A few weeks ago, we came to you with a list of the movies we were most excited to see this fall. Since then, GQ's gone to the Toronto International Film Festival, where we had the chance to see some actual contenders. Here are our biggest takeaways.
If there’s one movie this year you should go into as cold as possible, it’s Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. The latest from the Snowpiercer and Okja filmmaker follows two families: the affluent Parks, who live in a luxurious home encased in glass walls, and the Kims, an unemployed clan who fold pizza boxes for money inside a cramped basement apartment. Another wickedly clever tale from the director about class and survival, Parasite is a brilliant tonal juggling act that defies easy genre categorization. It fuses dark satire, suspense, and tragedy with incisive social commentary. It’s an exhilarating rollercoaster ride that keeps you guessing at every sharp turn, and by the end, leaves you a bit paralyzed by its magnificence.
Simply calling the hit movie Hustlers the female Magic Mike or a gender-swapped Scorsese gangster pic would be wildly dismissive. Lorene Scafaria’s film may be another New York crime tale—based on the true story of a group of exotic dancers and sex workers who conned Wall Street men for mind-boggling amounts of money—but what makes Hustlers such a dynamic standout is the way in which women, their perspectives, and stories are valued and centered. Hustlers follows strip club newcomer Destiny (an excellent Constance Wu) and club veteran Ramona (Jennifer Lopez in an incredible and, yes, Oscar-worthy turn) as they devise an outrageously risky and illegal plan to make a living after the clubs run dry following the 2008 recession. Scafaria’s film is at once smart and energized, told with visual panache and a rousing story about women—particularly low-income women of color—going to any lengths necessary to survive.
It’s a miracle anyone could find a way to breathe invigorating life into the murder mystery film, but thankfully, Rian Johnson is perfect for the job. His Knives Out is a wildly entertaining whodunit with more on its mind than solving a murder. After the patriarch of a wealthy white family, Christopher Plummer’s Harlan Thrombey, is found dead after his 85th birthday, his greedy relatives become embroiled in an investigation led by Lakeith Stanfield’s detective and Daniel Craig’s Southern P.I. The giddy fun of watching Knives Out isn’t in trying to solve the mystery (its twists are expected, and it loses momentum in an overly drawn-out explanation near the end) but in watching an excellent cast continually one-up each other. You'll almost certainly walk away from Knives Out with a favorite performance, whether Toni Collette’s riotous parody of a lifestyle guru to Chris Evans as the family black sheep dirtbag or the movie's real breakout, Ana de Armas, (Blade Runner 2049) as Harlan’s caretaker.
Pain and Glory
Pedro Almodóvar’s latest is a tender reflection on how the searing wounds of our past can both stifle us and shape who we are. Reuniting with his longtime collaborator, Antonio Banderas is better than ever as Salvador Mallo, an aging, lonely film director who serves as Almodóvar's onscreen stand-in. Salvo is anchored by memories of his past, like sweet moments with his mother (a warm Penélope Cruz) and his first experience desiring another man, while also hindered by the physical ailments that prevent him from making new films. Emotional and sensitive, Pain and Glory works like an intimate embrace, one that stings and soothes all at once.
Ford v Ferrari
In the latest from Logan director James Mangold, Matt Damon plays car designer Carol Shelby who’s recruited by the Ford Motor Company to help them beat the Italians at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. He puts the best driver he knows behind the wheel, a charmingly smug Ken Miles (Christian Bale). That quickly proves problematic when the Ford execs reject the capricious Miles as incompatible with the company’s image. The behind-the-scenes automotive drama can swerve formulaic at times, but Ford v Ferrari really soars when we get to the track. Mangold crafts a series of enthralling, stylized racing sequences that form the pulse of the movie and will suck you in even if you, like me, don’t know the slightest thing about cars or racing.
A Hidden Life
Since his 2011 Palme d’Or-winning The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick has been making the most experimental, and most critically derided, films of his career—though this critic will gladly defend some of those. The latest from the reclusive filmmaker marks a return to his (somewhat) more narrative-based style. A Hidden Life, easily Malick’s most accessible film in years, tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter (August Dihel), an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to fight for Hitler. Malick’s signature lyrical style of floating wide-angle shots set to ponderous voiceover is still present as Franz and his wife (a standout performance from Valier Pachner) contemplate moral quandaries around injustice, suffering, and the roles of man and God in each. A Hidden Life may not be as soul-stirring as his best and most profound work, but it’s always a treat to see Malick confidently working in his meditative and spiritually transportive groove.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
There’s a very defined, quietly consuming electricity that grows between two people longing for one another, especially in queer courtship. That burning desire can turn subtle glances into butterflies and fireworks; it morphs tiny gestures and flirtatious smiles into a secret language. That tender, aching intimacy is what patiently brews between two women in 18th Century France in Céline Sciamma’s masterful Portrait of a Lady On Fire. The latest from the French filmmaker (Girlhood, Tomboy) follows artist Marienne (Noémie Merlant) who’s been commissioned to paint a portrait of the reserved and soon-to-be-wed Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). An exquisite slow-burn romance about queer desire and the ways passion transforms artistic expression, Portrait is the type of film you fall swiftly in love with, and like the memory of an old lover, stays with you long after.
Robert Eggers’s follow-up to The Witch is an enchanting, grimy descent into pure madness. When two lighthouse keepers, Robert Pattinson’s taciturn Ephraim and Willem Dafoe’s grouchy, gaseous Thomas, arrive on an island for four weeks of work, unnerving visions and maniacal, drunken episodes take over. This delightfully nutty tale, full of fights with seagulls and copious farting, is as wickedly funny as it is blissfully horny — prepare for more Pattinson masturbation and an undeniable erotic tension between the two leads. Shot on 35mm black and white by Jarin Blaschke in a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, The Lighthouse is a startling thing to behold, as transfixing as a vision of a glistening mermaid on a wave-beaten rock. Like the tentacles of the Kraken, The Lighthouse slowly snakes its way through your mind, gripping tighter until you relinquish all expectations and succumb to the strange, haunting glory of this wild ride.
A Safdie Brothers movie isn’t a Safdie Brothers movie if it doesn’t stress you the hell out, and Uncut Gems does just that. Benny and Josh Safdie’s long-in-the-works Diamond District film is another one of their quintessential New York movies, full of seedy characters caught up in anxiety-inducing situations within the grimy streets of Manhattan. Adam Sandler, in another impressive dramatic role that plays off of his signature angry outbursts, is Howard Ratner, a scheming jeweler drowning in gambling debt who’s incapable of making anything but terrible decisions. Uncut Gems, like Good Time, takes us down a dark path of chaos as Howard evades debt collectors and gets wrapped up in a predicament with NBA star Kevin Garnett (playing himself in a scene-stealing role), yet the film doesn’t have quite the same starling punch and propulsive adrenaline of that Robert Pattinson-led film. Still, the Safdie’s latest is a wild crime thriller that will have you laughing and gasping in horror from one moment to the next.
Here’s what to watch at home this weekend.
After a disappointing summer at the box office, there’s something for everyone this fall.
Originally Appeared on GQ