Diamond Tongues Review
By Brian Thompson
As much as I appreciate the bluesy style that July Talk brings to the Toronto alternative rock scene, I’m now convinced that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they were to go on indefinite hiatus tomorrow. If for nothing else, it would mean that Leah Goldstein could continue her acting career. Diamond Tongues gives her an opportunity to showcase her talents outside of music, and she absolutely knocks it out of the park.
She takes center stage as Edith Welland, an aspiring actress who is trying to push forward with her dream of a stage career while struggling to live with all of the pitfalls so often associated with the competitive industry. To make matters worse, she soon discovers that her recent ex-boyfriend has also taken up acting, only to find immediate success as a performer.
Over the past half-decade or so, there has been an influx of female characters trying to pursue a career in the arts only to find that it leads to hardships and loss. Some of the best examples of this would be Lena Dunham in Girls and Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha. Goldstein creates a character that fits into this mold, but she also brings a unique flair to the role that makes her stand apart from the pack. It is rare to see someone take to the screen so majestically on the first go-around.
Even when Edith is sabotaging her own happiness and screwing over the people closest to her, she is still an undeniably likeable character. She continues to make terrible choices, but she carries enough charisma that you find yourself rooting for her. She lies about her accomplishments and falls into self-delusional tendencies, not unlike Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy. As such, the film never portrays her as a villain or victim.
At what point do you realize that your ambitions are unrealistic and you should start looking for a new career? Diamond Tongues seems to suggest that there is hope even in the darkest times. With this film, Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson have created an interesting character study that skillfully rides the line between whimsy and despair.
Drink Every Time: Edith’s struggle is painfully relatable.
“In ‘Diamond Tongues’ Leah Goldstein Plays a Flawed Actress”
By Ben Kenigsberg, February 18th, 2016
“Diamond Tongues,” an alternately sweet and slashing microbudget comedy from Canada, makes a great vehicle for Leah Goldstein, a musician and performance artist appearing in her first movie. As Edith, an aspiring actress who seems blind to her deficits and personal flaws, Ms. Goldstein gives a performance that requires her to swing between disarming and loathsome. She demonstrates impressive skill in slowly peeling away her character’s charm.
Edith scrounges for casting calls in Toronto, auditioning for such misbegotten projects as “Blood Sausage,” about a serial killer who turns his victims into encased meat. She seethes at friends whose successes only marginally exceed her own — giving a poor online rating to a film in which an acquaintance appears and barely concealing her jealousy of a roommate (Leah Wildman) who is preparing for a play. And although still recuperating from a breakup that she initiated, Edith is also horrified to discover her ex-boyfriend is pursuing acting ambitions of his own.
“Diamond Tongues” vacillates between light, faintly romantic humor — her pal Nick (Nick Flanagan) is one of the many people who try to manage her expectations for stardom — and darker territory, as when Edith is taken in by an acting teacher.
The prickly tone is a difficult balancing act, and “Diamond Tongues” may settle for being a softer-hearted film than its most cynical scenes portend. But it has a palpable affection for Toronto’s cultural scene and for Ms. Goldstein, who would most likely have no trouble standing out at an audition in real life.
Slant Magazine Review
By Nick Prigge
February 15, 2016
As Diamond Tongues opens, fledgling actress Edith Welland (Fay Goldstein) stands on a struck film set, expressing gratitude about simply getting work as an extra. But upon learning that her ex-boyfriend (Adam Gurfinkel) has landed the lead role in a Z-grade horror flick for which she can’t even get a callback, Edith sees her positivism quickly give way to narcissism, and then abject cruelty as she takes small modicums of revenge against other actor friends whose successes she’s convinced should be hers. There’s a startling, if revealing, moment in Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson’s film when she sexually pleasures herself while imagining herself making an appearance on a talk show, and her haughty air within the fantasy is no different than in real life; she acts as if she’s already fast-forwarded to the point where she’s achieved fame and is simply waiting for everyone else to catch up.
Less than laser-focused on her career, Edith can’t be bothered to create an acting reel or even bring headshots to an audition. Moondi and Roberston, though, don’t see this as lazy indifference, but a kind of spacey disconnect that escalates with every professional setback she suffers. Rather than confronting her dismal prospects, Edith retreats into a cocoon of self-delusion where she can pretend that her talent is real, and the filmmakers give full shape to the dimensions of her delusion through a series of increasingly agonizing vignettes demonstrating her tenuous hold on reality.
