Film festivals conjure up images of glitz, celebrities, red carpets, and amazing organization. The Venice and Tribeca film festivals come to mind. Although Montclair is not Cannes, the Montclair Film Festival got off to a glamorous and extremely successful start on Tuesday night at Montclair State University's Alexander Kasser Theater.
Robert Feinberg, the film festival's founder and chairman, said he hesitated to make The Oranges the opening film of the festival as it's mostly about, well, adultery.
But, in the end, he said he couldn't resist.
"It's hard to find such a great film set in suburban New Jersey with such an incredible ensemble cast," he said.
And he couldn't have picked a better film to launch a festival that's been two years in the making.
The Oranges, which premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival and will be released at theaters across the country this fall, centers around two close families who live across the street from each other in West Orange.
Their seemingly perfect suburban existences come unraveled when the 20-something daughter of one family returns home after several years away and begins an affair with the father of the second family.
The film—which stars Oliver Platt, Hugh Laurie, Allison Janney, Adam Brody, Catherine Keener, Leighton Meester, and Alia Shawkat—elicited one laugh after another from a packed house despite the uncomfortable subject matter of a May-December illicit romance.
The best part was watching the wickedly funny Shawkat roll her eyes as the lives of her parents and their best friends go into a tailspin after everyone finds out Laurie is sleeping with Shawkat's former best friend.
But also incredible to watch is Platt—whose character has become anesthetized by gadgets and less-than-enamored with his wife, his former West Wing co-star Janney.
In the film, he's extremely believable as a timid but still-willing-to-try husband and father seeking to be the glue that might somehow hold these two historically tight families together.
After the screening of The Oranges, Platt was on hand to speak onstage with Montclair resident and New York Times media columnist David Carr, who called the film a "meditation on marriage."
Platt, a hugely underrated actor, garnered loads of applause by turning towards the crowd and yelling "Tribeca what?" when asked about the importance of the Montclair Film Festival.
However, he admitted that The Oranges was actually filmed in New Rochelle, New York and not in New Jersey.
Carr quipped that "we can certainly do desperation in New Jersey." Carr also noted that the dark suburban film Little Children had been modeled on life in Montclair.
When asked how he'd made his own 19-year marriage work, Platt said "I make my marriage a priority for me. You have to tend it. You have to notice the new haircut."
The night was launched with a short speech by Montclair State University President Susan Cole, who called the Montclair Film Festival "the latest extravaganza in this overachieving town."
Afterwards, Feinberg took the stage, giving a nod to the festival's 22 board members, 261 volunteers, 503 dues-paying annual members, and 4,200 people on the email distribution list.
"Join us as we prepare—dare I say—for our second annual film festival in May 2013," he said to another huge round of applause.
The entire opening event, which started at 7 p.m., was incredibly well organized, with volunteers—all donned in conspicuous yellow t-shirts—guiding drivers and directing lost ticketholders all over the MSU campus.
Although 18 events have sold out, there are still plenty of events that haven't.
For example, actress Kathleen Turner will be at the Bellevue Theater in Upper Montclair on Wednesday evening.
Tickets for all events—and general information—can be found by going to the festival's website here.
Following the screening and the interview with Platt, a cocktail party was held on the Kasser Theater's terrace that was attended by Stephen Colbert and his wife, Evelyn, who's on the festival's board of directors. Also in attendance was actor Patrick Wilson, a Montclair resident and star of Little Children and other films who will be appearing at the Montclair Art Museum on Sunday.
All in all, there are nearly 50 films and events to attend and buy tickets for over the next few days as the film festival won't wrap up until May 6.
Olympia Dukakis, a former Montclair resident, is scheduled to attend a screening of her latest film, Cloudburst, on May 3 while the filmmaker Michael Moore will make an appearance at the festival on May 6.
Judy Blume also will attend the festival on May 5 for the screening of Tiger Eyes, directed by her son Lawrence Blume. This marks the first time one of her novels has been adapted for the big screen.
"We want to remind everyone that New Jersey [and not just New York] deserves attention," said Thom Powers, co-director of the festival along with his wife, Raphaela Neihausen. "We plan to turn the world's gaze to New Jersey."