[What Did Jaci Think? Late September]

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is not good. Cate Blanchett does her best – and I cannot wait to see folks cosplay Mrs Zimmerman, such fun! – but she can’t overcome the lackluster script & the tendency of Jack Black to suck all of the air out of a room. It’s also tonally all over the place, veering from bathroom humor surrounding a topiary to nightmare visuals (the automatons! the baby!) to poor handling of serious material (references to the Holocaust, also a student with leg braces from polio, both of which got weird audience reactions at my screening). At least we’ll always have the book.

I spent most of Lizzie wishing that it had been directed by someone else, ideally a woman, maybe Sarah Polley or Maggie Betts? But I had gone in with managed expectations, and Kristen Stewart in particular was amazing. Characters outside of Lizzie & Bridget didn’t feel like real people (despite strong casting), and some were introduced oddly (like Kim Dickens as Lizzie’s sister, who just sort of appeared out of nowhere). It felt like a first draft script insofar as the world outside of Lizzie & Bridget went, but the details of their developing relationship were nicely done and made the film worth my time.

Colette also suffered from being directed and written by men who chose to tell the least interesting part of her story. Dominic West is certainly gifted at playing the charming bastard, but by centering the film on her conflict with him, the story ends right when Colette’s life is getting interesting. I would have loved a film on her life after Willy, or at least anything with more depth about her life with Missy (Denise Gough who most recently destroyed me as Harper in the National Theatre production of Angels in America.) There was a whole miniseries worth of material in the pre-credits title cards. Sigh. Keira was great, obviously, and Andrea Flesch deserves all of the awards for costuming (even though we didn’t see Colette in menswear nearly enough), but basically, the best queer film of the fall continues to be A Simple Favor.

In at-home viewing, the biggest hit was easily Hockey Night, a Canadian TV movie starring Megan Follows as a girl who moves to a small town & joins the boys hockey team because a) she’s bored and b) there isn’t a girls team. My library has it to stream for free on Kanopy, and you should do it, because it was lovely.

SIFF’s annual French Cinema Now program fell half in this entry, half in Early October. My rule for this festival was to avoid as much as possible films centered on white dudes, which took the whole series down to a more manageable number. My favorites in the first half were When Margaux Meets Margaux, sort of a French We Go Way Back, and Chateau, a film set among the hustlers and beauty salon workers in the neighborhood around the Chateau d’Eau metro station. Good stuff, and I didn’t feel like I missed anything by skipping the white dudes. Pro tip from me to you!