TIFF13 Reel Reviews: The F Word

With distribution deals locking in around the world, Michael Dowse's latest film should do well with Toronto fans and rom-com lovers alike, says Thom Ernst.
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The ‘f’ in The F Word might not be the word you think it is. Not that director Michael Dowse romantic-comedy doesn’t get potty mouthed. It does. But the obscenities are not, thankfully, the beat nor rhythm that gives this film momentum. And this is a movie with plenty of momentum, making The F Word one of the most significant films at this year’s festival even if it’s not one Dowse’s best.

Dowse is a good filmmaker; It’s All Gone Pete Tong and Fubar (I & II) are among my favourite films. And The F Word is a good film as far as it being a highly marketable movie capable of playing in an international market with the big boys.

That I wasn’t entirely enamoured with The F Word is of little consequence. The F Word is guaranteed to travel well. It has a universal story that loiters somewhere in the realms of When Harry Met Sally and 500 Days of Summer. There will be more people who love this movie than not. And even naysayers like me must admit to appreciating The F Word on a several levels, like Dowse’s unapologetic endorsement of Toronto.

Dowse’s Toronto, although strangely void of its ethnic diversity, is a community of neighbourhoods, cafes and parks rather than a series of postcard photographs – although a Toronto postcard does make an amusing comparative appearance.

The film is also helped by its stars, Daniel Radcliffe, and Zoe Kazan. Radcliffe, now in the final stages of his Potterectomy, and Kazan area charming match as a couple maneuvering through the complications of a friendly relationship. But it’s actor Megan Park who plays Kazan’s on-screen sister, Dalia,who brings the most authentic and comedic moments to the movie. A scene that has Dalia openly fabricate the details of a failedlov encounter stands-out as one of the film’s most endearing, and quotable, moments. Park delivers a remarkable organic performance in a film that unfortunately seems to be so enamoured with its own cleverness that I could almost hear pages from the script turning after every monologue.

But whatever problems there are with The F Word will be of such little concern to anyone other than a 50-year old curmudgeon like me, that they’re likely, and are, going unnoticed. It’s certainly not about to bother eOne, which snapped up the Canadian theatrical rights, nor to its UK division, which owns the theatrical rights in that market. Even the United Arab Emirates is covered by Front Row Film Entertainment, which has the all media rights for the Middle East.

Now (as of Sept. 11) with reports indicating CBS Films has closed an almost $3 million the deal for the U.S. rights – Dowse can direct the ‘f’ word at my review – and this time it’ll be the word you think it is.

Thom Ernst is a film writer, critic and former exec producer and host of TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies. Throughout the Toronto International Film Festival, he’ll be offering insight into, and market analysis on, Canadian films in the festival lineup.

See all of Ernst’s TIFF13 Reel Reviews here.