That deception is never more acute than in a scene where Edith makes a meal for two and invites neighbor she doesn’t know to share it with her. Though he accepts her offer, he continually comments on the situation’s palpable strangeness. The guy, it turns out, is an artist—or, he used to be, having quit upon realizing his own lack of skill. The sequence exudes the tone of a wispy rom-com, and this rendezvous hints at the promise of a new relationship for Edith and, in turn, a self-awakening. Instead, the film pivots back to reality when the guy admits he’s engaged and she closes the door, literally on him and metaphorically on the idea of this as her resurrection. This is one of several times that Moondi and Robertson purposely indulge Hollywood formula only to subvert it, intent on allowing their main character to organically, if excruciatingly, find her own way out of life’s quagmire.
The film’s inherent tragedy is that while everyone else so clearly sees where Edith comes up short, she turns a blind eye. Secure in her own starry ascendance, she puts on a premiere for friends of a low-budget indie in which she stars. Rather than becoming the moment of triumph she hopes, however, the finished product is met with derision, and Edith is finally forced to confront the terrifying image of her own impotence as an actress. And if Goldstein effectively rejects empathy throughout, here she invites it, practically crumbling before our eyes. It’s her character’s bottoming out, but it’s also a moment of clarity, when Edith looks in the figurative mirror and gets it together. A sequence late in Diamond Tongue sees her asking someone she hardly knows for absolution. It’s the monologue this inept hack has waited her whole life to give and, miracle of miracles, she nails it.
Interview: CBC Music Roundtable with Leah Goldstein, Brian Robertson, Pavan Moondi, DOP Peter Dreimanis & Producer Sarah Haywood
July Talk’s Leah Fay Goldstein shines in Diamond Tongues, her debut role
Article posted by Holly Gordon
July Talk’s Leah Fay Goldstein had never officially acted in a movie before, but you would never know it from her first role in Diamond Tongues. The film, which premieres Aug. 7 at the TIFF Lightbox, chronicles the slow descent of Edith, an actor who is barely making an effort to find roles while classifying herself as a bona fide struggling artist. Edith spends a lot of her time lying, sabotaging others or feeling sorry for herself, yet Goldstein finds the relatable moments. Even at Edith’s lowest, Goldstein’s expressions register just enough of her character’s struggles for the audience to take a moment and try a little harder to give her a shot.
“We knew generally speaking that we needed someone who was naturally very likeable to play Edith, to counterbalance what could be read as a very unlikeable character on paper,” says Pavan Moondi, writer and co-director of Diamond Tongues. “[When] we first saw Leah performing onstage as part of July Talk, she came off very charming and endearing. Beyond that, we really just needed someone with a strong artistic voice and a bold, engaging personality, and Leah has that in spades.”
While Goldstein is the star onscreen, her musical partner in July Talk, Peter Dreimanis, is the cinematographer, capturing quiet moments with just the right amount of space, while giving room to bursts of chaos (which feels similar to watching their band dynamic onstage).
Moondi finished the script for Diamond Tongues in July 2013, and he and co-director Brian Robertson cast Goldstein and hired Dreimanis in September. Because of July Talk’s touring schedule, they shot the film in April 2014 during a 12-day window, sometimes shooting five or six locations in a single day (including one scene on The Strombo Show and an unexpected drop-in to an improv class). It premiered in January 2015 in Park City, Utah’s Slamdance Film Festival, and since then it’s been the official selection for nine other festivals.
Diamond Tongues‘ credits read like an indie musician’s who’s-who: Brendan Canning scored the soundtrack, and also served as executive producer of the film through his production company, Draper Street Film, co-founded with Sarah Haywood. Broken Social Scene, Timber Timbre, Lowell and Emily Haines and the Soft Skeletons are all listed as having contributed songs, and Islands perform as themselves in a bar scene. It’s a movie about an actor, but at its heart is a long list of musicians.
In light of Diamond Tongues‘ Canadian premiere, we gathered Goldstein, Dreimanis, Moondi, Robertson and Haywood — over the internet — to talk about getting the project going, casting Goldstein without an audition and how, exactly, Goldstein made such an acerbic character so likeable.
On getting started
Brian Robertson (co-director): Pavan and I started thinking of a concept for the film after taking a few meetings with our executive producer, Ari Lantos at Serendipity Point Films. … What we came up with was essentially what Diamond Tongues is: a character-driven narrative that takes place here in Toronto. Pavan and I settled on an idea about someone struggling with the uncertainties of something they’re passionate about and Pavan got to writing the script.
