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September 9, 2013   •  Category: "Devil's Knot", Gallery Updates, Public Appearances0 Comments

Reese attended the Toronto Film Festival last night for the world premiere of her new movie Devil’s Knot. She was joined by her director Atom Egoyan, and co-star Colin Firth, Stephen Moyer and Mirielle Enos. Reese wowed on the red carpet wearing a Jason Wu print dress with a low v-neck, a Jason Wu ‘Karlie’ clutch, and green Jimmy Choo ‘Anouk’ heels. She looks fabulous! Over 90 HQ photos from the red carpet and after-party are up in our Gallery for your viewing pleasure.

Reese’s make-up artist Mai Quynh talked In Style through the products she used to give Reese such a fresh face for the night here. Toronto Life also have a few additional pics from the event. Finally, further down this post are a few reviews of the film – as you can read, they are mixed. I particularly liked the one from Variety about Reese’s performance.

Toronto Film Festival – “Devil’s Knot” Premiere x88
Toronto Film Festival – SodaStream Presents The Worldview Party At Live At The Hive x4

Toronto Film Review: ‘Devil’s Knot’

Atom Egoyan’s starry dramatization of the West Memphis Three case transforms a fascinating true-life tale into a surprisingly staid courtroom drama.

The shocking 1993 murder of three 8-year-old boys in the Bible Belt town of West Memphis, Ark. — already exhaustively documented in four nonfiction features and multiple books — gets the star-studded “based on a true story” treatment in Atom Egoyan’s “Devil’s Knot.” And while Egoyan and Co. are to be commended for doing a tactful, dignified job with material that could have made for a ghoulish horror show, the result nevertheless comes across as a flat, ponderous proposition, transforming a fascinating tale of small-town prejudice and miscarried justice into a surprisingly staid courtroom drama. Although the film is sure to generate healthy sales traffic on the presence of top-billed Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, the macabre subject seems unlikely to woo those stars’ core date-night demos, while audiences already familiar with the case will wonder what more they could possibly learn here. (The answer: not very much.)

On one level, it’s puzzling as to why anyone thought this movie needed to be made, arriving as it does less than two years after documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Oscar-nominated “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,” and less than one after Amy Berg’s “West of Memphis,” which flatlined at the box office despite the much-touted presence of Peter Jackson as executive producer. Adding to that general feeling of “et cetera” is the fact that Egoyan’s pic, based on investigative journalist Mara Leveritt’s book of the same name, only covers events up through the two 1994 trials that ended in life convictions for accused perpetrators Jessie Misskelly and Jason Baldwin, and a death sentence for alleged ringleader Damien Echols. Meanwhile, the subsequent two decades of revelations and public outrage —in many ways the most dramatic piece of the story — are relegated to card upon card of onscreen text at the end.

What’s understandable is that Berlinger and Sinofsky’s remarkable trilogy of “Paradise Lost” docus, which played a major role in building awareness of the WM3 case, gave face time to a cast of such extraordinarily poignant, creepy and self-dramatizing characters who certainly seemed like they belonged in a Hollywood movie. And yet, perhaps for that very reason, what’s onscreen in “Devil’s Knot” almost always feels like a poor substitute for what was there in real life.

Partly, Egoyan and screenwriters Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman seem stymied by the sheer breadth of the material, trying to tell a story in less than two hours that took the first “Paradise Lost” movie two-and-a-half hours to wrap itself around. As our guide, they give us Firth, awkwardly cast as Ronald Lax, the Memphis private investigator who offered his services pro bono to Echols’ defense team. Though Lax is a real person who made significant contributions to the WM3 case, here he feels like one of those invented composite characters routinely forged by screenwriters to carve a path through some dense narrative thicket, while Firth himself never fully convinces as a Southern gentleman, spending much of the movie looking as though he might melt from the heat.

Far more affecting is real Southern belle Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs, the mother of victim Stevie Branch, and Alessandro Nivola as her second husband, who would eventually become a suspect. If even a dressed-down Witherspoon still looks a touch too glamorous to fully convince as a greasy-spoon waitress, her unpredictable expressions of motherly grief are never less than startling, whether literally tearing her hair out during a police interview or embarrassing herself without realizing it on the TV news. Nivola, too, gets deep under the skin of Terry Hobbs, a private, quizzical man who exudes quiet menace.

Their scenes together bristle with a mystery and tension that most of “Devil’s Knot” lacks as it dutifully relates the key talking points of the trials — Misskelly’s forced confession, the “satanic panic” that condemned Echols in the public eye before he ever took the stand — in dry, procedural fashion. Curiously, the West Memphis Three themselves figure only as fleeting supporting characters in this version of the tale, which may be just as well given that newcomer James Hamrick, while he certainly looks the part, isn’t a patch on the real Echols’ innate, camera-grabbing magnetism.

