TIFF 2013: Your Guide to All Those Similarly Titled and Themed Films

By  · Published on September 2nd, 2013

It happens at every film festival, and this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is no different – a string of titles are announced that sound almost laughably similar, either thanks to their actual titles (there’s a film called October November and one called September? Are you kidding me here?) or their overriding themes (no, you didn’t imagine that there are two films about regular dudes who discover creepy doppelgangers that are also both based on novels at this year’s festival). How will you ever unravel such strange mysteries? As a public service, we’ve compiled a guide to some of the most confusingly similar films at this year’s TIFF. Who’s going to be the first person to forget that Paradise is a standalone and Paradise: Hope is part of a trilogy? Not you!

After the break, learn to tell the difference between Bastardo and Bastards, find out just who Joe and Belle and Therese and Violette are, unravel the mystery of dueling doppelganger-centric features, and find out if Love is the Perfect Crime has anything to say about Life of Crime (hint: it doesn’t).

Bad Hair and Bad Words

From Venezuelan writer-director Mariana Rondón, Bad Hair is a coming-of-age tale about sexuality as told through the filter of personal appearance. Young star Samuel Lange leads as Junior, a kiddo obsessed with preening and prepping (especially as it applies to his hair), who doesn’t quite grasp why he cares so much about how he looks. Bad Words, on the other hand, is a far funnier outing – it’s Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, after all. Bateman also stars in the film (from a Black List script) about a high school dropout who finds a loophole that allows him to enter a spelling bee normally populated by the younger set. We assume hijinks ensue.

Bastardo and Bastards

Bastards (or Les Salauds) is the latest from Claire Denis — and while we can’t quite piece together its narrative just yet (which is probably the point), we do know it involves murder! Bastardo doesn’t seem to have any murder, though it does have a plucky orphan, a telephone tower, and superpowers.

Dom Hemingway and Don Jon

Thank goodness Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut bowed way back in January at Sundance because can you imagine confusing his tale of an Internet porn-obsessed ladies’ man and the Jude Law-starring tale of a jerky safecracker? No? Um, right. Just kidding! Gordon-Levitt stars in his own Don Jon as a jerky guy (in a different sense of the word) who tries to marry his Internet obsession to real life relationships. It’s a lot funnier than it sounds. Law stars in Dom Hemingway as a career criminal trying to reconnect with his daughter, played by Emilia Clarke.

Gowanus Canal and A Grand Canal

Gowanus Canal is a seven-minute short that looks at New York City’s own highly polluted canal of the same name. A Grand Canal is also a short, but this one centers on a Chinese sea captain who loves pop music. You know what? These are probably going to be pretty easy to tell apart.

Joe and Belle and Therese and Violette and Philomena

Joe is David Gordon Green’s Nicolas Cage-starring return to form. Belle is a period piece about the bi-racial illegitimate daughter of an admiral. Therese is another period piece, this one based on Émile Zola’s novel about adultery and murder. Violette is yet another period piece, this one a biopic about author (and Simone de Beauvoir acolyte) Violette Leduc. Philomena is, guess what!, another biopic, starring Judi Dench as a woman forced to give up her child for adoption who searches for him years later. We have to stop with the name-as-title thing. We need to stop with it now.

Life of Crime and Love is the Perfect Crime

Life of Crime — Elmore Leonard-novel based. Love is the Perfect Crime — not.

Paradise and Paradise: Hope

Well, good luck with this one. Paradise centers on a happy pair who suddenly realize they need to slim down – and what happens when only one of them sees results. Meanwhile, Paradise: Hope also pulls from a diet-themed plotline. The conclusion to Ulrich Seidl’s controversial Paradise trilogy, this film follows the teenage daughter of Paradise: Love’s heroine (?) at a weight loss for teens, as she struggles with both her attempts to lose weight and reign in her feelings for a forty-something camp doctor. Your best bet? Remember which one has a second word in its title.

October November and September

October November (or Oktober November, depending on how continental you’re feeling) centers on a fraught family reunion at a charming mountainside inn (can you say “drama”?), while September also focuses on a family – or, more accurately, the family that a lonely lady fixates on (that’s not her own, oops).

The Double and Enemy

A handful of TIFF titles may not sound alike, at least literally speaking, but when it comes to plots and talent, things can sure get confusing. There’s no greater example of this phenomenon than The Double and Enemy. Let’s unravel this little mystery now. Both films are based on previously-penned literary material – The Double is based on a Fyodor Dostoevsky novella of the same name that has been updated to a modern setting, while Enemy is from a recent José Saramago novel – and both center on everyday men who suddenly discover a doppelganger whose existence threatens their lives in numerous ways. The Double stars Jesse Eisenberg in a dual (and dueling) role, with Jake Gyllenhaal pulling double duty for Enemy. The most intriguing thing about both films? Those doppelgangers aren’t just figments of imagination – at least, that’s how it seems – and we can’t wait to see how both story plays out.

Enemy and Prisoners

Yup, Jake Gyllenhaal is toplining two films at TIFF – and both have single word titles and both come from the same director, Denis Villeneuve. You’re already familiar with Enemy, so what’s up with Prisoners? That’s the one that stars Hugh Jackman as a father desperate to uncover who kidnapped his daughter and a friend, with Gyllenhaal on board as a dogged detective, looking to be channeling his Zodiac performance with an actual badge to back it.

McCanick and All the Wrong Reasons

The recently-passed Cory Monteith (a Canadian native) will appear in two films at the festival, both billed as his final works. McCanick has gotten a bit more buzz than All the Wrong Reasons – its drug-centric plot is certainly the more haunting of the pair, and Josh C. Waller’s film seems to feature Monteith in an out of the box role. He co-stars alongside David Morse as the eponymous McCanick, a cop who is dismayed to find that a kid (Monteith) he got tossed into jail years earlier is back on the streets – and he’s got a secret to share. All the Wrong Reasons sounds a bit lighter – but not by much. Monteith co-stars as one of four main ensemble players in a dramedy about big box store employees (think Target) whose romantic alliances appear to be shifting on a daily basis.

Child of God and Palo Alto

It’s hard enough to Know Your James Franco Projects on a regular day, but on a film festival day? Good luck. This one is, however, relatively easy – Child of God is a Franco-directed film based on a Cormac McCarthy novel that comes with a script by Franco and Vince Jolivette and that co-stars Franco in a supporting role, while Palo Alto is a Gia Coppola-directed film based on a James Franco short story collection that comes with a script by Coppola and that co-stars Franco as a creepy high school teacher. Which Franco film are you watching? Easy – are you watching necrophiliac hill people (Child of God) or bored teenagers (Palo Alto)?

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The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5th until September 15th.

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