17 films to see at TIFF 2017

(Photos: TIFF and Call me By Your Name/Facebook)
Forget the holidays -- for film lovers, stargazers and Oscar buffs, the Toronto International Film Festival is "the most wonderful time of the year." But, with more than 339 film or TV premieres to sift through in this year's lineup — and a free Lady Gaga concert in the mix! — it can be challenging to know what to see and when or where to even begin.
Thankfully, the 2017 TIFF roster also has us seeing double. Hollywood's finest are Canada-bound, often for two or more projects. As the classic Doublemint Gum commercial instructs us, when you "double your [Idris Elba, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Kate Mara or Ellen Page] flavour" you "double your fun!"
Expect to see a few running themes too, with two tennis-related movies on the list (the retelling of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs' Battle of the Sexes, starring Steve Carell and Emma Stone, and Borg vs. McEnroe, starring Shia LaBeouf), and musical provocateurs either getting personal through documentaries (Grace Jones, Lady Gaga), or by flexing their producer chops (Eminem for Bodied, Drake for the Vince Carter doc The Carter Effect).
Single tickets went on sale Sept. 4, and are also available for purchase throughout the fest. Come Sept. 7, there will be plenty to explore. The boldfaced names are most likely to attend the first screening of their films at the festival, where some lucky members of the audience can ask them a question about the project. But, don't be discouraged if a film you're interested in is "off-sale." TIFF routinely adds more screenings as the festival goes on, and if waiting in line for rush tickets is not your thing, more movie passes are often released at 7 a.m. each day.
Beyond Darren Aronofsky's secretive Rosemary's Baby-esque thriller mother! (starring Jennifer Lawrence), a charming dramedy about Queen Victoria's (Judi Dench) atypical friendship with one of her clerks in Victoria and Abdul, and the aforementioned Battle of the Sexes  —  all of which hit theatres this month  —  here are 17 TIFF films that should be on your radar.

The Upside

The sell: Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman star in a heartwarming Odd Couple-style buddy comedy about a quadriplegic millionaire (Cranston) and his caregiver... who happens to have a criminal record. Plus, it's a remake of 2011's The Intouchables, which earned over $365-million worldwide. Bridesmaids and Spy director Paul Feig also has a writing credit on the project, so you know that it'll tickle your funny bone. And with a release date set for next March, it could be a good way to get some early bragging rights. What's not to like?  

Stars attending: Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Bryan Cranston
When? Fri. Sept. 8 - 9:30 p.m., Sat. Sept. 9 - 12:15 p.m. 

Call Me By Your Name

The sell: A Sundance darling and controversial coming-of-age smash, Call Me By Your Name captures everything you remember about your first love. The colours, the passion, the butterflies, and the fear. But in this case, the "first love" happens to be between a precocious 17-year-old (Timothée Chalamet) and a hunky doctoral student (Armie Hammer), who has a professional bond with his dad. 

Stars attending: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg
When? Thurs. Sept. 7 - 7:15 p.m., Fri. Sept. 8 - 9:30 a.m. (Armie Hammer also participating in a "TIFF talk" about the movie on Fri. Sept. 8 at 3 p.m.)


The sell: Two of your favourite Rachels (Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams) star together in a story about forbidden love, and a crisis of faith. Weisz spent years producing and developing this project for the big screen. Here, Weisz takes Naomi Alderman's novel about a secular Jew who returns home to her orthodox Jewish community to an even bigger audience. Save for its basic premise and the hype surrounding its two stars, not much is known about Disobedience, which will have its world premiere at TIFF. With no release date scheduled outside of one in the U.K. next May, this could be the hidden gem you're looking for.

Stars attending: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola
When? Sun. Sept. 10 - 6 p.m., Mon. Sept. 11 - 12 p.m., Thurs. Sept. 14 - 9 p.m., Sat. Sept. 16 - 5:30 p.m.

I, Tonya

The sell: Harley Quinn? That's so 2016. 1994 is where it's at. Hollywood's most high-profile chameleon (and ingenue) Margot Robbie laces up her skates for what is sure to be a tragic and darkly comic look at what remains one of the biggest scandals in American sports history. What really happened between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? How was Tonya's ex Jeff Gillooly involved in Nancy's attack, which nearly kept her from the 1994 Winter Olympics? Craig Gillespie, the director of Lars and the Real Girl, is on the ice for this one... and yes, Sebastian Stan dons Gillooly's (famed?) moustache. This is not going to be your typical biopic.

