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.
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.
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
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
July Talk frontwoman Leah Goldstein’s Diamond Tongues debut dazzles.
BY NORMAN WILNER AUGUST 5, 2015 7:00 PM
A dramedy about a young woman (Leah Goldstein) trying establish an acting career in Toronto, Diamond Tongues works both as a character study and an exercise in cringe comedy: you spend an hour and a half watching someone make a lot of bad choices, hoping that she’ll learn from at least one of them.
Pavan Moondi’s script is sharp and thoughtful, and he and co-director Brian Robertson create a terrific sense of place, bouncing around their downtown locations with just the right level of now-what exasperation.
The movie bristles with musical talent: Brendan Canning composed and supervised the score, and Goldstein – you may know her better as July Talk frontwoman Leah Fay – gives a great, twitchy performance as the self-sabotaging Edith.
But Goldstein’s bandmate Peter Dreimanis turns out to be the picture’s secret weapon: his alert, nimble camera is as important to the storytelling as any other element of Diamond Tongues, making the drama feel alive and immediate in exactly the right way.
Source: NOW Magazine
Unlikable female characters are finally starting to to gain some traction in the entertainment world thanks to films like Gone Girl and TV shows like Girls, but Edith Welland (Leah Goldstein, better known as July Talk’s Leah Fay), the struggling Toronto actress at the heart of the independent feature Diamond Tongues, is still a complete revelation.
Like a Canadian Hannah Horvath, with all of the outward politeness and seething passive aggressive undertones that implies, she flounders through most of the film’s 99 minutes while seemingly everyone around her succeeds. The boyfriend she dumped so that she could focus on her career (Adam Gurfinkel) suddenly takes up acting and lands the lead in a film. Her roommate (Leah Wildman) is in rehearsals for a promising new play. Her best friend (Nick Flanagan) doesn’t love his day job as a writer on the inexplicably popular Canadian TV show Dog Husband, but at least he has a steady gig. Even a random acquaintance she runs into on the street has a film premiere coming up.
Edith responds to this by embarking on a listless downward spiral, leaving terrible reviews for her frenemies online, masturbating to fantasies of being massively famous, and generally failing to get her demo reel or her shit together. Shot almost entirely in shaky close-ups that capture the claustrophobic quality of Toronto’s art scene (I live on the outskirts of said scene, I can vouch for the verisimilitude), it’s perversely fascinating to watch, and it’s a testament to filmmakers Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson’s script and Goldstein’s completely un-self-conscious performance that Edith never once tempts the viewer’s pity or schadenfreude.
Although it stumbles a bit at the end with a self-aware redemption that isn’t entirely earned or particularly in character, Diamond Tongues is still a brilliant and realistic portrait of the young artist as a bitter borderline failure.
– Sarah Kurchak
Source: Consequence of Sound
This is the first time feature for Moondi and Robertson and it makes a unique impact on the Toronto film scene. The story focuses on Edith (Leah Goldstein) struggling actress who’s been relatively unsuccessful. She goes about her days at auditions and failed callbacks while the people around her progress. This does very little for her confidence as an actress and Edith begins to lash out unable to parse what is missing in her life.
Goldstein is captivating to watch and deftly plays Edith with an attuned nuance. The moments where Edith displays her most awkward moments of jealously are poignant. The film succeeds because of its directors’ steady pace at keeping the narrative on track. I make this point because as quirky as Toronto film can be, those eccentricities lead to red herring tangents. Diamond Tongues manages to convey a refreshing portrayal of the many young people coping to find a purpose in life while painting Toronto nightlife in a hipster cool light.
– Jacqueline Valencia
Source: Next Projection