The siblings Gyllenhaal—that would be Maggie and younger brother Jake—were first out of the gate in a slew of press screenings Thursday at the Toronto International Film Festival. Each of the Gyllenhaals is in top form of their respective Oscar-nominated careers, starring in very different films: One of which will get a fair amount of attention in the Intermountain West and the other is certain to spark controversy and debate.
Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal co-star in Wildlife
Wildlife, based on the 1990 novel, is a superb family drama, one of the best in years, and stars Gyllenhall alongside the always-wonderful Carey Mulligan. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Wildlife is the feature directorial debut from actor Paul Dano (Love and Mercy, There Will Be Blood). Filmed in numerous parts of Montana, the story of Wildlife swirls around the Brinsons, an All-American, 20th-century family. And by "All-American," I mean troubled, cash strapped and in search of something none of them can define. Jerry Brinson (Gyllenhaal) spends his days at the local country club, maintaining the golfcourse greens and scrubbing the crud from the bottom of members' golf cleats. Jeannette Brinson (Mulligan) is a married-too-young, stay-at-home mom who has to pursue a job when husband Jerry is laid off for being too chatty with the club's members. To help keep food on his family's table, Jerry takes a $1-a-day job fighting wildfires, separating him for an extended amount of time. The story is measured (but never too slow) and every moment feels authentic. The film should hit Boise in late October. Look for it.
Maggie Gylllenhaal stars in The Kindergarten Teacher
Maggie Gyllenhaal never fails to fascinate, from her provocative indie films (Secretary, Sherrybaby) to major box office hits (The Dark Knight, Mona Lisa Smile); and later this month, she'll launch the second season as producer and star of HBO's The Deuce. Her newest film, The Kindergarten Teacher(she's also producing), will most certainly get tongues wagging. To call The Kindergarten Teacher's premise an "ethical debate" is akin to calling World War II "a modest skirmish." The teacher in question is Lisa Spinelli (Gyllenhaal), a passionately dedicated kindergarten teacher who daydreams about doing something greater. That's one of the reasons, for example, that she enrolls in a continuing education poetry writing class (though her fellow classmates say Lisa's poems are derivative). When one of Lisa's 5-year-old kindergartners begins reciting poetry in a trance-like state whenever he's alone, The Kindergarten Teacher takes a sharp, and some might say twisted, turn. Lisa is convinced that the child, who is mostly ignored by his single dad and nanny, is nothing short of the second coming of Mozart. But what Lisa does next with the child will have you debating this film for days. I'm reluctant to share any more of this tale of obsession gone wrong. If you simply can't wait to see more, check out the trailer. For the record, The Kindergarten Teacher is one of a number of Netflix movies that have been given a wide berth at the Toronto festival. And officials of the uber-streamer told me that they have very high hopes of getting some award season attention, particularly for Gyllenhaal's performance. But being a Netflix property, that also means that this film is coming to a living room near you.