TIFF 2017: Kings

The Toronto International Film Festival is mostly about cinema (obviously). But TIFF isn’t only about films. There are parties to attend, stars to spot on the street, and brand activations everywhere. It’s high time for all aspects of TIFF to get the same critical attention as the films.

Welcome to FASHION Reviews Everything TIFF-related. While this might not be an entirely comprehensive appraisal—it’s as impossible to be at every party as it is to see every film— if we attend anything linked to the Toronto International Film Festival in anyway, we’ll review it here.

Kings, the second film by Oscar-nominated Turkish-by-way-of-France director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, which tracks the fate of a family (of sorts) at the start of the L.A. Riots, is the perfect festival film. That doesn’t mean it’s a good movie. But watching it is what TIFF is all about.

Kings is kind of a fiasco: it’s too ambitious, too pregnant with potential to be considered a mere failure. That’s why it’s the perfect TIFF movie, although it certainly won’t win the coveted audience choice award (which has become a pretty impressive predictor of future Oscar nominations). Those movies are usually held up as examples of TIFF’s clout and success—think Argo, The King’s Speech, 12 Years of Slave, etc—but Kings is different.

Like those big budget successes, Kings has A-list actors (Halle Berry and Daniel Craig) and a director with an impressive pedigree. It tackles—or attempts to tackle—a thorny, historical moment (the racial tension that erupted in Los Angeles after the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King). And it bravely rejects cinematic clichés—in this case things like character development, motivation, and plausibility. That it combines all these things, and misses the mark so gallantly, is why it’s the perfect TIFF movie. Because, really, when else do you get to see fiascos like this?

Very quickly, here is the plot: Halle Berry is a foster mother in South Central L.A. She cares for seven or eight children of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds. Which of the children are hers? No clue. How does she support all these children? By baking cakes, but also she doesn’t, since at one point the children shop lift groceries in order to eat. Her neighbour, played by Craig, is maybe a drunk, or maybe crazy, or maybe a writer (probably all three). In the course of the first night of the riots, Berry’s various children are variously endangered, and Craig—suddenly a romantic lead and parental partner—helps her manage.

Also, there is a sexy dream sequence, heavy handed cross fades, and an view of Los Angeles from above that drives home the point that the city is basically a war zone.

Not everything is bad, of course. There are moments of humour and pathos, and an undeniable empathy. The good is just overwhelmed by the messiness. But maybe that’s the point—a metaphor for that time period. And if so, that’s perfect. Messy metaphors are what make fiascos so entertaining and infuriating.

TL;DR
— Halle Berry and Daniel Craig were both in Bond movies. Maybe that’s why they fall in love in this one…no other reason really presents itself.
— Ambition doesn’t guarantee success
— Look, it’s not a great movie, okay?

Rating: 🍔 🍔

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