toronto film festival 2019

The Annette Bening Stan’s Guide to the Toronto International Film Festival

Photo: Vulture and Courtesy of TIFF

Friends, I’ve come to you today to revel in an abundance of riches. We have hit a jackpot. We are eating good: There’s not just one Annette Bening movie at the Toronto International Film Festival, there are two Annette Bening movies at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Three if you count me watching clips of 20th Century Women in Canada to feel alive.) Now that I’ve seen them both, I can offer the official guide to TIFF’s Annette Bening slate. Sure, other actors have arrived at TIFF with more than one movie, but those other actors are not Annette Bening. We are not “one nation under God,” we are one nation under Annette! (For the number of times Annette Bening has been nominated for an Oscar, deserved an Oscar, and not won an Oscar, her fans should basically be a protected class!) Here’s everything you need to know about her two movies that are playing here at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Okay, so, which Annette Bening movies are playing at TIFF?
I am so happy to announce that there are two Annette Bening movies: Hope Gap, and The Report. Hope Gap is a world premiere; The Report was first screened at Sundance.

Let’s start with The Report. What’s going on here?
Officially, The Report is a movie where Large Adam Driver (yes that is his given name, given to him by me) is a staffer on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and he spends five years writing a report that details how the CIA repeatedly used “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding, despite the fact that all evidence proved that using these techniques did not yield any new information to stop terrorist attacks.

Unofficially, this movie is about Adam Driver being large and honorable and Annette Bening speaking in stern tones, wearing lots of scarves and pearls, and saving what’s left of our democracy. (The Report is decidedly not about what I saw in the first two seconds of my Tuesday matinee, which was: three people seated near me audibly whispering, “What?” when the logo for Vice popped onscreen with a production credit. An early twist!)

Tell me more about these “stern tones” you speak of.
As Senator Dianne Feinstein, Annette Bening doesn’t talk down to her aide, Large Adam Driver, but she does make it clear who’s in charge. Driver’s performance is a tricky one, like a pleasant version of Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, he’s obviously supersmart, super committed, and hyperverbal when it comes to explaining the ins and outs of the work, but he balances it with an aura of wholesomeness and honor. Adam Driver in this movie smells like freshly chopped wood. His smile conjures the idea of a gingham tablecloth. He’s a good guy!

Anyway, sometimes he will get too excited or righteous or just rattle off a lot of acronyms. In one scene, Annette listens politely but her eyes are razor sharp. She purses her lips. I gasped. “Do you work for this office, or do you work for the report?” she asks. In another scene, Jon Hamm (playing an Obama–era White House staffer) tries to placate her, and talk her out of pushing for the torture report to be released. He says something about how at least Obama publicly acknowledges torture, and how that should be enough. Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein looks at him with a scowl dripping with disgust. Is it bone-chilling and incredibly inspiring at the same time? Yes!

How big is Large Adam Driver compared to regular-size, perfect human Annette Bening?
It’s almost funny to realize how much taller and bigger Adam Driver is than she is. The height difference between them must be a million miles! But Bening plays Feinstein as scrupulous and formidable, so you really don’t even notice the way he towers over her, even when they’re sitting in chairs.

How many movies should Annette Bening and Adam Driver make together, in your professional opinion?
Every movie should feature Annette Bening and Adam Driver in some capacity. That is my professional opinion, yes.

Well I for one … Hope … Dakota Johnson’s … Gap … comes back!
What a clever and original transition to us discussing Hope Gap, the other Annette Bening movie playing at TIFF. In this one, Annette Bening has a British accent and a cheating husband.

Husbands — a liability!
[Sucks teeth] You’re telling me!!

Okay, but actually —
Right. In Hope Gap, Annette plays Grace, and Bill Nighy — a permanent celebrity crush of mine since I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest — plays Edward. They’ve been married for 29 years, but lately things have felt stilted and stale. From time to time, Grace will pick little fights with Edward just to get him to feel something — anything! One weekend when their adult son comes home to visit, Edward announces that he’s leaving Grace for a parent of one of his high-school students. She is, of course, devastated.

Hope Gap didn’t entirely work for me, but I did appreciate the way Grace fusses with her son to understand that she’s not just depressed about getting divorced, she’s mourning her whole marriage. “This is a murder,” she says, and the movie takes her side on it. Imagine Bill Nighy leaving you not just for another woman, but for another woman with ugly furniture — get me on the phone with Todd Phillips because Hope Gap has a clown!

I heard a rumor that someone says “hope gap” in Hope Gap’s first scene.
First of all, that’s not a rumor that’s just a tweet from Kyle Buchanan. But yes, I can confirm: Hope Gap establishes that the hope has a gap in it early on. Grace and Edward’s adult son tells this long story about this little patch of rocks on the beach that’s called “Hope Gap.” If you ask me, this movie should be called If You Are Unfaithful to Annette Bening I’ll Lock You In Azkaban, but I can see how that’s a little long for a one-sheet.

Hunter, how else is TIFF treating you?
Uncut Gems blew my back out, I saw Timothée Chalamet at a party last night, and I’m really craving Olive Garden.

In Annette Bening we trust.
Long may she reign!

The Annette Bening Stan’s Guide to TIFF