January 7th, 2016 Film Reviews, TIFF 0
Jason Reitman’s Live Reads are events unlike any other. Once a month at LACMA in LA, Reitman brings together a group of actors, many of whom have never worked together or even met before the occasion, and has them read through a famous screenplay in front of an audience. A week before the show, Reitman will reveal the screenplay being read and part of the cast. Some of the cast remain a secret, only to be revealed at the show itself. The show is not filmed, which turns it into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as the experience will never be recreated and nobody will experience it other than the people in that room. I was lucky enough to be one of about 1200 people to see the live read that Jason Reitman put on at TIFF, a reading of the screenplay of The Princess Bride.
It was not easy to get into that Live Read, but it was definitely worth any hardships I encountered. I arrived at the rush line (the line that exists at every TIFF screening for people who don’t have tickets to try and fill an empty seat) three and a half hours before the show was supposed to begin. The line was already about 60 people long, all of whom could save a spot for one additional person. My chances did not look good, but I decided to tough it out anyway. After two hours of waiting, the cast started showing up, which lead to some excitement amongst the dreariness of waiting. It also began to rain—pour—but I was not about to give up after waiting this long. Finally the show was about to begin, and it seemed as though there would not be a spot. Luckily for me, I managed to nab one of the last available seats just as the show was beginning, and sprinted inside the theatre.
While we found our seats, Jason Reitman introduced all the actors and the parts they were reading. Donald Glover, Georges Laraque, Catherine Reitman, Rachel McAdams, Cary Elwes, Sir Patrick Stewart, Chris O’Dowd, Gages Munroe, and Rob Reiner were all in attendance, each being assigned a large role and taking turns performing the smaller roles. Catherine Reitman was filling in for Gael Garcia Bernal at her brother’s request, as Bernal’s flight was delayed, but he arrived three-quarters of the way through the event. By far, the biggest cheer went to Cary Elwes, who reprised his role from the movie as Westley, the poor farm boy. This cheer and standing ovation just proved that this audience was filled with die-hard fans of The Princess Bride, those who pride seeing one of the actors from their favourite film over huge stars like Rachel McAdams.
The audience’s excitement was expressed time and time again throughout the reading, particularly whenever an iconic line was read. The first huge line, “As you wish,” got at least 30 seconds of cheering from the audience, to which Reitman remarked, “It’s going to be a long night”. The cheering did not die down through other iconic lines, such as “Inconceivable!”, “That word you keep using, I do not think it means what you think it means”, and “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”.
Part of the magic of seeing one of these live reads is seeing actors reading a part that they’ve never read before, with actors they’ve never worked with. Stumbling over lines, while not a common occurrence, is something that adds to the fun, as the actors apologize or crack a joke at each others’ expense. Cary Elwes was so excited that Sir Patrick Stewart was reading lines right beside him that he pulled out a phone and snapped a picture. Chris O’Dowd put on a hysterical voice while reading his lines as Count Rugen, making him the surprise stand-out performance of the night. All of this is live, and the mistakes and quips add to the sense that something special and unique is happening right in front of us.
Possibly the most enjoyable element of the Live Read was seeing how excited Jason Reitman acted throughout. He clearly adores The Princess Bride, and he showed this with his inability to contain his laughter during a particularly funny line, or his need to let out a cheer or clap during an important one. The enjoyment the cast had as they perform was infectious, and definitely heightened the experience for fans.
This was Reitman’s third Live Read at TIFF; the other two were American Beauty in 2012 and Boogie Nights in 2013. I hope that he continues staging these in Toronto for festivals to come, as it is an experience unlike any other. If you get the chance to see anything at TIFF next year, skip the red carpet screenings of movies that will be in theatres within the month, and opt for Jason Reitman’s Live Read. I’ll be first in line.