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.
Striving to become a professional actress is a lifestyle choice accompanied by feelings of extreme competitiveness and inadequacy. Each waking hour is a moment you could be attempting to improve your craft or desperately trying to secure more work. As endless auditions make way to too few callbacks, you may begin to reconsider the professional hell you’ve chosen for yourself, being judged as much for your skills as for your facial features and body type. It’s enough to make anyone grow a little bitter.
Diamond Tongues, a dark Canadian comedy that premiered at last year’s Slamdance Film Festival, finds its muse in actress and musician Leah Goldstein’s performance as Edith Welland. A twenty-something struggling actress who, despite attempts to sabotage other thespians’ success for the furtherment of her own, finds herself auditioning for awful horror movies and sleeping with her sleazy acting teacher, Edith is both an egotist and someone to root for. Her conniving sensibilities are fascinating to watch play out, and Diamond Tonguesis a careful study of a woman attempting to find her place amongst a cast of characters.
As the film opens today in IFP Screen Forward at the Made in NY Media Center, I spoke with Toronto-based filmmakers Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson about shooting on the streets of Toronto with a microbudget, crafting a hard-to-love lead character, and working on a new feature featuring Tim Heidecker of Tim & Eric fame.
Filmmaker: Pavan and Brian, you both had previously worked together on the feature film Everyday is Like Sunday, but Diamond Tongues marks the first time you’re co-directing a film. How did you both meet and what lead to the formation of this creative team?
Moondi: We met through a mutual friend and were brought together to create The Seventh Art, which was a video magazine about cinema based in Toronto. We had been working on that for about six months when I brought Brian on-board to produce Everyday Is Like Sunday, which I had been trying to get made for a while.
Robertson: By working together on The Seventh Art we learned how to work quickly and efficiently, improvising set ups and lighting a huge variety of locations in Toronto. We brought that mentality into Everyday is Like Sunday, and that had a fast, improvised feel to it. We moved even quicker on Diamond Tongues.
Filmmaker: How did the idea for Diamond Tongues come about? As the film lives and dies by Leah Goldstein’s performance, had you wanted to write a film for her, or had this character been rummaging through your minds for awhile?
Moondi: The previous film was about not knowing what you want to do with your life, and for whatever reason we felt compelled to make a film that was about knowing exactly what you want to do with your life and not knowing how to actually make it happen. As struggling filmmakers who, for all intents and purposes, came out of nowhere, it was something that rang true for us.
Robertson: While it was something that rang true for us, we also knew that it was risky to try and bring a seemingly unlikeable character to life and have our audience sit with her for 90 minutes. The character was pretty terrible on the page, but we always wanted her to be relatable and likeable. It actually took us about four to five months before we found Leah. As soon as we saw her, she had a mischievousness about her that we both saw in the character. Before we found her, we had been pretty close to admitting that we wouldn’t find the right actress to play the part.
Filmmaker: Her portrayal of Edith Welland is wide-eyed and observational. Her voice has an inquisitive lift to it, as if everything she says is unfiltered and yet hiding a lack of confidence within herself. When her friends tell her stories about their successful careers, she takes those stories and passes them off as her own. She’s a complex person who isn’t easy to embrace. What did Leah bring to the role that wasn’t clearly laid out in the script and how hard did you work to resist sentimentalizing your heroine?
Moondi: We knew that we needed to cast someone who was very naturally likeable as a person so that the character on-screen would hopefully conflict the audience. Edith is, ideally, someone you initially think might be a cool person but who then repeatedly makes the wrong decisions.
Robertson: Leah is the complete opposite of Edith in real life. She’s insanely driven, working harder than most people I know and she’s really supportive of all her friends. I’d say these differences is what was so attractive to Leah to take the role. It was definitely a challenge for her.
Filmmaker: The film’s opening minutes place us within the uncleanliness of networking and industry parties. Everyone is either successful or desiring success, and talk of being cast in a number of web series or being offered to teach highfalutin masterclasses comes off as self-aggrandizing to the utmost degree. How familiar are you with that scene?
Moondi: More familiar than we wish we were.
Filmmaker: The world of Diamond Tongues features a Toronto that’s a city of cafes and bars where artists run into one another, quickly catch-up, save face, and dip out. Everyone’s trying to make connections, get ahead, and spread the word on their next Kickstarter campaign. In what way were you conscious of the way the city plays a central character in the film?
Moondi: We didn’t think too much about portraying the city in any specific way. We just tried to use locations that we thought the characters in the film would actually hang out at (and mostly where we hang out in real life). I don’t think artists trying to network and get-ahead is specific to Toronto, but because Edith is in every scene of the film, we really see all these smaller characters who dip in and out the way Edith sees them.
Filmmaker: As the film incorporates the shooting of the streets of Toronto, on the Metro, city buses, etc., I imagine that it helped to be as free and mobile as possible. What did you shoot on and how did you adjust for those short exterior sequences that have to capture a glimpse of the city very quickly?
Moondi: We almost got kicked off the subway and streetcars and fined a couple of times. They don’t make it easy for super micro-budget films to shoot on public transit and so we had to steal those. We had street permits for most exterior scenes but our setup was pretty mobile, usually just Brian and myself, two camera operators, a sound guy, a production assistant and the actors.