Pavan Moondi (writer, co-director): I had made a film previously [Everyday Is Like Sunday] that was about not knowing what to do with your life. I decided this next one should be about knowing exactly what you want to do with your life but feeling like you have very little control over it. Brian and I had earlier talked about making a film about a group of actors and so it made sense to put the two together. Making the film about an actress specifically seemed to be the best way to convey this idea of a frustrating lack of control, as the industry for actresses, especially, is not an easy one.
Sarah Haywood (producer): When Brian and Pavan came along looking for investors, Diamond Tongues fit our criteria in several ways. … Our first feature film. It all happened really fast and we dove right in and began shooting within a few weeks of taking it on. It felt like a big risk financially and it was nerve-wracking when we thought about what will happen to the film, but I was absolutely positive this genre was going to be of interest and that the talent and ability a lead singer has would be translatable to the screen in terms of being able to perform and go for it.
On hiring both halves of July Talk
Robertson: Pavan and I had been trying to find an actress for about three or four months and we just couldn’t find anyone. We were pretty discouraged with how things were going and I was starting to really worry about making the film. We saw July Talk perform [at a Mongrel Media party at TIFF in September 2013] and Leah had this wild energy onstage. This was at a point where Pavan and I were so used to just pointing at people on the street wondering if they would do it. As soon as we saw Leah it just clicked for us. We had a mutual friend and we asked him to introduce us. Pavan pitched Leah the next night at a different show. I think he actually asked her to be in our film like 10 seconds before she walked onstage.
Leah Fay Goldstein (actress, July Talk): As a teen I worked as a “party motivator” (my words) for this entertainment company that DJed bar and bat mitzvahs. It used to be my job to make people hit the dance floor and do the macarena or whatever. I learned the best way to fill an empty dance floor is to put yourself there first, flail around, smile like a gleeful idiot and pretend to have fun until you’re actually having fun. It doesn’t take long.
In an attempt [at the Mongrel Media party] to get our audience to uncross their arms and be less suit-like and more human-like I decided I wanted them to limbo using my microphone stand. So between songs I mentioned my bar/bat mitzvah dancing days and said something like, “Don’t worry I’m basically a professional. What are you, too cool to limbo? Just trust me!” Once they were seemingly on our side I pretended to pass out in the crowd during one song and poured a beer on Peter’s face during another one. When faced with a “too-cool” crowd we always try to shift the energy from contrived to chaotic.
Despite my being a total shithead onstage that night, Pavan and Brian, there in the audience, decided they wanted me to play Edith. I guess it was kind of my audition. They came to our next show and asked if I’d be in their film. I said, “But I’ve never acted before.” They said, “That’s good! Will you do it?” and Pavan swears I just said “OK!” and then walked onstage to perform but in my memory I asked to read the script first. … I told [Pavan], “I’ll do it, but if I suck you have to be honest about it and fire me and find someone else.”
Robertson: After talking with Peter for five minutes I knew he was the one to shoot the film. He has a background in cinematography and all the videos he shot for July Talk were beautiful.
Moondi: Peter was insistent that he didn’t want to do this film if he was going to be expected to just sit back and be a camera operator. He was interested in being a real collaborator and he really understands the filmmaking process. He gave us some great notes on the script that had a major impact on the film. Peter tends to view things a little bit differently than Brian and I do. … It allowed us to fill in each other’s gaps and really take the film into new and interesting places we likely wouldn’t have been able to do if we didn’t work together.
Peter Dreimanis (cinematographer, July Talk): I had some issues with the initial script, and even at our earliest meetings, Pavan and Brian were really receptive to my concerns. The movie was largely dialogue-based and allowed very little time for the audience to breathe and reflect on some pretty bizarre and terrible decisions made by the protagonist, Edith. I immediately felt that the dialogue in the script was only going to provide a loose structure to follow and that to believe that Edith would actually do these terrible things, we had to allow her and the other actors to go totally off of the script.
Robertson: Part of this is that Diamond Tongues was never going to be a union/ACTRA film. When you’re casting a film that is going to be made up almost extensively of “non-professional actors,” we found that people who have experience performing in other areas are great to work with across the board. We didn’t have a lot of time in pre-production and we were really limited with our number of shooting days, so when you’re putting people in front of a camera in a room full of strangers you want them to be as naturally comfortable as possible. We approached musicians and comedians because that experience is part of their profession and they tend to bring a general easiness with them.
