For all our coverage of Toronto International Film Festival 2017, click here.
Well, it was my first Toronto International Film Festival this year as Vanyaland film editor, and it was a tremendously crazy six days while I was up there. I saw a total of 22 movies, including some that I’ll be writing about later, but what we’ve got for you today, to wrap up our coverage of the TIFF, is a collection of capsule reviews — what we’ve dubbed “the rest of the fest.” Some are notable and award-winning, others are absolutely miserable and worth running away from. We have new works from Joseph Kahn, John Woo, Brie Larson, Scott Cooper, and many others telling tales from all ends of the genre spectrum. Hey, this list even includes one of the best films I’ve seen all year, so check it out.
Noted music video and cult film director Joseph Kahn returns with his most music-oriented film yet, a stylish but tonally muddled comedy about battle rap. Produced by Eminem and written by Kahn and battle-rap legend Alex Larson, Bodied tells the story of Adam (Calum Worthy), a meek white kid obsessed with battle-rapping to the point of doing his dissertation about it (and the use of the n-word in it). A chance meeting with one of his heroes, rapper Beyn Grymm (a fun Jackie Long), results in him winning his first battle-rap and ascending in its ranks, going from academic to artist, much to the chagrin of his English professor father (Anthony Michael Hall) and his trustafarian girlfriend (Rory Uphold).
It won the Midnight Madness Audience Award, probably because everybody at The Disaster Artist premiere was too high to remember their ticket stubs, but it’s easy to see why — it’s a raunchy crowd-pleaser that hits some funny high notes over the course of its 110 minutes, and the talented cast is given the leeway to have a ton of fun with the material. Yet something is off about its message of free-speech absolutism clashes with its adherence to genre tropes and academic know-it-allism, and it’s deeply uncomfortable to see that the final notes the film ends on: That white privilege and mediocre talent is essentially battle-rap spinach for the lead’s Popeye will ultimately overwhelm and corrupt the diverse voices working in it. So Bodied didn’t really work to me, but I’m sure it’ll find a huge audience somewhere down the road. It’s too well-oiled not to.