in , ,

TIFF Review: ‘Woman of the Hour’ is an Exceptionally Impressive Directorial Debut for Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick is a talented actress with a definite eye for good material. That eye served her well in choosing Woman of the Hour for her filmmaking debut. Not only is the stranger than fiction true life tale fascinating, it gives her ample opportunity to showcase some directing chops. Watching this movie at the Toronto International Film Festival, you’d never guess it was her first time directing a feature. Funny, tense, and viscerally effective, this is an extraordinarily effective start to Kendrick’s time behind the camera.

Woman of the Hour is not just a calling card for an actor turned filmmaker, but a complex film with something to say. The way women were treated in the 1970s, as well as skewed gender dynamics, are examined with precision. Kendrick has an incredible efficiency in her storytelling, getting exactly the responses she wants from you at all times. She’s in full control, making for an exceptionally well-crafted flick.

This is the incredible story of how a serial killer ended up on The Dating Game. In the 1970s, Rodney Alcala (Daniel Zovatto) went on a killing spree. He would lure women to deserted spots by posing as a photographer looking for new models. He’d rape and murder them, going about his life with impunity. In 1978, he was a contestant on that game show.

The woman on the other side is Cheryl Bradshaw (Kendrick), a struggling actress who goes on the show as a gig, hoping for exposure. While that unsettling event is playing out, we double back on Rodney’s killings, seeing the victims in a way that’s rarely depicted. They’re vibrant women, snuffed out only for having run into this monster. It’s all shown in an unsparing, yet never exploitative, manner, including how Laura (Nicolette Robinson) even recognized Rodney while watching from the audience.

The performances from Anna Kendrick, as well as Daniel Zovatto, really are effective. Kendrick makes Cheryl someone you’re instantly invested in, feeling her pain as she essentially has to stoop to the level of this show. When she takes control, shocking the contestants and the host (Tony Hale), you cheer for her. Kendrick knows the character inside and out, and it shows. Zovatto manages to be incredibly unsettling, despite appearing more like a sad-sad than anything else. Kendrick utilizes that very well, which Zovatto uses as fuel. It’s one of the better serial killer performances of late. In addition to Hale and Nicolette Robinson, the supporting players here includes Kathryn Gallagher, plus more.

In making her directorial debut, Kendrick takes a script from Ian MacAllister McDonald and films the hell out of it. Jumping between time periods, slick editing, and holding on some very unsettling shots, it all suggests a veteran storyteller. She’s able to ratchet up the tension in a manner that rivals many horror filmmakers. The screenplay clearly inspired her, leading to a work that is justifiably angry at the way women are ignored. In doing so, she also manages to make a super strong genre work.

Woman of the Hour is one of the best films playing at TIFF this year. That it’s Anna Kendrick’s debut feature is just all the more impressive. This movie deserves to find a dedicated buyer ASAP. Not only did it kill here in Toronto, it should be a hit among true crime fans out in the world. There’s a ton of potential here, including the newfound excitement for whatever Kendrick decides to direct next. Don’t miss this flick!

SCORE: ★★★1/2


Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] TIFF Review: ‘Woman of the Hour’ is an Exceptionally Impressive Directorial Debut for An… […]



Written by Joey Magidson

‘Poor Things’ Wins Golden Lion at Venice

Sunday Scaries: Exorcising Paul Schrader’s Demons