Alanis Morissette Jagged review TIFF 2021 Alison Krayman

TIFF Report: Reviews of Jagged, Lakewood and The Odd-Job Men

The documentary Alanis Morissette is so upset about, a thriller starring Naomi Watts and a Catalan comedy of discomfort.

The 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is on in hybrid form from Sept. 9–18.


Lakewood Philip Noyce Naomi Watts TIFF 2021 review
Lakewood, directed by Philip Noyce

Another single-character, single-location thriller in the vein of The Guilty, Lakewood seems more born out of necessity (it’s the easiest way to make a film during a global health crisis, after all) than of desire. Naomi Watts stars as a widowed mother of a teen boy and pre-teen girl who decides to take a personal day and go for a long run in the woods. She’s immediately interrupted by a million phone calls from a million sources, only to discover in the midst of it all that there’s an active shooter event at her son’s high school — and that he might be a suspect.

It’s already pretty iffy to structure a thriller around a school shooting, though to its infinite defence, Lakewood is much better and more sensitive than Run Hide Fight, the Ben Shapiro-distributed action thriller based around a vaguely similar logline. Good taste isn’t necessarily a huge concern when it comes to Lakewood; it’s more that director Philip Noyce plays most of his cards by the midpoint, which then leaves the viewer patiently waiting for one of two potential outcomes for the rest of the film. Lakewood ultimately becomes a victim of its own design, forced into a predictable structure by its own limitations. Watts does a commendable job delivering an extremely physical performance, but Lakewood eventually crumbles under the weight of its own gimmickry.

Lakewood is not currently slated for a Montreal release.

Lakewood, starring Naomi Watts

The Odd-Job Men

The Odd-Job Men Neus Ballus TIFF 2021 review
The Odd-Job Men, directed by Neus Ballus

A sardonic cross between the naturalistic daily-life exercises of the Dardennes and the character-based discomfort of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Neus Ballús’s The Odd-Job Men is a winning tale of two mismatched plumbers learning (and mostly failing) to solidify a working relationship. Moha (Mohammed Mellali) takes a job with a small plumbing company with the hopes of replacing the soon-to-retire Pep (Pep Sarra), but he almost immediately finds himself butting heads with the standoffish and macho Valero (Valero Escolar), who clearly resents losing his longtime partner in crime. The film unfolds over Moha’s trial week, as the three men find themselves in awkward work situations made more awkward by the fact that most customers love Moha and ignore Valero.

Small-scale and intimate by design, The Odd-Job Men nevertheless offers a precisely sketched portrait of a type of work environment that will immediately be familiar to anyone who has worked this type of manual labour even for a minute amount of time, as I have. The Odd-Job Men explores the power dynamics of people to whom jobs like this are personality-defining and the way in which routine becomes a sort of defence mechanism against the world. The Odd-Job Men is frequently hilarious in a low-key way, but it’s as a character study that it really shines.

The Odd-Job Men is not currently slated for a Montreal release.

The Odd-Job Men, starring Mohammed Mellali, Pep Sarra and Valero Escolar


Jagged Alanis Morissette documentary TIFF 2021 review
Jagged, directed by Alison Klayman

The second music documentary from the HBO / The Ringer partnership I’ve watched at TIFF this year, Jagged explores the creation of and subsequent massive reaction to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. Where the Kenny G doc offers various viewpoints and attempts to dig deeper into the relationship between Kenny G and his success, Jagged borders on sycophantic hagiography, offering a choppy and not particularly convincing depiction of the events that seems (for the most part) to have been scrubbed clean.

Morissette has publicly said that she will not support the documentary, claiming director Alison Klayman betrayed her trust in making the film. Be that as it may, it’s not immediately obvious from the final product, which functions mainly as a fawning celebration of Morissette’s 1995 album. We get a little bit of context for what came before and a vague coda for where Morissette is now, but the film’s refusal to look at the bigger picture makes Jagged a frustrating experience. 

The best parts of the film are the ones that explore Morissette’s position as the “angry feminist pop star” of her day, pointing out the hypocrisy of the industry that built her up just to tear her down. Unfortunately, there’s too much VH1 talking-head inanity surrounding the rest of it to truly make an impact. The film also positions the album as the starting point for a huge career, one that is barely explored at all afterwards. Filled with squandered opportunities and surface-level fan worship, Jagged is a passable TV doc at best.

Jagged will be released on HBO / HBOMax / Crave on Nov. 19.

Alanis Morissette documentary Jagged

Read our previous TIFF 2021 reports here. Check the TIFF website for ticket availabilities for films being screened digitally this year.

For more film and TV coverage, please visit the Film & TV section.