Stars attending: Margot Robbie, Julianne Nicholson, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney
When? Fri. Sept. 8 - 9:30 p.m., Sat. Sept. 9 - 11:30 a.m., Sat. Sept. 16 - 6 p.m. 


The sell: Halle Berry can do more than just look for a lost child in films like Kidnap or The Call. In fact, she deserves her own franchise of those types of thrillers. But, the Oscar winner will tackle a whole new challenge in Kings. Here, she plays a foster mom who tries to keep her kids safe amidst the L.A. riots, following the acquittal of the police officers charged with beating Rodney King. By her side? Daniel Craig, who plays a neighbourhood recluse.

Stars attending: Halle Berry, Daniel Craig
When? Wed. Sept. 13 - 6:30 p.m., Thurs. Sept. 14 - 2:30 p.m., Sun. Sept. 17 - 12:30 p.m.

Molly's Game

The sell: Jessica Chastain + Idris Elba + Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut + the true story of an underground multi-millionaire Hollywood poker ring + Michael Cera maybe playing Tobey Maguire? Sounds like a "royal flush" to us. Oh, and it was shot in Toronto.

Stars attending: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Aaron Sorkin
When? Fri. Sept. 8 - 6 p.m., Sat. Sept. 9 - 11 a.m.

My Days of Mercy

The sell: A Tiny Detectives sequel! Real-life best friends Ellen Page and Kate Mara play two women who fall for each other in spite of being on opposite sides of justice. Ellen plays a court rat and frequent spectator at state executions, whereas Kate plays the daughter of somebody affected by a particular lethal injection case. It's a twisted take on a legal drama, and is produced by its two lead stars, making for a perfect way to wind down after a busy festival.

Stars attending: Ellen Page, Kate Mara, Amy Seimetz
When? Fri. Sept. 15 - 9:30 p.m., Sat. Sept. 16 - 3 p.m., Sun. Sept 17 - 9 a.m.

Film Stars Don't Die Liverpool

The sell: An Annette Bening movie is an all-caps cinematic event. She's a four-time Oscar nominee who has never won, but this film could be her ticket to a little gold statue. Annette plays Hollywood star Gloria Grahame in what the festival is dubbing an "ode to life after fame." In a piece of inspired casting, Jamie Bell plays her younger lover as the film chronicles her final years. This film's already getting a ton of attention, and was recently picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, which famously took Still Alice all the way from TIFF to Oscar for Julianne Moore (Bening's Kids Are All Right wife) for her first win in the 2014-2015 awards season.

Stars attending: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell
When? Tues. Sept. 12 - 9:30 p.m., Wed. Sept. 13 - 9:30 a.m.

Meditation Park

The sell:
Sandra Oh and Don McKellar together again! (And filmmaker Mina Shum and Sandra Oh, too). However, amidst these reunions, this multi-generational dark comedy shows the ripple effect adultery can have on a family at any age.

Stars attending: Don McKellar
When? Mon. Sept. 11 - 6:45 p.m., Wed. Sept. 13 - 9:30 p.m., Fri. Sept. 15 - 11:45 a.m.

The Disaster Artist

The sell: Imagine this: writer-director-producer-star James Franco assembles his closest famous friends (Seth Rogen, Nathan Fielder, Alison Brie, Kelly Oxford, Jason Mantzoukas), other famous faces (Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson, Ari Graynor) and his brother (Dave Franco) to appear in a film about the making of the cult classic The Room... where he portrays the elusive and mysterious writer-director-producer-star Tommy Wiseau on-screen. Oh, and the younger Franco plays his protégée Greg. They both become obsessed with James Dean, whom the elder Franco happened to receive some of the best praise of his career for portraying back in a 2001 TV movie. It's so meta, and so amazingly well done, it's the ideal way to participate in the festival's Midnight Madness lineup.

Stars attending: James Franco, Dave Franco, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor and Paul Scheer. 
When? Mon. Sept. 11 - 11:59 p.m., Tues. Sept. 12 - 6:45 p.m.

The Current War

The sell: The last time Benedict Cumberbatch attended TIFF, it was back in 2014. Then, he played renowned tortured genius Alan Turing in the Oscar-winning movie The Imitation Game, and he's back again as yet another genius... Thomas Edison. In a fun play on words, in The Current War, Cumberbatch's Edison faces off with George Westinghouse to determine who owns or should hold the "power" of, well, power.

Stars attending: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, thousands of "Cumber-babes"
When? Sat. Sept. 9 - 9:30 p.m., Sun. Sept. 10 - 11 a.m.

