TIFF 2013 and Ryerson Theatre: black SUVs with tinted windows line a busy Gerrard Street and the closest coffee shop is picked clean of everything but rice crispie squares they're passing off as "marshmallow dream bars." There's a charge in the air as I'm ushered past Dakota Fanning's white-blond bun on the red carpet. A volunteer with visibly trembling fingers rips my ticket and it's like the music stopping in a 1200 person game of musical chairs. A middle-aged woman throws me out of her way to get to a seat that turns out to be reserved. Panicked, I almost settle for the sixth row from the screen, but an animalistic need for a good view finds my relieved butt in a prime balcony seat at the last second.
The programmer introduces Night Moves' "international premiere" and announces that it just won the Grand Prize at Deauville. I do not understand how both are possible. The lights go down, excitement is at an all time high, the movie starts and I remember how hard it was to make it through Reichardt's last movie, Meek's Cutoff.
Night Moves is about three environmental activists who blow up a dam. The first 15 minutes warn us that there are going to be some painfully unnecessary scenes laced with unnatural dialogue. And though there is a lot of exposition and general environmental ideology, I am never clear on what any of them really hoped to accomplish with their radical act, or why they seem to need to do it now.
When the action finally starts, Night Moves briefly comes into its own. The thriller aspect is properly tense and Jesse Eisenberg's relentlessly brooding duckface is less noticeable when he has something to do with his hands. Peter Sarsgaard is natural and cool, but you're not invested in him because, like all the characters, you have no idea why he does anything he does.
I am shocked in the Q&A when Reichardt insists it is a character driven movie. The only person who had seemed real at all was Alia Shawkat, Maeby from Arrested Development, who worked so much depth into her tiny role that you wish the movie was about her. Dakota Fanning, on the other hand, delivers one dead line after another, maybe as a result of her character's two-dimensional back-story. It is no surprise when she tells the audience she did nothing to prepare for the role. Eisenberg, at least, is funny and extremely well-spoken. He explains his character so thoughtfully that it helps me like the movie more.
Finally someone asks what I've been wondering: what message is the movie trying to get across? Reichardt, in amazing black pants, balks. Her tone implies, to me anyway, that she can't believe the guy has the gall to ask her that about her environmental terrorism movie.
"I have no message," she says, "I like cinema. That's my message."
What? To me that's like asking someone if they walk to work or take a lunch. And they never played Bob Seger once! If I had to rate this movie (hahaha what situation would that come up in?) I would give it a 5.75/10.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST