The 2014 Hamptons International Film Festival is heavy on star power with big stars, including Sir Ben Kingsley, Anne Hathaway, Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Edward Norton to name a few, headlining films sure to get the notice of the Academy during awards season.
The HIFF Spotlight film series includes the US premier of “The Last 5 Years,” “Learning To Drive,” and “Elephant Song.” Hamptonites will enjoy the East Coast premieres of “The Imitation Game,” “Laggies,” “Madame Bovary,” “Nightcrawler,” and “Song One.” Rounding out the dynamic dozen Spotlight films are “Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virture of Ignorance),” “Clouds of Sils Maria,” “Time Out of Mind,” and “Two Days, One Night.”
“Two Days, One Night”
(Belgium/France), Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, 10/09 4:45 PM & 10/13 7:45 PM
Directors (and brothers) Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are responsible for some of the greatest films of the last 15 years, infused with their trademark formal intensity and commitment to unearthing moral quandaries from social strictures. “Two Days, One Night” is their latest masterpiece, anchored by Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard’s lived-in performance. Sandra is laid off from her factory job. Her co-workers vote to take their bonuses rather than bring her back to work. But she convinces her boss to hold another vote in two days time. Can she persuade her colleagues to give her a second chance?
“The Elephant Song”
(Canada), Director: Charles Binamé, 10/10 4:30 PM & 10/11 4:00 PM
After the strange disappearance of his colleague, Dr. Toby Green (Bruce Greenwood) is called to the hospital to get to the bottom of the story before word gets out. There, he finds Michael (Xavier Dolan), a troubled and deceptive patient, spinning a web of lies while Nurse Peterson (Catherine Keener), the only one who understands Michael, is repeatedly pushed away. Charles Binamé’s “The Elephant Song,” adapted by Nicolas Billon from his play, is a complex, visually striking thriller that blurs the line between doctor and patient. As the stakes get higher, the elaborate mind games get them further from the truth.
“Learning To Drive”
(USA), Director: Isabel Coixet, 10/10 6:15 PM & 10/11 5:00 PM
When her husband of twenty years walks out on her, Wendy Shields (Patricia Clarkson) watches her comfortable life crumble overnight. Struggling to reclaim her independence in New York City, she hits a unique roadblock: she never learned to drive. Her life is forever changed when she meets Darwan (Ben Kingsley), a driving instructor and part-time cab driver on the brink of an arranged marriage. In each other’s company, Wendy and Darwan find the courage to ask for directions, the strength to move forward, and a friendship for the ride. The film was the runner-up for the People’s Choice Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
(USA), Director: Dan Gilroy, 10/10 9:30 PM
“Nightcrawler” is a pulse-pounding thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the world of L.A. crime journalism. Joining a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, murders, and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the dangerous realm of nightcrawling—where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Aided by Rene Russo as Nina, a veteran of local TV news, Lou blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.
“Time Out Of Mind”
(USA), Director: Oren Moverman, 10/10 8:45 PM & 10/11 12:00 PM
George Hammond wakes up one morning in a random ramshackle apartment and is thrown out by the building manager. He has a weeks-old beard and unexplained scratches on his face. He has nowhere to go in particular. He wanders. He is stuck with two minute-to-minute challenges: eating and finding a place to sleep. He is homeless in New York City. Filmmaker Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”) and star Richard Gere, in a moving performance, wring many heartbreaking truths from this initial premise in “Time Out Of Mind,” a blistering and deeply affecting slice of modern day neo-realism.
“Clouds of Sils Maria”
(France), Director: Olivier Assayas, 10/11 7:00 PM & 10/12 11:45 AM
Acclaimed director Olivier Assayas’ newest film is a rewarding enigma. At the peak of her career, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years ago. No longer in the alluring young role, she must confront her own insecurities resonating with her vulnerable, older character and the subsequent career shift. Her assistant (Kristen Stewart) represents a version of her younger self, while a scandal-ready Hollywood starlet (Chloë Grace Moretz) takes on Maria’s star-making role. Soon Maria finds herself face to face with ambiguously charming women who are her unsettling reflection.
