The first wave of titles for this year’s festival has been announced—and it’s major.
TIFF is always a heady, exciting time of year here in Toronto—the celeb sightings! the red carpet premieres! the parties!—and this year’s film lineup is more impressive than ever. Some of the most anticipated films of the year, including Joker, The Goldfinch and Knives Out will be screening at the festival, which will open with Daniel Roher’s Canadian documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band. In a record number for the festival, 50% of the gala films announced thus far are directed or co-directed by women. While we don’t have the full 2019 picture yet, the first wave of titles—a total of 53 features constituting about a fifth of the festival’s whole program—was unveiled today. You might need to take a deep breath before we dive in.
The trailer for A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood dropped yesterday, leaving the internet in floods of tears, and now it’s been confirmed that the Mr Rogers biopic starring Tom Hanks and directed by Marielle Heller (the filmmaker behind last year’s acclaimedCan You Ever Forgive Me?
Speaking of last year, Cynthia Erivo was at TIFF 2018 with Steve McQueen’s Widows and she’s back this year playing Harriet Tubman in Harriet, a biopic about the American abolitionist and activist, directed by Kasi Lemmons. Janelle Monae, Leslie Odom Jr and Joe Alwyn also star.
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out had been getting loads of buzz long before the trailer for the whodunit black comedy even dropped, largely because of its all-star cast: Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Lakeith Stanfeld and Toni Collette.
Another star-powered film at TIFF is Hustlers, with Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo and Cardi B playing strip-club employees who scammed their wealthy clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The film is based on a New York magazine article written by journalist Jessica Pressler, played by Julia Stiles in the film.
Taika Waititi’s satirical film Jojo Rabbit is an adaptation of Caging Skies, a novel about a Hitler Youth recruit who discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home; it stars newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, Leave No Trace’s breakout star Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, and Waititi himself as an imaginary Hitler.
Armando Iannucci, creator of Veep, brought the dark comedy The Death Of Stalin to TIFF in 2017 and is now back with The Personal History Of David Copperfield starring Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw and Gwendoline Christine.
Donna Tartt’s bestselling book The Goldfinch gets its long-awaited cinematic adaptation with Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Ansel Elgort, Jeffrey Wright and Finn Wolfhard as stars.
Uncut Gems, the new project from New York’s Safdie brothers (whose last film Good Time starring Robert Pattinson was a critical hit), stars Adam Sandler—in a rare pivot to drama—as a jewellery store owner whose high-stakes bets lead him down a dangerous path. The film also stars Lakeith Stanfeld, Idina Menzel and singer/songwriter The Weeknd as himself, which is confusing but lets roll with it.
Destin Daniel Cretton, whose previous works include the acclaimed drama Short Term 12 starring Brie Larson and whose next project is the Marvel film Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, is at TIFF this year with Just Mercy, a true story about an African-American man (played by Jamie Foxx) wrongfully convicted for murder. Michael B Jordan stars as the lawyer who got him acquitted, and Larson stars in the film as well.
Booksmart’s Beanie Feldstein stars opposite Emma Thompson, Alfie Allen and Chris O’Dowd in How To Build A Girl, a film adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical novel. Noah Baumbach’s latest film Marriage Story, sees Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in the middle of a complicated divorce and also stars Laura Dern, Merritt Wever and Ray Liotta; while Matt Damon and Christian Bale star as racecar legends Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles in Ford V Ferrari.
Although Netflix films are barred from screening in the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious main competition, they’re more than welcome at TIFF, which saw a great critical reception for Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma last year. This year, it will be screening four titles from Netflix, including The Laundromat, a film by Steven Soderbergh about the Panama Papers, starring Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman; Dolemite Is My Name starring Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes and Chris Rock; Baumbach’s Marriage Story; and Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce. Amazon Studios has three films in the lineup: political thriller The Report with Adam Driver and Annette Bening, Honey Boy starring Shia LaBoeuf and Lucas Hedges, and Radioactive, starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Curie.
Todd Phillips’s Joker snags the title of the first superhero movie to screen at TIFF. It stars Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role along with Zazie Beetz, Marc Maron and Robert De Niro. “We went in not knowing exactly what to expect, but it is a really original vision of this character,” TIFF’s artistic director Cameron Bailey told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not based on existing DC canonical work and so that allows Todd Phillips to go in a new direction. And Joaquin Phoenix is just phenomenal in it.”
“[A]s a festival, we have often launched films that are going to go on to big commercial lives,” said Bailey. “And I think this year you would also maybe include Ford v Ferrari in that and Hustlers and some other films that are going to be presented to the widest possible audience. But they also are films of high artistic merit. And that’s why they’re here.”
The full lineup for TIFF 2019—which runs from 5 to 15 September—will be revealed on August 20 but the slate announced thus far can be found here.