On the July Talk working relationship
Robertson: I think Pavan and I suspected that working with Leah and Peter was going to be pretty easy. Based on how hard they work and how often they’re touring with the band alone, we knew that there wouldn’t be any issues concerning the tight timeline we were dealing with (we shot the film in about nine-and-a-half days).
Moondi: I think Peter’s presence behind the camera made Leah immediately comfortable from the get-go.
Goldstein: I’m not sure either of us would have jumped into this project without the other person. I fully trust Peter’s taste and ability so I felt as comfortable as one possibly could while acting in a film for the first time. He’s an incredible cinematographer with an insane amount of lighting knowledge and experience so I knew that, if nothing else, at least we’d have beautiful-looking footage. There are some scenes in the film involving sex and drugs that I just wouldn’t have been OK with acting in if Peter wasn’t behind the camera. For example, when a script says, “They have intercourse,” there are countless ways that can be portrayed and shot, which is absolutely terrifying. But Pete knows me better than anyone so I knew my values wouldn’t be compromised.
Dreimanis: Leah and I are joined at the hip and we love it. Working with her is a lifelong commitment for me, she is a very intense, challenging artist that never ceases to surprise me even after hundreds of shows performing together. To be honest, in all of my prior film work, it was easy to hold myself at an arm’s length away from a true creative commitment. … [But] because Leah was the face of this movie and her career means a lot to me, I had no choice but to break down that wall and be really critical of writing I didn’t like or characters I didn’t believe in. This made me commit in a way that I didn’t know I could, especially as a cinematographer.
Goldstein: Within the first few pages of the script, Edith is with her agent, who is telling her she “can’t pass for 16” and she “can’t play a vixen.” Right off the bat, that set a tone that I could get down with. In the vast majority of films based on female protagonists, those are two of the top deciding factors for who will play the leading role: does she look young enough for us to see her as doe-eyed and innocent but also sexual enough to be objectified and sell tickets? There it is in the second scene … she just has to be a human being and struggle with her dreams and aspirations. What a concept: a woman who is flawed and unlikable, who has shit to deal with and darkness inside of her. She’s not an accessory to a male character nor a stunning heroine in heels. There’s been an effort in mainstream comedies to make female protagonists relatable and human by making them fart and shit and talk about their vaginas. Of course de-objectifying and re-humanizing the female body is so important, but what we really need to see more of are stories about human beings that appeal to human beings regardless of gender. And without making gender its main focus, I felt that Diamond Tongues told that kind of human story.
Dreimanis: Because of the dark side of Edith’s character, I wanted to allow her face to fall to total darkness in certain scenes to allow the audience to see themselves within her character and appropriate the parts of themselves that they are the least proud of.
Goldstein: We filmed all these scenes where Edith is watching other people excel at their craft. None of them had dialogue so Pavan would stand behind the camera and give cues about how to react, kind of acting as Edith’s psyche. It would move from sheer enjoyment, to self-doubt, to hints of jealousy and eventually to a crippling, feverish, self-loathing envy. I’m not sure how many of those scenes made it into the film but doing it repeatedly — usually at one location every other day — provided an easy route back into the darkest parts of Edith. That’s where my understanding and patience for her came from. Jealousy, though a repugnant feeling, is one that every single person battles with at some point. It is directly related to self-doubt and self-worth and no human, no matter how seemingly confident, hasn’t felt inadequate at some point. While I personally have never sabotaged a friend’s success out of jealousy or gone out of my way to ruin someone’s chances at happiness, I have absolutely let my emotions get the best of me and done things that I still cringe about and might not ever entirely forgive myself for. I think everyone has. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you human.
Source: CBC Music
By David Berry
When we first meet Edith (Leah Goldstein), the struggling actress at the centre of Diamond Tongues, she seems almost sweetly parodic, tinged with the sort of mildly clueless desperation we find in the loveable loser. She awkwardly tries to make friends with a crew member at the wrap of her most recent movie shoot, and later briefly perks up when her agent tells her she’s “too thin” for a potential role — as a morbidly obese woman. Small victories for a small life.
These hints of quirk and cheery humour pretty quickly start to drain out of her, though, as she meanders her way through the low-key industry parties and late-night streets of Toronto. Stuck a notch or several below her friends and frenemies, her sense of ennui is channelled into a bitterness towards the world, one that swells and pops at the sight of virtually anyone else’s happiness. Soon, she is playing telephone-brag with the accomplishments of friends she has just finished dismissing, fruitlessly covering up the posters of her friend’s plays and literally masturbating to the thought of being interviewed on national television.