Making his first fully fledged U.S. production, Egoyan does a sturdy but uninspired job, absent the lyrical atmosphere of “The Sweet Hereafter,” his own earlier film on the shockwaves radiating out from the death of several small children. Whereas that movie ran thick with a sense of tight-knit communities and the secrets they keep, “Devil’s Knot” only occasionally feels weightier than a high-end Lifetime original or “Law & Order” episode. Perhaps because he was concerned about sensationalizing the material, Egoyan overcompensates by keeping the drama on a too-low boil throughout, a mood further enhanced by Mychael Danna’s persistent, trance-like score.

Berlinger and Sinofsky, who earn “special appearance” credits here, filmed a cameo as themselves that was cut from the final print but, per Egoyan, will be a featured extra on the DVD release.


Review: Devil’s Knot (TIFF 2013)

PLOT: The true story of the arrest and trial of the West Memphis Three, from the perspectives of the mother (Reese Witherspoon) of one of the victims, and the private investigator (Colin Firth) who works for the defence.

REVIEW: Director Atom Egoyan’s managed to do the impossible. He’s taken one of the most fascinating true crime tales of the last twenty years, and turned it into an utterly dull feature film. Egoyan, who’s an extremely celebrated Canadian director, and something of a TIFF legend, has made a film that would seem more at home on the small-screen (although I doubt it would even be good enough for HBO), despite the presence of a top flight cast including two academy award winners in the leads.

This is certainly a major flop for all involved. Damien Echols has been outspoken in his opposition to the film, but he need not have worried about the way he’s portrayed. He’s almost a bit part in Egoyan’s film, with all the focus being saved for the two roles played by movie stars, Witherspoon’s Pam Hobbs, and Firth’s Ron Lax. Suffice to say, neither of them are at their best here, although both try.

For one thing, Witherspoon is a ridiculously idealized version of Hobbs. Witherspoon put on a few pounds to make her come off a bit frumpier, but she’s not terribly convincing, in a role that’s really not that fascinating compared to the other players in the case. Meanwhile, Colin Firth tries really hard to disguise his English accent and disappear into the part. He does his best, but hasn’t got much to work with, despite getting the lion’s share of the screen time, as he delves into the satanic panic that gripped the town following the killings.

Miscast as some of the players may seem, they’re not the real problem with DEVIL’S KNOT. This could have been overlooked if the film had been even slightly gripping, but Egoyan’s pedestrian direction utterly torpedoes the film, turning it into just another procedural. Anyone who’s interested in the case should already know the facts and players pretty well, with the PARADISE LOST trilogy and WEST OF MEMPHIS. Fact is, any of those four documentaries is one hundred times more absorbing and cinematic than DEVIL’S KNOT is.

Another stupefying move was the decision to limit the scope of the film to the first trial. It ends with the initial conviction, and none of the subsequent investigation or fifteen year crusade to have these men freed have any part in this, other than a text recap at the end. What a bizarre decision, especially given the cinematic possibilities of what happened next in the case. Even if Egoyan wanted to limit his focus, that would have been fine if at least he’d done something- anything- interesting with the material. Witnesses and suspects played by well-known actors (including Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos) come and go. Alessandro Nivola plays Terry Hobbs, whose part in the case is still controversial, and plays it fairly middle of the road. He makes him a bit of a red herring towards the end, but even still, Hobbs, just like everyone else, is never made into a really interesting character.

There probably is a great West Memphis Three movie to be made, but the makers of DEVIL’S KNOT do not seem up to the challenge. This is a footnote that merely regurgitates facts a lot of us already know, and never dramatizes them in a gripping, absorbing way. It’s never anything other than dull. If you want to learn about the case, just watch WEST OF MEMPHIS instead.


TIFF Review: Atom Egoyan’s West Memphis Three Drama ‘Devil’s Knot’ Starring Reese Witherspoon & Colin Firth

It has been twenty years since the horrifically mutilated, murdered bodies of children Steve Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers were found in a creek in the middle of Robin Hood Hills in Arkansas. And thus started a saga that spanned nearly two decades, with the trials of the accused Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin gaining national attention, which eventually turned to outrage. Chronicled in great detail via the ‘Paradise Lost’ trilogy of documentaries as well as Amy Berg’s “West Of Memphis,” the case of the West Memphis Three soon became one of justice denied, not only to the three young men, but also the victims whose real killer or killers is still unidentified. A controversial Alford Plea agreed to by the trio of boys in 2011 has effectively closed the case, and nearly every angle of the investigation from paths taken to those unexplored has been scrutinized. So is there anything new to say about the West Memphis Three? Can there be any additional texture or drama found in taking a dramatized approach to this still jaw-dropping true story? Unfortunately, according to Atom Egoyan’s “Devil’s Knot,” the answer is no.

Marking the first major Hollywood adaptation of this story, boasting a considerably major league cast led by Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, Egoyan’s film remarkably manages to take this extraordinary story of small town hysteria and the zealous pursuit of justice which is blind to finding the truth, and turn it into a fairly routine courtroom drama. With a script from Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, outside of some fictional scenes that establish Pam Hobbs (Witherspoon) as the protagonist and her son Stevie as the emotional totem, we’re not sure what exactly the pair of writers did outside of watch the documentaries by Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger (and yes, there is a quick, passing reference during “Devil’s Knot” to the production of their documentary) and look over court transcripts. Quite simply, there is absolutely nothing in this film that was already covered more exhaustively in the aforementioned documentaries, which are actually more dramatic and involving than Egoyan’s film.

