Rachel McAdams at the TIFF premiere of "Passion." (George Pimentel/WireImage)
Canadian actress Rachel McAdams certainly didn't have to go far for the respective premieres of her latest projects. The "Notebook" star has two films at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival: Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" and Brian De Palma's "Passion." Both films had their North American premieres at the fest and McAdams just so happens to call Toronto home. Talk about convenience.
However, it might not have been the happy homecoming that McAdams was hoping for. Festival audiences have not been reacting well to either of her new films at TIFF, while the critical reaction has been divided at best.
Given that Terrence Malick's previous film "Tree of Life" was nominated for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards, there was a lot of pressure on "To the Wonder" coming into the fall festival season. The romantic drama stars Ben Affleck as a small-town guy who falls in love with a beautiful French woman (Olga Kurylenko), but who also still harbours feelings for his former flame (Rachel McAdams). The simple premise wasn't much to go on, but because of Malick's acclaimed past work and the film's strong cast, "To the Wonder" was one of the most highly anticipated indie films of the year.
McAdams with Ben Affleck in "To The Wonder."
Then came the somewhat disastrous Venice Film Festival premiere that included jeers and unintentional laughter from the audience. Despite the fact that Toronto festival audiences are generally more forgiving than their European counterparts, the film's unfortunate Italian reception hung over its North American premiere earlier this week. There were no boos at the TIFF gala premiere of "To the Wonder," but there was a lot of head scratching going on afterwards.
"I'm so confused, and out 40 bucks," read one tweet from a person who attended the premiere.
Without the famously reclusive director in attendance to explain his film, McAdams and co-star Kurylenko were left holding the bag after the movie. One tweeter praised the cast's performance during the post-screening the Q&A, saying that the "best performances in To the Wonder belonged to the stars at the Q+A, trying to explain the movie and what was going on." Yet another viewer said that he enjoyed the film's cinematography but complained about its "dialogue, dull characters, and a barebones story."
Maybe these perturbed social networkers were just upset about McAdams' lack of screen time? Despite "starring" in "To the Wonder," McAdams only appears in the film for about 15 minutes total.
At least she's got a little more screen time in her other festival film, Brian De Palma's "Passion" -- but that may not be a good thing.
McAdams with Noomi Rapace in "Passion."
The "Mission: Impossible" and "Femme Fatale" director's movies are about as divisive as Malick's, and De Palma's cult following is easily just as fervent. However, even the most die-hard De Palma fan will have a hard time recommending his latest picture to the average moviegoer. Shot and edited with De Palma's typical technical flair, "Passion" is an intentionally trashy soap opera-style film filtered through the director's wacky Hitchcockian lens. McAdams stars as a cutthroat advertising executive who exploits her protégé (Noomi Rapace) to get ahead. It's a lurid tale, filled (in no particular order) with melodrama, evil twins, murder, and girl-on-girl action -- pretty much a standard De Palma film at this point.
With its cheesy performances and winky self-parody, it's no surprise that post-premiere reactions to "Passion" were not kind.
"Passion was one of the worst films I have ever seen," tweeted an audience member.
"Honest question: Was it supposed to be funny?" asked another.
Even one De Palma fan called it a "weak effort" by the director, and wished that the movie had been more over-the-top. Another viewer who stuck around after the screening tweeted a picture of the Q&A and called it "more exciting than the actual film."
Working with experimental filmmakers like Malick and De Palma is always a risky venture, but things could definitely have gone better for McAdams at her home town film festival this year. Luckily, there was no shortage of critical praise for McAdams coming out of both movies, so she definitely did her job. But to have two films publically crash and burn at such a high-profile fest can't be easy to stomach. There's always next year, Rachel.