The city of Toronto receives a serious jolt of energy each September, as the film world, and we do mean world, arrives to celebrate its art, to conduct its business, and to enjoy the Canadian approach to celebrity, which is welcoming, a bit laid back, and appreciative. Almost 400 films are shown, and a veritable who’s who of talent is in town for at least a day or two each.
The world premiere of Freeheld, starring Ellen Page, Julianne Moore, Michael Shannon, and Steve Carell, is a great example. Page, Moore, and Shannon arrived on the red carpet at Ivan Reitman’s restaurant, Montecito, for a party hosted by Vanity Fair, Hugo Boss, and Jaeger-LeCoultre, and sipped soda water while meeting and greeting. Reitman was briefly in attendance to say hello, pictures of his younger self bedecking the walls of the restaurant, many of them cast photos from his films: Meatballs; Stripe; Ghostbusters.
Ruby Rose, a sensation in her own right as the emerging star of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, was there to show support for Page, her “best friend in the world”. After nearly a solid hour of socializing, it was on to Roy Thomson Hall, where the premiere unfolded. Based on a true story, it is a both tragic and uplifting tale (they handed out small packs of Kleenex upon admittance to the theatre) of a somewhat older police detecitve and her life partner, played respectively by Moore and Page. Great performances abound. The family upon whose story the film is based was in attendance, and the stars were seated next to them in the upper loges of the theatre. It was a rousing end to the evening, when they took a bow.
In some ways, this is what the Toronto International Film Festival is all about: great films and in-person talent, including writers, directors, producers, and, of course, stars. The real bonus is that the films themselves are what take centre stage.