The second feature by Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson, Diamond Tongues lives in its careful attention to detail, the meticulous but breezy way it captures Edith’s meandering life as much as her increasingly destructive disenchantment. Conversations make room for mundane touches as Edith’s anger, depression and brief bouts of calm ebb and flow with the people around her. Stuffed with songs from Toronto’s indie music scene, Diamond Tongues frequently gives itself over to simply watching Edith wander the city’s unremarkably lived-in places, trying to escape the reminders of her failure through petty routine.
There’s no running away from yourself, though, and as good as the movie is at evoking the drab world of artists on the verge of even being able to call themselves that, it more fundamentally captures the slow realization that your problems all have one thing in common: yourself. Quick to dismiss the stupidity of everyone in the industry and even quicker to subtly sabotage anything that reminds her of other people’s success, Edith’s flailing inevitably starts bruising her own body, culminating in a series of bitter recriminations masked as conversations.
Edith’s realization verges on too-pointed for a film that trades up on muted observation, although in its way it’s an ideal hit of cold water on the self-satisfied artist world it evokes so well. As much as anything, this is a film that has heard every excuse about why life isn’t working out quite the way you want, been told all the just-so stories of the clever and talented whom the world has failed to recognize. Even if you’re right about the world, Diamond Tongues seems to be saying you still have to find a way to live in it. The saving grace is that trying is all that is necessary.
Source: National Post
Diamond Tongues: Seeking stardom in Hollywood, jealousy leads to sabotage
By Calum Marsh
Edith Welland (Leah Goldstein), the hero of Brian Robertson and Pavan Moondi’s new film Diamond Tongues, has aspirations of Hollywood superstardom.
Only one flaw stands to thwart her: She isn’t very good.
Goldstein, though, is excellent in the role, rendering Edith’s monstrous ambition with relatable (and frequently terrifying) conviction.
At bars and parties, Edith mingles with more successful peers as jealousy begins to manifest itself, sociopathically, as sabotage.
The result suggests All About Eve by way of The King of Comedy: contempt and envy reign and the threat of disaster closely follows.
July Talk’s Leah Goldstein isn’t an actress, but she plays one in Diamond Tongues
By Noah R. Taylor
Leah Goldstein didn’t know she was an actress until she was cast as the lead in a movie.
Almost two years ago, Leah Goldstein (or Leah Fay, as she’s known in her band July Talk) was at TIFF’s Festival Music House party at Adelaide Hall in Toronto, about to go on stage to sing with July Talk, when a couple of filmmakers introduced themselves and told her she had to be in their movie, Diamond Tongues. Initially, she didn’t take it seriously. She had never acted before.
“In that space of half an hour before a show and half hour after a show, you meet people and you just completely forget about it,” she says. “Your body is doing what it has to do in order to perform on stage and not mess it up. It’s like a different state of body and mind.”
“For them to come up and be like, ‘we need you to be in this film’? I was just kind of like ‘yeah, okay, sure. Send me the script, I guess?’ Is that what you say?”
Leah Goldstein had no screen credits to speak of, unless you count her appearance in July Talk videos, but directors Brian Robertson and Pavan Moondi saw something in her that had eluded them while trying to cast a lead in their new film. This is the kind of thing you imagine happens often at festival parties but never materializes into anything. Young artists meet each other, have some complimentary drinks and talk about all of their future collaborations that may or may not ever materialize. In fact, this is exactly the kind of interaction that Moondi and Robertson satire so aptly in Diamond Tongues.
Diamond Tongues would be Goldstein’s first acting gig ever. And it wasn’t an easy one. She’d be playing Edith, an aspiring actress who turns to petty sabotage when things don’t go her way. She would be in literally every scene and have to simulate everything from masturbation to tripping on acid.
Six months before the actual film was shot, they shot an eight minute demo to show investors. According to Moondi, this is when any fears he may have had about Goldstein being able to carry their feature were quelled. “We were already committed to her at that point anyway, but we knew from that point on that she’d be able to pull it off.”
It was fortunate that Peter Dreimanis, the July Talk yin to Goldstein’s yang, also happens to be a very talented cinematographer and was brought on to shoot the film. Goldstein says the trust and familiarity that came with having her collaborator and great friend behind the camera helped her transition to this unfamiliar territory.
