audience with at least some reason to stick around for the very predictable comeuppance. The somber flick rides off into a quiet, unsatisfactory sunset.