It seems that every year since its inception in 2015, TIFF’s competitive Platform programme hosts both the best and worst films of the festival. There is an astonishing range of quality within the dozen films that vie for the prize every year. They leave a cinephile offering a standing ovation and cries of “Bravo!” one screening and scratching their head the next.
This year’s Platform dunce cap (so far) goes to Federico Veirjo’s The Moneychanger. This pointless and pedestrian “comedy” is one of two Argentine-Uruguayan titles in competition. One doubts it would even be in the festival though if it were American. This lumbering feat of unfunny sexism leaves audiences short-changed.
The film stars Daniel Hendler as Humberto Brause, an endlessly annoying anti-hero who sports an adolescent mustache and a shit-eating grin. He extols his virtues as a con artist and money launderer in self-aggrandizing narration. Brause is one of those dorks who keeps “failing up” in life despite offering few redeeming qualities. He gets promoted to the top jobs and scores a trophy wife, and everyone stands by his side as he threatens his career and family by trading money for crooks and cheating on his wife whenever he can.
The Moneychanger tries to lend some artistic pedigree to Brause’s charade by infusing his scheme within the political backdrop of 1970s’ South America. Revolution is in the air and nations are in states of upheaval as their economies collapse. Criminal enterprises take over for legitimate businesses. There is a bit of political intrigue to the shenanigans, but Brause is such a pain in the ass that one can hardly be bothered to care. Hendler’s performance awkwardly misses the comedic marks of the film, which proves especially annoying in the novelistic narration that beats every nail on the head while adapting Juan Enrique Gruber’s novel to the big screen.
Sure, it’s timely to see The Moneychanger in an age in which nice guys still finish last and assholes continue to get ahead, but the film peddles a kind of basic comedy that’s oddly tone-deaf in a festival that never misses an opportunity to congratulate itself for its own wokeness.