Friday, September 17, 2021

Two from Toronto: 'Mad Women's Ball' and the mixed-up 'Tammy Faye'

Director/star Laurent (right) faces off with de Laage.
The 46th annual Toronto International Film Festival brings down its final curtain tomorrow after 10 days of cinematic binging, but two of its high-profile entries become available to everyone today.

"The Mad Women's Ball," directed by and co-starring Melanie Laurent ("Breathe"), will stream only on Amazon Prime as a spellbinding period tale about the medical mistreatment of women and, oh, so much more. 

Laurent portays an administrative nurse at a 19th century French sanitarium, where a few of the female inmates actually might need to be patients. Many, though, were dispatched there by men seeking to victimize them or by families who just didn't know how to cope. 

Such is the case with the heroine of the piece (the strong Lou de Laage), whose scary talent of communicating with the dead gets her committed and then some in a what feels like a grand-looking, distaff version of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." It also makes a fine Prime choice to become the streaming service's first original French-language film.

Not rated by MPAA (but with sexual situations and hospital nudity); 1:54; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Chastain gets her 'Eyes' on.
The other early arrival from TIFF, "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," features a top-notch performance from Jessica Chastain, as the personable title gal, and a rather lame one from Andrew Garfield, as her scandal-ridden, TV preacher/husband, Jim Bakker.

Otherwise, the lengthy story of the Bakkers' rise and fall comes complete with too much sitcom-like dialogue and only a few intriguing relationships. Those would be the ones between Tammy Faye and her ever-disapproving mother (Cherry Jones), and Jim's constant fawning and kowtowing to fellow religious pitchman Jerry Falwell (Vincent D'Onofrio). 

Hey, no surprise, but the brief, 2000 documentary of the same name really nailed it. This one should be labeled "for entertainment purposes only."

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: sexual content and drug abuse; 2:06; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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