(USA), Director: Kate Barker-Froyland, 10/11 6:45 PM & 10/12 12:00 PM
Academy Award® winner Anne Hathaway plays Franny, a PhD student living halfway around the world when she receives tragic news: her brother Henry (whom she stopped talking to after he dropped out of college to pursue music) is in a coma. Returning to New York City, Franny reenters his life through his songs and his love for singer-songwriter James Forester (Johnny Flynn). After meeting James backstage at his concert, Franny is surprised when James shows up at the hospital the next day. What follows is an exploration of two wandering souls, filled with incredible songs by Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice.
(UK/Belgium), Director: Sophie Barthes, 10/11 8:00 PM & 10/13 8:00 PM
The beautiful wife of a small-town doctor engages in extra marital affairs in an attempt to advance her social status, and cure her persistent malaise, in co-writer and director Sophie Barthes’s (“Cold Sould”) adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s seminal 19th century novel. Still widely read (and controversial) to this day, “Madame Bovary” receives a gorgeous, spellbinding, and astute rendering in Barthes’s hands, fleshed out by pristine production values and a great cast, including Mia Wasikowska in the title role and Ezra Miller, Paul Giamatti, and Rhys Ifan in supporting performances.
(USA), Director: Lynn Shelton, 10/11 8:45 PM & 10/12 9:00 PM
Megan (Keira Knightley) is content to work as a sign flipper for her doting father’s accounting company. When her high school boyfriend proposes at her friend’s wedding, she panics. Pretending to go to a professional-development retreat, she befriends 16-year-old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) and hides out in her house with her attractive single dad (Sam Rockwell). Finally feeling liberated, Megan is taken by surprise as their lives suddenly and unexpectedly intertwine. With hilarious performances, Lynn Shelton’s “Laggies” is a nuanced and heartwarming addition to the director’s impressive body of work. Actress Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Misty in the film, will attend the Festival.
“The Imitation Game”
(USA/UK), Director: Morten Tyldum, 10/11 2:45 PM & 10/12 8:00 PM
Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a monumental performance as British mathematician Alan Turing in Morten Tyldum’s stirring historical drama. Told via flashback, “The Imitation Game” tracks the young, brilliant, and socially awkward Turing in the early days of World War II as he applies for a top-secret position tasked with decoding the “unbreakable” Nazi cipher machine called Enigma, used to encrypt all military radio transmissions. His work was famously labeled by Winston Churchill as “the greatest single contribution to victory,” but after the war he suffered great personal and professional turmoil as he dealt with his homosexuality in a time when it was illegal.
“The Last 5 Years”
(USA), Director: Richard LaGravenese, 10/11 6:15 PM & 10/13 7:00 PM
Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last 5 Years” is among the most beloved modern musicals, and writer/director Richard LaGravenese’s invigorating and poignant film is among the most successful stage-to-screen adaptations in years. Academy Award® nominee Anna Kendrick (“Pitch Perfect,” “Up In The Air”) and Jeremy Jordan (“Smash”) star as a young couple whose rollercoaster five-year relationship has come to an end. Yet the film traces their romance from two diverging perspectives: following Jamie (Jordan) forwards from their first meeting to their break-up, and following Cathy (Kendrick) backwards from the final heartache to the first stirrings of love.
“Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virture of Ignorance)”
(USA), Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 10/12 9:00 PM
In an effort to erase the shadow of his biggest on-screen role, the enormously popular Birdman, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) heads to Broadway. He banks his artistic ambitions (and dormant talents) on his upcoming theatrical production of Raymond Carver short stories, but before the footlights shine he must deal with an erratic replacement (Edward Norton), his bitter daughter (Emma Stone), and Birdman himself. Thus the stage is set for Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s brilliant, one-of-a-kind phantasmagoria, powered by unique special effects, exhilarating camera work, and a dynamite cast.
For the full schedule and tickets check out the Hamptons International Film Festival online at www.hamptonsfilmfest.org.