LA Film Fest 2011: Day 10 (Sunday)

And here we are, finally to the last day of the longest festival I’ve attended. Well, technically I was at LAFF last year, but not with a pass, and I didn’t go every day. It was a marathon, but it was totally worth it. I saw several films I loved, and there weren’t any I really disliked. I call that a good time. Only two films today, since I didn’t go to the closing night premiere of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – that required a separate pass that I didn’t bother to get, and besides, I think 25 films is sufficient.

First off, Love Crime, the final film of French director Alain Corneau, who died shortly after completing this film. He’s known for his crime thrillers, and this fits right into the mold. Kristin Scott Thomas is Christine, an ice-cold executive of an international firm who seems to be grooming up-and-coming exec Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier), partnering with her on various business deals and pitches to clients. They also have kind of a complicated personal relationship that Christine calls “love” – it certainly has a sexual aspect to it, though both women also date men…the same man, actually. Turns out Isabelle is potentially even better at her job than Christine, and soon they’re vying professionally and on cool terms personally. The crime plot that follows is twisty and will keep you guessing, even though you know exactly what happened – it’s Hitchcockian, really, in its ability to tell you who did it up front and still keep suspense very high. Both actresses are great; my only real complaint is that it’s shot very flat and uninterestingly (which is very unHitchcockian). Once the plot really got going it wasn’t an issue, but early on when relationships were still being set up, the bland photography and composition was a little distracting.

The last film of the day was one of the bigger name ones at the fest, with John C. Reilly anchoring coming-of-age, awkward high school story Terri as the unorthodox school principal who befriends the overweight, friendless title character. Terri himself is played by newcomer Jacob Wysocki, and he does quite well in the part, refusing to let Terri fall into either pity territory while also acknowledging his difficulty with interacting with others. There are some really great parts, like when Terri arrives at the edge of school property (he walks through the woods from his uncle’s cabin), then waits in the trees for the other students to pick up their bags from where they’d been hanging out on the soccer field and head into school before tossing his bag on the field and going to pick it up before going to school. That little gesture of wanting to do what the other kids do, but not wanting to be with them and risk ridicule was probably my favorite thing in the film. Other things didn’t fare quite so well with me. Reilly is great, as usual, and his relationship with Terri was different and fun, but some of Reilly’s more serious dialogue didn’t ring true to me at all. Some of the directions the story went with Terri, his weird “friend” Chad, and Heather (a girl Terri helped early in the film) didn’t feel right to me, and took me out of the film. A lot of the side characters seemed to be there only to add weirdness (exception made for Creed Barton, who is surprisingly good as Terri’s uncle struggling with dementia). Ultimately, there were a lot of individual elements I liked a lot, but just as many that put me off, and the whole film doesn’t come together or distinguish itself above the dozens of other coming-of-age-high-school movies. I ended up being more disappointed by it than most anything else at the festival. Maybe I’m starting to get over pseudo-indie posturing.

And that’s it. Ten days, twenty-five movies.