With the band’s busy touring schedule, there wasn’t much time to prepare for the tight twelve day shoot. Goldstein was barely able to rehearse with the other actors, but had several meetings with Robertson and Moondi where they discussed Edith’s motivations and helped her understand where this character, who in many ways was the total inverse of herself, was coming from. On the surface, Edith may not display very many redeemable qualities, but Goldstein and the filmmakers tapped into something that everyone can relate to, whether they’d like to admit it or not.
Goldstein recalls a story her mother told her that reminded her of Edith’s behaviour in the film: “When my mom was 4, her mother took her to the ballet, and she turned her back to the stage and refused to watch it because she was so jealous of the girls on stage. Jealousy is a really confusing, all-encompassing emotion that affects people in the weirdest ways.”
Edith’s turn may not be this literal, but jealousy certainly causes her to turn her back on reason and friendship multiple times in Diamond Tongues. As much as the film is primarily a character study, it also paints a painfully accurate picture of Toronto’s sometimes cutthroat independent arts scene, from theatre to film to music.
Though she plays an actress, Goldstein’s character spends much of the film watching other people perform. Anyone familiar with this aspect of the city is bound to see some familiar faces. She attends an Islands concert, watches her friend Nick (Flanagan) perform stand-up comedy and has a date with a performance artist played by Austra’s Ryan Wonsiak. Most of these performers are not doing what she aspires to do, yet their accumulated effect begin to feel like a personal attack on her insecurities and lack of creative legitimacy. Their success is mild at best, but not to someone who has none.
Goldstein was not alone when it came to inexperienced actors on set. In addition to the aforementioned performers, the film features several people from Robertson and Moondi’s social circle who had not really acted before. This includes other musicians and comedians but extended in some cases to people not in the performing arts at all. Even yours truly shows up in a couple scenes as another aspiring actor co-starring in Edith’s roommate’s play (I’m not an actor either).
It also happens that the filmmakers’ social circle extends into the Canadian music community. Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning is an executive producer on the film, as well as music supervisor. His original score, along with songs by Emily Haines, Lowell, Timber Timbre, Sunset Rubdown, and Islands help drive the narrative, most notably in several montages that emphasize Edith’s loneliness and isolation, even when walking through a crowded metropolis. Islands’ Nick Thorburn also notably appeared as an actor in Robertson and Moondi’s previous film, Everyday is Like Sunday.
“The way we work allows the actors to bring themselves to these roles, so in theory, nobody will be bad for a role if we’re willing to adapt the role to them,” says Moondi. “The most important thing is that they actually have a personality of their own that they can bring to the role.”
The filmmakers kept the actors’ experience in mind when making the schedule for the film. The first thing Goldstein shot was a short film within the film, where bad acting could be permitted, as that performance would belong to Edith. The more emotional scenes, including several that required Edith to break down in tears, were wisely scheduled closer to the end of filming.
“That emotion was available to me because I was so exhausted during the whole shooting process,” Goldstein remembers. “Stakes were high and emotions were high across the board for everyone. I’m also a person who cries at touching things, like Canadian heritage moments and bank commercials.”
To other filmmakers, casting people at a late night party several days before going to camera may seem ill advised, but that’s the kind of production this was. “It’s not that he’s never been told ‘no you can’t do this’ or ‘no you shouldn’t do this,’” Goldstein says of Moondi, “but it’s like he just doesn’t give a fuck.”
It worked out for Goldstein. After the success of her performance in Diamond Tongues, she now has an acting agent, though July Talk is still her primary focus as they get ready to head into the studio to begin work on their second album.
Strangely, playing the lead role in Diamond Tongues came naturally to Goldstein. Though she has nothing in common with Edith on paper, she brings a lot of herself to the role. Unlike Edith, Goldstein is a very present, warm, supportive, and confident person. She also has an incredible ability to relate to people. She was able to connect with Edith, relate to her and even sympathize with a seemingly unsympathetic person. This, combined with Goldstein’s background in music and performance art, is why she succeeds in this role.
“Which is really just being a human,” Goldstein theorizes. “It’s the same thing in July Talk and I think it’s the same thing in performance and the same thing in great theatre and contemporary dance. Where’s your humanity at? Don’t leave it at the door, bring it with you and let it be barfing out of you from your eyes and your mouth and your nose and your ears at all times. As long as you can be present enough to do that, then you’re theirs for the moulding.”
Source: Chart Attack
BY JIM SLOTEK, POSTMEDIA NETWORK
FIRST POSTED: THURSDAY, AUGUST 06, 2015 01:27 PM EDT | UPDATED: THURSDAY, AUGUST 06, 2015 01:31 PM EDT
Rating: 3.5 stars
TORONTO – You’re barely a few minutes into the Toronto-based indie film Diamond Tongues before you realize its star Leah Fay Goldstein has the ability to “work cute” very well.