Double Damon: Downsizing / Suburbicon

The sell: How do you like your Matt Damon? In a dark comic suburban farce, set in the 1950s where he plays a family man out for revenge and bloodthirsty for both money and kills (George Clooney's Suburbicon)? Or, would you prefer to see him consider shrinking down to a smaller size to simplify his life in a piece of sci-fi satire (Alexander Payne's Downsizing)? Both certainly sound like unconventional fare for Jason Bourne, but with strong supporting casts in both films (Julianne Moore on one side, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau and Jason Sudeikis on the other), it'll be hard to look away from these original new stories.

When? Downsizing: Mon. Sept. 11 - 6 p.m., Tues. Sept. 12 - 11:30 a.m., Wed. Sept. 13 - 6 p.m., Sat. Sept. 16 - 12 p.m.
When? Suburbicon: Sat. Sept. 9 - 6:30 p.m., Sun. Sept. 10 - 12 p.m.

The Caretakers: Breathe, Stronger

The sell:
In another double take, we have two caretaker-driven love stories at the festival. In one corner, innovator Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) contracts rapid-onset polio and is tended to by his tenacious wife Diana (The Crown's Claire Foy) in a The Theory of Everything-esque true story, Breathe. And in Stronger — another true story — Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany play Jeff Bauman and Erin Hurley, respectively. Their lives are changed after Bauman (Gyllenhaal) loses both of his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, while he waited for his then-girlfriend Erin (Maslany) to cross the finish line 

Stars attending: Breathe: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, director Andy Serkis
Stars attending: Stronger: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Jeff Bauman, Miranda Richardson
When? Breathe: Mon. Sept. 11 - 6 p.m., Tues. Sept. 12 - 10 a.m.
When? Stronger: Fri. Sept. 8 - 6:30 p.m., Sat. Sept. 9 - 10:45 a.m.

Unicorn Store

The sell: Festival darling Brie Larson is back for her third appearance in as many years. Somehow, between winning an Oscar for the 2015 TIFF People's Choice Prize winner Room back in 2016, and being cast as Captain Marvel, Brie was able to find the time to direct her first feature film full of surreal magic... and pixie dust. What were you doing at 27?

Stars attending: Brie Larson, Bradley Whitford, Mamoudou Athie
When? Mon. Sept. 11 - 3 p.m., Tues. Sept. 12 - 7:15 p.m, Fri. Sept. 15 - 6 p.m.

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

The sell: Celebrities' love lives, divorces or marriages are both tabloid fodder and the subject of mainstream headlines. But in Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, you get a glimpse inside the little black book of some of old Hollywood's biggest stars of yore (Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn), straight from the matchmaking source himself: Scotty Bowers. This documentary shows how this Hollywood legend went above and beyond the call of duty to help the stars find love, and provides more intimate details than what he originally revealed back in his 2012 memoir.

Stars attending: Scotty Bowers
When? Sat. Sept. 9 - 12 p.m., Tues. Sept. 12 - 9:45 p.m., Sat. Sept. 16 - 3:30 p.m.

The Breadwinner

The sell: You might as well call TIFF 2017 the Angelina Jolie festival. With two entries in the festival, her directorial effort First They Killed My Father about the Cambodian genocide, and the animated cartoon The Breadwinner, she is also doing a lengthy "In Conversation with..." career retrospective with TIFF's artistic director, Cameron Bailey. Not unlike her voice work in the Kung-Fu Panda series, Angelina took a strong liking to this Canadian-produced cartoon, about an Afghan girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to better provide for her family.

Stars attending: Angelina Jolie (executive producer)
When? Sun. Sept. 10 - 3 p.m., Sat. Sept. 16 - 1 p.m.

Darkest Hour

The sell: Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill before the beginning of World War II. But don't yawn. The trailer for Darkest Hour was released last month to near-unanimous praise for Oldman's portrayal, prosthetics and his seemingly-perfect political posturing (and posture). If you're looking to see an Oscar-worthy performance and a reinvention of what we all know or think Churchill to be, this is the inventive and historical movie for you. Besides, who knows the Brits and their history better than director Joe Wright, who famously brought us 2005's Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and an Emmy-nominated Charles II miniseries?

Stars attending: Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn
When? Mon. Sept. 11 - 9:30 p.m., Wed. Sept. 13 - 11:30 a.m., Sat. Sept. 16 - 12 p.m., Sun. Sept. 17 - 3:30 p.m.
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