‘THE STARLING’ IS A DEEPLY PHILOSOPHICAL FILM ABOUT OVERCOMING GRIEF - The Daily Guardian
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‘THE STARLING’ IS A DEEPLY PHILOSOPHICAL FILM ABOUT OVERCOMING GRIEF

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Toronto International Film Festival 2021 offered a very interesting lineup of films. On one hand we had crowd pullers like Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ and Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night in Soho,’ on the other we had gritty dramas like Antoine Fuqua’s ‘The Guilty’ and Michael McGowan’s ‘All My Puny Seasons’. The festival also screened riveting documentaries like Mohammed Abugeth and Daniel Carsenty’s ‘The Devil’s Drivers’ and Gian Cassini’s ‘Comala’. But, perhaps, the most unique film to screen at the 2021 TIFF was Theodore Melfi’s dramedy ‘The Starling,’ based on a screenplay by Matt Harris. The film stars Melissa McCarthy, Kevin Kline, Chris O’Dowd, and Timothy Olyphant.

After Lilly (McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) lose their infant daughter, grief gets the better of Jack and he enrolls in a psychiatric clinic. But Lilly decides to deal with her guilt while going about her day to day affairs. She keeps her job at the grocery store, continues to look after the family’s expansive rural property, and dutifully visits her husband at the clinic every week. Even as she is trying to come to terms with the reality of her existence a combative bird takes nest beside her quiet home and repeatedly taunts and attacks the grief-stricken Lilly.

During one of the sessions at the psychiatric clinic where Jack is staying, a counselor suggests that Lilly should see a local therapist, Larry (Kevin Kline), after she suspects that Lilly isn’t tending to her own grieving process. But the counselor fails to mention that Larry gave up psychology long ago to become a veterinarian. Things come full circle when Lilly meets Larry as the latter’s veterinarian skills prove quite handy to the former in dealing with the territorial bird wreaking havoc in her garden.

The idea for the unique story stemmed from Matt’s personal experience of working in a mental health hospital to earn a living while attending graduate school for his Master’s. It evolved into a story of an inexplicable tragedy that befalls a couple as they are forced to reconcile their grief and seek a way forward if they are to share a future together. Matt wrote the script with the prize money he won from the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. It made the rounds until director Ted Melfi fell in love with it. After years of near-misses, the film finally got made with its post-production getting completed during the pandemic.

Now, The Starling doesn’t offer a regular story. The ideas and themes that it deals with make it a very complex film. And perhaps that’s why it’s been in the waiting for so long. And if it wouldn’t have been for Ted Melfi it would have remained a screenplay for at least some more years to come. Melfi is known for films such as ‘Winding Roads,’ ‘St. Vincent,’ and ‘Hidden Figures,’ which was nominated for three academy awards including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The Brooklyn-born filmmaker has a rare gift to deal with subjects that puts strong women characters in the mix of things. While ‘Winding Roads’ is about three women navigating their respective love lives, ‘Hidden Figures’ tells the story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.

In ‘The Starling,’ Melfi has his job cut out to make the rather peculiar character of Lilly look believable. And he does succeed in the task. Of course, the casting choice of his ‘St. Vincent’ star Melissa McCarthy in the role of Lilly proves to be an inspired one. McCarthy is one of the few actors around who are capable of making the audiences laugh and cry at the drop of a hat. I remember recently watching her in the Hulu show ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ wherein during one of the funny scenes she chokes on a grape. McCarthy is so good in the scene that I just couldn’t hold back my laughter in spite of the precarious nature of her situation. From that point onwards in the show whenever she appears on the screen she is able to punctuate the tension. But few minutes into ‘The Starling,’ I totally forgot about the character in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ and all I really cared about was Lilly. That’s how good an actor McCarthy really is.

‘The Starling’ is a deeply philosophical film that is not easy to watch if you are looking for your regular escapist entertainment. It’s a movie that demands patience. But, patience does have its rewards. McCarthy’s layered performance alone makes it worth a watch. The chemistry between McCarthy and Kline is what holds the movie together. Melfi proves that what’s good on paper can also be successfully translated on the screen as long as a director is willing to back it up and he/she has access to good actors.

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FARDEEN, RITEISH’S ‘VISFOT’ GOES ON FLOORS

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MUMBAI: Fardeen Khan and Riteish Deshmukh-starrer ‘Visfot’ went on floors on Tuesday. The film, which marks Fardeen Khan’s re-entry into Bollywood after an 11-year-hiatus, is being directed by Kookie Gulati and also stars Priya Bapat in a pivotal role. ‘Visfot’ is the official remake of ‘Rock, Paper and Scissors’ (2012), Venezuela’s entry to the Academy Awards that year for the Best Foreign Language film section.