As Edith, a frustrated actress with four years of rejection to her credit, she is an expert at painting a smile-and-a-lie over the non-starter that is her career.
This could be the springboard for a Hollywood story about an indefatigable optimist who finally finds herself, an ultimately feel-good movie wrapped around its charismatic lead.
But it isn’t. Diamond Tongues has been reviewed at hipster meccas like Slamdance as a kind of indie/millennial All About Eve – mostly because Edith isn’t very nice behind her smile, and she actively sabotages other people’s careers, including that of her best friend Clare (Leah Wildman).
To me, it also evokes another film trope – the-descent-into-madness – lite. The catalyst is the decision of her ex-boyfriend Ben (Adam Gurfinkel) to become an actor himself – with improbable immediate success.
The irony of the role of Edith is that Goldstein, who livens up every scene she’s in (and she is literally in every scene), is playing a character who is dying inside. And her bouts of inappropriate behavior become more pronounced – promiscuity with online creeps, malicious acts that border on criminal – as she sinks deeper into her malaise.
And malaise is what Canadian filmmakers do best. Diamond Tongues is about 20 minutes longer (and more morose) than it need be, because of the tendency by directors Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson to linger on a scene long after we “get” it. Goldstein “pops” on the screen in its dramatic and mordantly-funny moments, though you could get impatient waiting for them. But most of the acting-world minutiae rings true, from the impersonal auditions to the insincere flattery to the presence of predators.
Full disclosure: the actress – who also performs as co-lead of the Juno-nominated alt rock band July Talk under the name Leah Fay – is the daughter of Sun comment editor Lorrie Goldstein. I’m happy not to have to avoid him based on what I’ve seen. And I’m pretty certain she got where she has on talent – Lorrie’s pull in showbiz being somewhat limited.
Her cred in the music and hipster world probably has something to do with the contribution of music by Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, and the participation of George Stroumboulopoulos in a stardom-fantasy-interview scene.
So apparently, Goldstein has something to fall back on if this music thing doesn’t work out. In an impressive feature debut, she carries literally an entire movie. And in the midst of this heavy lifting, she manages to make us feel for an otherwise unlikable, deceitful protagonist.
Diamond Tongues is playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until Aug. 13th. It will also screen at the Open Roof Festival on Aug. 19th.
Source: Toronto Sun
Film Diamond Tongues authentically explores Toronto’s identity
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Aug. 06, 2015 4:18PM EDT
To meet for drinks with Brian Robertson and Pavan Moondi is to draw upon a vast reservoir of Toronto bar expertise. Choose a neighbourhood, and they’ll rattle off a catalogue of places to be and places to be seen: Black Dice, Unlovable, Cherry Cola’s, Cold Tea. The clubs and dives aren’t merely social hot spots. They’re sets, locations – places to film. Robertson and Moondi are like nightlife cartographers, and their new feature Diamond Tongues is like a map of Toronto cool. The familiar landmarks and touristic cliches that signify the city in other films shot here have been mercifully expunged. This is the real thing. Toronto has never been captured more authentically.
This was true on a more modest scale of their previous film, the slacker comedy Everyday Is Like Sunday, which Robertson produced and Moondi directed. This first leap into feature filmmaking followed years of work together as producers of The Seventh Art, an online magazine well respected locally for its long-form video interviews with artists and industry professionals. For those interviews, too, they avoid the typical conference rooms and hotel lobbies of red-carpet convention, preferring instead to stage chats in the city’s taverns and taprooms.
I met the duo at Northwood café, a low-key patio on Bloor West – Moondi’s recommendation. Joining us was Leah Fay Goldstein, who stars in Diamond Tongues as an aspiring actress named Edith – although Goldstein is something of a star already. In her capacity as frontwoman of July Talk, an indie rock band, Goldstein attracts the kinds of fans who mount galvanizing Twitter campaigns and style their hair to better resemble their idol. Her charisma is obvious on screen and on stage. In person, too, she radiates magnetism: One look at her and you want to know more.
Robertson and Moondi felt the same way when they first saw her – at a bar. It was a party in the middle of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and July Talk was scheduled to perform. Moondi saw Goldstein waiting to go on stage and decided in a flash of beer-bolstered inspiration to seize the opportunity. He asked her to be in the film – but, this being a bar, what precisely happened remains a matter of some debate.
