Thursday, September 6, 2012

#TIFF12 Thoughts on American Beauty Table Read

How strange to have my first TIFF movie... not be a movie at all! I'd originally planned to see Toronto's official opening night movie Looper but when I heard the Surprise Event at the Ryerson playing against it was in fact a Jason Reitman table read, I changed my mind.

I'd never gone to any of these that he's done in LA or the one in NY, but had it on pretty good authority that they rule. I bought a ticket but was on the fence as they slowly announced cast members - that is, until they got to who would play Carolyn and Lester Burnham -Christina Hendricks and Brian Cranston! AMC darlings that they are. Yep, good plan.

The event was pretty neato. Cameron Bailey introduced Jason whose allegiance to TIFF was evident in his exclamation "the fuckin' Ryerson, man!" which was a reference to many of his films premiering there - all but Young Adult, I think.

I enjoyed the experience. I am not an American Beauty hater. On the contrary. It was pretty interesting to hear the familiar words read by new faces, equally familiar but from other projects.

Some basic impressions:

* It seemed like the guy playing Colonel Fitts was doing a bit of a Chris Cooper impression, which was something I was actually expecting to see more of, but actually didn't

* Brian Cranston was just made for that role in one way or another. The audience totally ate up his every expression. His portrayal highlighted the humor more than I had remembered.

* Christina Hendricks had some big shoes to fill in my opinion, and she managed to make her individual mark on ground Bening had tread so well before. From the sex scenes with "the king" to the "I will sell this house today," she got tons of laughs and found a side to those lines that I hadn't seen before. When she cried out "Fuck me, your majesty!" Reitman even interjected "Worth the price of admission!" (Totally true.)

* There's a part where the stage direction describes Colonel Fitts leaning to kiss Lester. There was a person in the audience who let out a huge gasp when Reitman read that part. Then everyone started giggling, because really - who didn't see that coming? Was there actually someone at that reading who had never seen American Beauty?

* Adam Driver playing Ricky Fitts was eh. He got a huge applause from the ladies when he joined. But beyond that he was real monotone, and a bit disturbed. Which maybe was what he was going for. Eh.

* Overall, the tone was quite different from the movie. There was constant laughter, which sort of surprised me - even though I was laughing too. I realized that's because one key element of the film was absent here - the music. It didn't make it worse, just very different.

I took a ton of pictures at the beginning before they started reading, so perhaps I will post those tomorrow.


  1. I guess I don't understand these table reads. Like, conceptually. What's the point? Is it just like a cover song? I mean, I'm sure it's entertaining, but I don't get it! (Mia again)

    1. I wasn't sure I did either, but it was interesting the way Reitman explained it. He basically talked about how for great plays they can get revivals, where you can see other performers' take on the material, with a new interpretation, etc. To say wow, this is such a great work, I wonder how it would be cast if it was made today. But for movies, there's no vehicle to do that. You can remake it, but that's it.

      And then he further was mentioning how much fun it is to have table reads of his own work - like when it is first cast, to hear how a new group of talented actors interprets the lines on the page. And he got to thinking how fun it would be to do that same thing but with other celebrated pieces.

      I did find it very interesting/entertaining, and in ways that surprised me. I know that movie really well, and I didn't think seeing it again would bring about any fresh understanding, but it totally did. And the actors totally introduced their own signature to the parts, even on lines that are well-known and well-loved for how they were originally performed.

  2. I never thought of it that way, like a play revival. It IS reminds me of the Kerfuffle over the "Psycho" remake a few years ago...why is this OK but that got trashed as a concept/idea before anyone even saw it....curious.