The D Train offers a surprising look at the cult of celebrity and features no-holds-barred performances by Jack Black and James Marsden …easily some of their best work Screenwriters Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul make their directorial debuts with this comedy which premiered Friday night in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.
Black stars as Dan Landsman, a small-town high school reject who comes up with a scheme to become a local hero by luring Oliver Lawless, the most popular kid in his class (Marsden) back to their upcoming 20-year reunion. When Dan travels to Hollywood to meet his former classmate for a drink, he spins a web of lies as his plan goes terribly awry. This unexpectedly threatens Dan’s family/career and results in a jaw-dropping conclusion.
During the post-screening Q&A, Mogel and Paul insisted their screenplay isn’t fact-based. “We just wrote this character who was so desperate and looking for the popular guy,” Paul revealed. “It didn’t come from anything personal.”
Black generated more laughter from the audience when he said his own high school reunion was less eventful than the one seen on screen and that it was the clever screenplay that drew him to the project. “I just loved the script,” he said. “It made me laugh so hard. I loved how surprised I was by the twists and turns and so many things I’d never seen done before in a comedy. I was interested in the desperation of the character. I feel that I know that, not just in myself but in other people.”
“As an actor it’s so nice to have all the work laid out for me,” Marsden shared. “In comedies you feel like you’ve seen it all, but this was so subversive and such an interesting character for me and under their guidance we just played every day.”
In Strangerland, Kim Farrant’s directorial debut, follows Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew Parker’s (Joseph Fiennes) two children vanishing into the unforgiving Australian desert. Forced to grapple with the fallout and unable to evade suspicions pointing toward them, the couple’s already fragile relationship spirals out of control, pitting Matthew’s inward-facing coping tendencies against Catherine’s increasingly volatile behavior.
Farrant cited the tragedy in her own life following the death of her father at a young age, and a subsequent interest in “the behaviors that I went into, and how I dealt with that, or didn’t deal with it.” She continued, “I’m kind of fascinated by how we act out when life’s punishing us. For me it was around connecting and the urge to make love or be sexual or something to feel anything other than the horrific pain.”
Speaking about her role, Kidman described how she channelled the seemingly endless layers of complexity that define a character like Catherine Parker. “It’s so personal, that to dissect it like this – it’s kind of the work, and I leave it,” she said. ““I only saw the movie for the first time tonight, so I’m a little bit in shock myself.” Strangerland’s dedication to rawness – left more than just Kidman speechless.
Farrant, while fielding questions about the film’s ending stated, “We were committed to leaving you how the parents were left.”