“Pavan swears that I just said yes and then walked on stage,” she recalls.
“You did say yes, but I don’t think you were serious about it,” he says.
“I feel like I had the wherewithal to say, ‘Get my e-mail and send me a script.’”
“No. No way. You said yes, you hugged me and immediately walked on stage.”
“I guess if I had actually said yes, which I don’t think happened – ”
“ – It definitely happened.”
“Well, if it did, it didn’t mean that I had to do it,” Goldstein said, closing the argument.
Whatever the circumstances, Robertson and Moondi were simply relieved to have found, at last, an appropriate lead. “We were very close to not doing the movie at all because we couldn’t find the right person,” Robertson says. “So we were just over the moon to find Leah.” And he credits this coup, naturally, with their bar-hopping prowess. “I don’t think we could have walked up to a musician and asked them to be in a movie unless we were really drunk.”
Luck is a factor in every film production, but for Diamond Tongues it was an animating force. Goldstein, for one thing, was on the road with her band constantly, leaving the production to be squeezed into a nine-day gap between the Juno Awards and the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex. Meanwhile, the production itself was in never-ending peril.
“Literally the day before filming was supposed to start,” Moondi remembers, “we didn’t know if we had the money to make it or not. It was complete chaos. I was talking to a lawyer in the middle of the night. I was on the phone at midnight begging for the movie to come together.”
“You never told me any of that,” Goldstein adds.
“I didn’t want to worry you.”
Nor did he need to. Moondi pieced the funding together from a number of independent producers, and ultimately sold the Canadian distribution rights to Mongrel Media. (The film is set to open theatrically in the United States through Factory 25 this fall.)
At this point, I have to ask about the most distinctive feature of Diamond Tongues. Midway through the film, as Edith continues dreaming the Canadian dream, she drifts off to sleep and has a real one: a five-minute fantasy appearance on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight – shot for real on Strombo’s old CBC show. How did that come about?
“Our producer had a connection to a producer on the show, so we just asked,” Robertson says. “And because it was near the end of the show’s run, George invited us out.”
“They gave Leah the full guest treatment,” Moondi says. “I remember being in the makeup room and I was so nervous. The show was actually filming.”
“You were nervous?” Goldstein protests. “To be on the Strombo show – and not as myself. I told Pavan that George has been my hero since I was six years old and I’ve never met him before. But Pavan said, ‘No, everything you say, you’re either at his level or above him. You have to patronize him. Don’t treat him as your idol. Treat him like you’re doing him a favour for being on his show. Ask him if he wants to go for a drink after the show. Tell him you’re sorry they cancelled the show.’”
Surely she didn’t say that one. Goldstein winces. “I did.” Strombo, fortunately, was in on the whole thing – he knew she was playing a character – but his crew wasn’t. “They were furious. Nobody would even make eye contact with me afterward.”
They cut the line, but as it stands the scene is delightful – a frisson of rare Canadiana. But how does it translate abroad?
“Nobody knows who Strombo is in America,” Robertson concedes, nor are they likely to appreciate references to the likes of Just for Laughs Gags. But these elements are essential to the film’s unabashedly Torontonian identity. At a recent screening in L.A., a friend who’d moved away from Toronto approached Robertson, saying the movie really brought her back. Was she nostalgic? Robertson laughs. “She said it reminded her why she moved away in the first place.”
Source: The Globe and Mail
3.5 stars out of 4
Leah Fay Goldstein plays an actress with marginal talent. Fortunately, she really can act, otherwise Diamond Tongues would be a serious waste of time.
Instead, thanks to Goldstein’s performance and a smart screenplay that knows its subject well — the life of struggling thespians — it’s a film of dark wit and uncommon depth.
The story follows the travails of Edith (Goldstein) as life delivers one blow after another, including roommate Clare (Leah Wildman), who’s more talented and successful and ex-boyfriend Ben, who lands the lead in a low-budget horror film despite having no experience. David John Phillips is devastating as predatory acting coach Derek.
The film starts out with Edith, cast as “annoyed customer” extra, engaging in small talk with a bored crew guy. With her bleached blond hair and ruby lips, she comes across as childlike.
But there are far darker currents below the surface and it’s amazing how well the neophyte Goldstein captures a character whose envy, craftiness and ambition make her both unlikeable yet totally believable.
But there is faint hope for Edith in a script laden with mordant humour that offers a climactic scene in which she begins to see her true self, offering hope for redemption.
By Bruce DeMara
Source: Toronto Star