The problem is that “Devil’s Knot” tries to do in less than two hours what ‘Paradise Lost’ did in more than six, and the approach itself finds the film fighting an uphill battle from the first minute. In covering the exact same territory we’ve seen already in the HBO presentations, with every potential alternate theory trotted out, various missteps and questionable moves by the prosecution highlighted, and the atmosphere surrounding the trial covered, “Devil’s Knot” lacks potency or a compelling narrative reason why anyone remotely familiar with the case needs to be watching it. That being said, it’s unclear whether Egoyan and the screenwriters are really aiming to tell their own version of this story. The examples of flawed evidence and not-so-expert witnesses that are presented will make sense for those know the case of the West Memphis Three, and yet they still feel scattershot and random, and we can only imagine that sense of imbalance will be even more emphasized for those who are unfamiliar with ins and outs of the various trials.

And outside of what is mentioned and not mentioned in the film, perhaps more glaring is that there is no sense of time. It was not the first trial that saw the case of the West Memphis Three gain traction, but the appeals process, in which far more about the murders and supposed perpetrators and motivations were brought to the fore. “Devil’s Knot” is sadly a CliffsNotes version of this case—even Wikipedia is more thorough—that completely misses the outrage, injustice and severe breadth of how much investigative and prosecutorial mistakes severely bungled this case from its very first moments. And it’s a shame because there is a great ensemble here who could’ve made this a powerful piece of material, but they are simply given nothing to work with.

As investigator for the defense, Ron Lax, Firth brings a ready gravitas to the part, but the script does all the work for him, so that he doesn’t have to do much except stand around and look concerned. A single scene with his ex-wife Margaret (played by Amy Ryan who deserves better than a couple minutes of cameo time) finds her describing him as obsessive rather than letting us see that for ourselves. Meanwhile, a separate scene with a diner waitress, Annie (Lori Beth Sikes), allows her explain to Eric and the audience that he has to defend these boys because no else will. And it’s this kind of thudding sentimentality that pervades the picture, with a scene of schoolchildren group hugging Pam Hobbs a striking standard of just how cheaply the film attempts to wring sincere feeling out of this tale.

And like Ryan, most of the rest of the cast pop up ever so briefly. Mirielle Enos appears as the mother of a child who is the lone key witness for prosecutors; Elias Koteas delivers some trademark sketchiness as Damien’s parole office; Bruce Greenwood is the sleepy trial judge; with “Mad Men” star Rich Sommer as a defense lawyer; and “True Blood” thesp Stephen Moyer on the prosecution, with all not particularly memorable. Though we will give a shout out to Kevin Durand who is perfectly cast as the patently bonkers John Mark Byers, and getting his bible thumping righteousness nailed down cold. (And the West Memphis Three are cast well too, particularly James Hamrick as Damien.)

As the film ends, an extensive title card sequence details where the investigation went in subsequent years, particularly in regards to DNA evidence that pointed to Terry Hobbs’ (Alessandro Nivola) involvement in the deaths of the kids. And frankly, it’s in this end note where the movie should’ve been drawn. We’ve already had to the court cases run down more than once in books, movies and television, so why not start with the guilty verdicts and show how investigators continued to dismantle the prosecution’s case and present if not the innocence of the West Memphis Three, then at least the exceptional reasonable doubt that led to their release? That’s the real story here, and that could potentially be a powerful piece of filmmaking. But as it stands, “Devil’s Knot” gets so tied up in the mechanics of where the West Memphis Three have been, it has no insight into where this case might be going. [D]

Get the Look: Reese Witherspoon’s Bronze Eye and Coral Lip at TIFF!

For the Toronto Film Festival premiere of The Devil’s Knot, Reese Witherspoon complemented her Jason Wu dress with chic Jimmy Choo heels, and an even more chic makeup look. “I was inspired by her green heels, and the neckline of her dress,” her makeup artist Mai Quynh told exclusively. “I thought it would be fun to do a bright coral lip to play off of her shoes.” While the star’s metallic eye and sheer lip was the perfect complement to her graphic ensemble, we thought it would also look nice paired against casual getups, so we just had to get all the details! After a layer of foundation, Quynh used the Laura Mercier Lip Pencil in Warm Poppy for define her lips, then followed with a generous sweep of the Creme Lip Color in Tangerine ($22 and $24; The metallic eye came next, and once she blended on a layer of the Caviar Stick in Sand Glow ($24;, she then concentrated the Illuminating Eye Color in Fire Glow ($24; on Witherspoon’s crease, continuing both hues along her lower lash line. In lieu of eyeliner, Quynh blended the Matte Eye Color in Truffle ($23; at the base of Witherspoon’s top lashes for a subtle, smoldering effect. “Don’t be intimidated by color,” Quynh advised. “There are so many different textures you can use to customize the look, and stick to having color to one area — you don’t want too many competing together.”

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