Robertson: We shot on the Red Epic and Red Scarlet and we drove around in our DP [Peter Dreimanis’] van. We had finite time with Peter and Leah before they went on tour with the band again, so we were required to shoot whenever we could. We planned on shooting a montage one night and right as we rolled camera, the entire west end went into a blackout. We had no choice but to film in the dark. I think we captured one of the more striking images in the film that night (the fire truck driving through the blacked-out streets).
Filmmaker: There’s a memorable scene in which Edith fantasizes about being a big-time star interviewed on George Stroumboulopoulos’s talk show. You then cut to her lying in bed touching herself — the pleasurable experience of celebrity streamlined with the satisfactory and modest feeling of touch. How did you get Stroumboulopoulos to make a cameo and what was the impetus behind blurring the lines between fiction and reality?
Robertson: Pavan and I run into George at different events and he’s really personable. We thought it would be interesting if we could pitch George on having Leah on his show in character. One of the film’s producers, Sarah Haywood, is a friend of George’s producer and she connected the dots for us. We actually shot that cameo on the second-to-last taping of George’s show. We also met Laura Jane Grace (of Against Me) there, who ended up making a cameo in the film as a bartender.
Filmmaker: One striking moment in the film is when Edith, sitting in the front row, watches her roomate’s performance in a play. You cut to a high-angle, overhead shot of Edith, slowly pulling the camera in closer to her face as the strong performance of her friend drives her to the brink of madness. How do you visually allow the audience do get inside Edith’s head?
Moondi: We try to put as much thought as possible into every camera setup in the film. It seems like a waste to go to the trouble of getting a feature film made and then not putting real thought into such a major component of the film. We tried to shoot her tight when she was in conversations with other characters, as often her own reactions are far more important than who she’s speaking to. We shot her pretty wide when she was alone to emphasize her loneliness and how ill-fitted she is for the world around her. The shot you’re describing is one of those examples of just trying to emphasize how she is progressively getting inside her own head while watching her friend’s play and considering the possibility of making a catastrophically bad decision.
Filmmaker: Your use of fluorescent lighting is eye-catching, and it particularly skews toward that of the pink and purple variety. Whether in night club settings (I’m reminded of the close-up of Edith’s face as she sips a beer while watching a live band’s performance), or via the opening title card sequence, these lush colors give the film an identity that’s now being reflected via your film’s poster and marketing materials. Where did the choice for those colors’ usage stem from?
Moondi: Our distributor in Canada is one of the bigger distributors in the country, but we were able to make all our own marketing materials without any oversight (trailers, posters, website, etc.). We knew early on that the film would use a lots of pinks and purples and that the title text in the film would be a bit more flashy than the standard all caps white sans-serif font you see in a lot of films. The tone of the film is pretty fast paced and accessible while profiling an extremely difficult character, and so it’s a unique mix that we wanted reflected in the way we approached the style of the film and its marketing.
Filmmaker: How did Telefilm Canada help with the production?
Moondi: We shot the film with a tiny amount of private investment and once we had it in the can we showed it to Telefilm and were lucky enough to have them cover the costs of the post-production.
Robertson: We had gone to Telefilm before we shot anything and had them read the script and discussed what the film was going to be and how it would look. We were pretty communicative with them throughout the whole process.
Filmmaker: What can you tell us about Sundowners, your next film that will feature Tim Heidecker?
Moondi: We’re speaking with you from Colombia at about one third of the way through the shoot, so the film is still being shaped. It’s about two guys who are hired to film a destination wedding at a tropical vacation resort and things go very badly. It stars stand-up comedian Phil Hanley and Luke Lalonde from the band Born Ruffians, both making their acting debuts. Tim plays their boss. It’s a bit more overtly comedic than Diamond Tongues, but there’s quite a bit of underlying darkness we delve into.
Robertson: We’ve got three more days here and then we’re heading back to Toronto to shoot the rest of the film. Tim shows up in the Toronto sequences. We’re huge fans of his and can’t wait to get to work with him.
“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.
Completely thrilled that our very own Leah Goldstein is nominated as Best Actress at the Canadian Screen Awards!
The CSA’s are essentially the “Canadian Oscars”, and the fact that Leah’s performance in the film has been recognized is not only a total out-of-nowhere surprise, but also a very big deal for a very small film.
If you’re in Canada and haven’t yet seen Leah’s incredible performance in Diamond Tongues, you can rent or buy the film on iTunes!
Great news! Thanks to Factory 25, Diamond Tongues will be opening in New York at the IFP Media Centre on February 19th, 2016 for a one week theatrical run. There will be additional US dates announced shortly, so keep an eye on the Screenings page for the latest. So far we’ve added two screenings in San Francisco as part of the SF Indie Fest. Stay tuned to Twitter or Facebook
If you’ve seen the film then you’ve seen part of the above. Here is the full video of “Edith Welland” on Strombo Tonight. To read the full story behind this clip check out this article.
Diamond Tongues is currently playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
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.