The story of ‘Visfot’ oscillates between the chawls of Dongri and the high-rises of the city of Mumbai and will be shot in real locations. Fardeen and Riteish were last seen together in ‘Heyy Babyy’ and will be teaming up for this film after a gap of 14 years.

‘Visfot’, presented by T-Series and Sanjay Gupta, is produced by Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Anuradha Gupta and Sanjay Gupta.

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‘THE WHITE TIGER’ FAME ADARSH GOURAV BAGS INTERNATIONAL PROJECT

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WASHINGTON: After entertaining the viewers with his role in Netflix’s ‘The White Tiger’, actor Adarsh Gourav is now all set to feature in the international project ‘Extrapolations’. As per Deadline, ‘Extrapolations’, which is currently in production, tells the stories of how the upcoming changes to the planet will affect love, faith, work and family on a personal and human scale. The climate change anthology drama series will also feature renowned actors like Meryl Streep, Kit Harington, David Schwimmer, Sienna Miller, Tahar Rahim, Matthew Rhys, Daveed Diggs, and Gemma Chan.

However, Adarsh has not officially announced the project yet. For the unversed, Adarsh earned a nomination at BAFTA for the Best Leading Actor for his performance in ‘The White Tiger’. He will also be seen in Zoya Akhtar’s next ‘Kho Gaye Hum Kahan’.

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RANI WRAPS UP SHOOTING FOR ‘MRS CHATTERJEE VS NORWAY’

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MUMBAI: Rani Mukerji has finished her shooting for ‘Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway’.

Shot extensively in Estonia and in some parts of India, the film’s team celebrated the wrap on the sets. Several pictures have been doing the rounds on the internet, in which Rani can be seen sharing smiles with the producers.

Talking about it, Rani said, “It’s a really sweet coincidence that I wrapped the shoot of Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway on the same day that my first Hindi film ‘Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat!’ ‘Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway’ is an inspirational story about a mother fighting a country for her children and I went through a rollercoaster of emotions shooting this film. I’m hoping that this film will resonate with everyone who wants to see an entertainer with a brilliant concept at its fore.” 

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TEASER OF ‘RADHE SHYAM’ TO RELEASE ON PRABHAS’ BIRTHDAY

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MUMBAI: 23 October is going to be a special day for Prabhas’ fans as it will mark the actor’s 42nd birthday. Also, on his birthday, fans will also get to see the first official teaser of Prabhas’ most awaited film ‘Radhe Shyam’.

On Wednesday, Prabhas took to Instagram and shared a new poster of the film, revealing that the teaser will be out on Saturday. In the poster, he can be seen giving a serious intense look. Interestingly, the previous promotional materials showcased him as a mild-mannered and romantic hero.

“Who is Vikramaditya? Meet him on 23rd. Enjoy the #Radheshyam teaser in English with subtitles in different languages,” Prabhas captioned the poster. Helmed by Radha Krishna Kumar, ‘Radhe Shyaam’ also features Pooja Hegde. It is scheduled to release on 14 January 2022.

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HAVING STRONG MUSCLES IS NOT A MAN’S DOMAIN: TAAPSEE

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MUMBAI: ‘Girls should only do cardio, lifting is for guys’, ‘You won’t look like a girl if you build muscles’ — it’s 2021 and women are still facing such stereotypical fitness-related remarks. Taapsee Pannu is completely against the common notion that having a muscular physique is a man’s domain.

“Unfortunately, there’s still a stereotypical outlook towards women’s fitness. It’s extremely sad. Who has made this rule that women can’t have muscles? I find this to be a big myth which all of us must have heard and maybe in the beginning when I was trying to lose weight at a point in life, I also heard that ‘just do cardio and don’t do weightlifting’. I paid attention to that stupid advice because I did not know any better and I was not that open-minded at that time that I would question it, but slowly with time I realised it’s absolutely wrong,” said Taapsee.

According to her, it’s baseless to body shame any woman for having muscles. Like many others, Taapsee also recently fell prey to body shaming. A section of social media users trolled her for her physical transformation for ZEE5’s film ‘Rashmi Rocket’. Many described her transformation as manly.

Talking about the same, she said, “People would have drooled over my look if I had put up a bikini picture. There would be comments like ‘whatta body’, ‘so hot’. For me, the body that’s worth appreciating is the one that has been worked hard on.”

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EMRAAN HASHMI’S HORROR FILM ‘DYBBUK’S’ TEASER OUT

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MUMBAI: Makers of the horror-thriller ‘Dybbuk – The Curse Is Real’, which stars Emraan Hashmi and Nikita Dutta, have launched an intriguing teaser of the upcoming film. Written and directed by Jay K, the Amazon Original film is the official remake of the Malayalam film ‘Ezra’.

Emraan shared the mysterious teaser on Instagram and wrote, “A mysterious box, an ancient key. If you open this #Dybbuk do you know what will be set free?” It will premiere on 29 October.

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