“It’s the minutiae of life that’s interesting; plot is a device.” So said Ethan Hawke on Thursday night, speaking of the perspective of his frequent collaborator director Richard Linklater, whose appreciation for the understated, the unforced, and the everyday hit a profound pinnacle with this year’s celebrated Boyhood.
Hawke and Boyhood costar Patricia Arquette were on hand for the Riviera Award, and, post-montage, SBIFF director Roger Durling welcomed them to the stage with a deep bow. In response, Arquette said, “We were just saying, ‘We must be the two actors with the most fucked-up teeth.’”
Orthodontia notwithstanding, the two have wowed since Arquette’s mind-blowing True Romance and Hawke’s heart-stealing Dead Poets Society, a clip of which drew huge applause and emotional words from Hawke about Robin Williams. (“What is it about intensively creative people and their inability to find balance? Sometimes I think they have this kind of grace.”). As for Boyhood, they still seem somewhat amazed at what they were a part of (“Not many people can say they did something new in film,” said Arquette), and the fact that it got made — and financed — at all. Their on-screen son, Ellar Coltrane, presented the award like a pro — and, in some ways, a son. “You’re my greatest allies,” he said, noting that he’s witnessed them grow up, too.
At the Hennessy Lounge post-tribute, I found life imitating art when I spotted Hawke and Coltrane chatting on a sofa, looking every bit the part of father and son — and acting that way too, when I asked if they’d mind smiling for the camera and Hawke got sweetly protective, telling Coltrane it was up to him.
Turning, I spotted Arquette reaching for Durling’s glasses. “I love these,” she said. Like an overzealous grandmother, I orchestrated a photo of the naked-faced Durling and bespectacled Arquette, only to realize later that in so doing, I’d inadvertently set off the SBIFF-equivalent of a fire alarm. Apparently Durling removing his specs is secret code for his staff — as in Code Red. Blithely unaware, I moved on — as, I later learned, various staffers closed in — for the only emergency I was aware of was the fact that another party going on and the night was disappearing quickly.
The following morning found me moving slowly, but this bout of festival fatigue was no match for the promise of Steve Carell (or an obscene volume of coffee, a device I fully believe in). The fastest sellout in SBIFF history, the tribute to Carell was as entertaining as you’d expect. When moderator Pete Hammond mentioned that Carell’s known as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, he replied, “People say that like it’s an anomaly. Shouldn’t people just be nice?” Of Anchorman, he revealed that the “Afternoon Delight” scene wasn’t in the original script but was added after he and Paul Rudd spontaneously broke into the song one day on set. (Like that’s an anomaly?)
Scenes from his career held the crowd spellbound, and the infamous chest-waxing sequence from The 40-Year-Old Virgin (which came together as fast as a 40-year-old virgin might, um, blush: Carrell said he’d pitched the film to Judd Apatow in five minutes; Apatow sold it in just two days) earned laughs so big it felt like the first time. But, as his Oscar-nominated turn as troubled heir John du Pont in Foxcatcher proves, he’s unafraid to get serious. In fact, he said he sees dark characters like du Pont and the deeply unlikeable Trent in The Way Way Back as intriguing opportunities to go spelunking for humanity. The program wrapped with a giddy Jennifer Garner presenting the award, and Carell reading a scathing review of an early career performance and drawing the only appropriate response when he said, “Thanks for coming,” and the crowd called back, “That’s what she said!”
At the after-party, Carell revealed himself to be … nice! He mingled freely with the masses while the peeps worked their way through the cocktail list, until some gentlemen who shall remain nameless revealed they were not entirely inexperienced in matters of wax. (Want to get someone to talk? Try cognac.)
Finally, Saturday was upon us. Closing night brought the premiere of McFarland, USA, along with its star Kevin Costner, director Niki Caro, and the trove of young actors who played the expectation-shattering runners featured in the true-story flick — and whose excitement was on full, adorable display. The crowd’s was, too, as they cheered those race scenes as enthusiastically as if they were lining the course itself.
My finish line, too, was within reach. A quick walk delivered me to the UGG lounge, where the SBIFF’s extended pop-up family relived the highlights, emptied the bar’s inventory, sopped it up with snacks provided by Arlington Tavern (where, incidentally, Costner dined that night), and prolonged our annual good-byes until we could last no more.
And when all was said and done, the only device I had any interest in was bed.