Mill Valley Film Festival: Day 10 and Closing Night Recap
On MVFF’s gigantic penultimate day, a quintet of some of the industry’s most exciting directors gathered for a meeting of the minds, the stars and directors of At Middleton and Beside Still Waters unveiled their respective films to packed houses, and the whole lot of them partied it up in the beautiful town of Tiburon, right down the road.
To start off Day 10 of the festival, a killer lineup of directors gathered to participate in a panel organized by Variety, in which they discussed the industry and their filmmaking processes. In my previous festival recap, I mentioned that Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) asked Steve McQueen a question during the 12 Years a Slave Q&A; McQueen didn’t seem to notice that the young buck was a talented filmmaker himself at the time, but when the two met officially for the Variety panel they became fast friends. Joining Coogler and McQueen for the panel was J.C. Chandor, who helmed the Robert Redford “man at sea” film, All is Lost and 2011’s Margin Call. We spoke to Chandor about the film, so keep an eye out for our interview next week. Also in attendance were John Wells of August: Osage County and Scott Coooper of Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace.
Andy Garcia’s Campus Romance
At Middleton, directed by newcomer Adam Rodgers, focuses on a sporadic on-campus romance between George (Andy Garcia) and Edith (Vera Farmiga), who meet while accompanying their kids on a campus tour of Middleton University. A walk-and-talk rom-com cut from the same cloth as Richard Linklater’s Before series but with a more lighthearted flare, the film was received incredibly well by the Mill Valley audience at CinéArts@Sequoia, who expressed their enthusiasm during the post-screening Q&A with Rodgers, Garcia, and the films’ producers. “When you have a chance to play with [an actor like] Vera Farmiga,” Garcia gushed, “[the scenes] are all fun.” The chemistry developed between the accomplished actors, amazingly, took no time to develop at all. “We never even read the script together once,” Garcia said, to the surprise of the audience, who had been so taken by the screen romance. “We got to know each other as the characters did on camera. She’s incredible.”
Future BIG Movie Stars CHILL in Beside Still Waters
A few feet down from the At Middleton screening, another movie about people talking was pleasing a separate batch of MVFF-goers. Chris Lowell, an actor best known for his roles in Veronica Mars (the “kickstarted” film version is shooting now) and The Help, hops into the director’s chair for the first time with his nostalgia-driven hangout movie, Beside Still Waters. In it, a tragedy causes a group of old childhood friends to reconvene at the memory-filled cabin in the forrest they grew up playing around in (no, it’s not a horror movie). The cast, comprised of some of some of the prettiest rising-star actors in the game right now (just look a the pictures!), were all in attendance at the MVFF screening along with their incredibly excited director, who was all smiles during the audience Q&A. “I was really excited to direct [and] talk to actors the way I’d like a director to talk to me,” Lowell beamed. “That was probably the thing I was most thrilled about. That, and not having to go through hair and makeup in the morning.” Comparisons to the king of all hangout movies, The Big Chill, are inevitable, and Lowell didn’t shy away from acknowledging the influence of Kasdan’s film, which has a strikingly similar premise. “[My co-writer Mohit Narang] and I obsessed over every conceivable reunion [movie], to see what people did right and wrong. The Big Chill is obviously the big tentpole film for [this kind of movie], which is why everyone comes back to it. It’s a film that you watch when you’re sick because it makes you feel good and right about the world.”
Worlds Collide…Over Cocktails
After the dual screenings of At Middleton and Beside Still Waters, the buzzing crowds and proud filmmakers met again at the Tiburon Tavern just down the road to schmooze, booze, and enjoy delectable bites of delicious food (the coffee-coated cheese was curious, yet excellent). Andy Garcia and the Beside Stll Waters cast were happy to mingle, keeping the good vibes flowing along with the bubbly. Lowell and Rodgers, both elated to have their films so well-received, shared their experiences and a big, congratulatory hug.
Stiller Closes Out With Mitty
MVFF closed out big with what looks to be one of the most visually striking films of the year, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Ben Stiller unsurprisingly drew a blitz of media and fan attention when he arrived at the CinéArts@Sequoia theater to present his passion project, about an office worker (played by Stiller himself) who lives in picturesque fantasy worlds represented onscreen beautifully by Stiller and DP Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano). After the screening, Stiller was given the Mill Valley Award and then headed down the street to San Rafael’s beautiful Elk’s Lodge where everyone–from the hard-working festival staff, to the filmmakers, to industry people, to the excited festival-goers–celebrated as the wonderful 11-day festival came to a close.
But wait…that’s not all! We’ve still got a ton of content coming out of the festival, so stay tuned in the next few days for more MVFF goodness!