At Toronto’s film festival, women in driver’s seat

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At Toronto’s film festival, women in driver’s seat

TORONTO - Madonna may have stolen the lion’s share of the headlines, but there were plenty of films by women directors earning a lot of buzz at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, which closed yesterday.

From the invention of the vibrator to the aftermath of a school massacre, women brought comedy and complexity to the event that helps launch Hollywood’s Oscar season.

From Madonna’s “W.E.” to Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz,” many of the films delved into familiar themes of relationships, marriage and children, but it is unfair to label them as “chick flicks,” said Canadian actress and director Polley.

“If you make a movie about a woman, whether it’s by a woman or from the perspective of a woman, then it’s [labeled] a ‘chick flick,’?” she said. “But there’s no matching marginalizing term to talk about a movie that stars a man.”

Her new feature, “Take This Waltz,” was one of three female-helmed films to get a high-profile gala screening at the festival. The movie stars Michelle Williams as a young married woman tempted into a relationship by a handsome neighbor.

Madonna’s “W.E.,” about the 1930s marriage of King Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson, was also given the gala treatment, although headline-grabbing talk about the pop star outweighed the interest paid to her film.

And Tanya Wexler’s crowd-pleasing Victorian vibrator comedy “Hysteria” rounded out the top-billed female films at Toronto.

Wexler, returning to the director’s seat after taking a few years off to focus on her family, said the goal with “Hysteria” was to make a romantic comedy that women would want to see, but that also had a message.

“This movie peeks at the idea of having the opportunity to choose,” she said. “It’s really about being in charge of yourself, your life and your body.”

Wexler added that despite all the advances women have made since the Victorian era, inequality and lack of choice remain issues for many women in all parts of the world.

“It’s the difference of my kids saying ‘that’s not fair’ if they don’t each have seven jelly beans,” she said. “And the ability to choose if you want jelly beans or chocolate chips.”

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