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Inside TIFF: Wrap Parties

Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Ryan Reynolds, Harvey Weinstein, Kate Winslet, and Alan Rickman.

Autumn is most certainly arriving, and with it the burst of the summer movie bubble. Suddenly Seth Rogen in a turf war with frat boy Zac Efron insults our intelligence. We rouse to the realization we’re emotionally and intellectually starving for a meaningful story. This is what the Toronto International Film Festival does best. This year, The Imitation Game was the festival’s best bet for a smart film that people will rally for.

It was Grey Goose Soho House that hosted the sought-after private party for the film starring  Benedict Cumberbatch, who caused the most crazed, traffic-stopping crowds at the festival. The British actor is odds-on to be nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of computer scientist Alan Turing. The Weinstein Company’s historical drama is a nail-biting race against time, following this pioneer of modern-day computing and his team at Britain’s top-secret Bletchley Park during the Second World War—certainly one to watch during awards season.

Producer Harvey Weinstein held court at the splashy bash, which took over the first two floors of the Soho House. Keira Knightley appeared wearing a dreamy white Chanel dress with delicate silver embroidery and a two-layer skirt with a tulle hem. She worked the dress with polished precision on the red carpet, but once inside the intimate party, her body language changed completely. She wore it with casual aplomb, unafraid of the Soho House’s signature saucy meatballs sailing overhead.

Knightley’s doting musician husband James Righton barely left her side all night, sneaking in a kiss or two as the party swirled around them. At one point, co-star Matthew Goode climbed over a couch and collapsed into an armchair next to the couple. Later in the evening, Game of Thrones fans geeked out when Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who plays Jaime Lannister) strolled in.

In a distinguished display of patronage of cinematographic art, Jaeger-LeCoultre hosted one of the more elegant parties of the festival at the Trump Hotel Toronto. The prestige Swiss watchmaker threw a reception for David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, complete with a divine black cod station. The cast turned out in great spirits: Julianne Moore lit up the room, chatting with John Cusack. Robert Pattinson reconnected with Cronenberg, while Olivia Williams enjoyed the company of president of Jaeger-LeCoultre North America Philippe Bonay. Sarah Gadon showed off a sparkling Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Night & Day timepiece as she posed for photos.

Brassaii pulled out all the spices to host an impressive Learning to Drive cast and crew dinner. Sir Ben Kingsley enjoyed the party’s Indian theme and fragrant feast. Spiced salmon on crispy chickpeas won top marks from Patricia Clarkson while oven-roasted chicken with mango chutney was a hit with sweet and savoury lovers. This was by far the most well fed cast, as Brassaii brought out pistachio sorbet and rice pudding to round out the menu.

Grey Goose hosted a swish affair at Weslodge Saloon for The Voices, celebrating with co-stars Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick and director Marjane Satrapi. Reynolds spent most of his time at the party in conference with CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi. Kendrick only had eyes for her new boyfriend, cinematographer Ben Richardson. Huddled over a pair of Grand Goose cocktails, they sat together the entire night.

For the closing night gala, Kate Winslet and director Alan Rickman toasted the world premiere of A Little Chaos with an early evening soiree at Grey Goose Soho House. Their Sense and Sensibility co-star reunion was rather touching, as Winslet’s reverence of Rickman was clear to see. The dashing Dan Stevens also dropped into the party, in town to promote his career-changing role in The Guest. Let’s just say this edgy new side of the Downton Abbey actor will be jarring to fans used to seeing him in tweed.

In the past few years, charitable initiatives have been front and center at TIFF. The Tastemakers Lounge, presented by Brita, celebrated its 10th anniversary at the fest with Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics as its charity partner. Ethan Hawke and Rene Russo came out to support Girls Rock Camp Toronto and the Children’s Peace Theatre by autographing the Lush Charity Pot board.

Celebrities autographing bottles of Moët & Chandon for charity has become an honoured tradition at film festivals in Deauville, San Sebastián, and Cannes. For the fifth year in a row, the ritual came to TIFF. This year, Moët & Chandon partnered with the Canadian Film Centre (CFC), with stars adding their signatures in support of raising the profile of Canadian talent. Everyone from Cara Delevingne to Jon Stewart to Sam Worthington stopped by to sign a 9L Salmanazar-sized bottle to be auctioned in support of the CFC.

An impressive $1.5 million dollars was raised at the annual Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) Fundraiser Gala held at Casa Loma. Co-Chaired by Natasha Koifman and Sylvia Mantella, the event was co-hosted by an influential team, including Paul Haggis, Madeleine Stowe, Jason Reitman, George Stroumboulopoulos, and Pascal Raffy, president of Bovet Fleurier. Seated under the September night sky, the castle was just the right backdrop for an evening that saw Stowe and Toronto philanthropist Kate Daniels each pledging $50,000 to APJ’s work in Haiti for the next five years.

Film legends Goldie Hawn and Norman Jewison joined forces to celebrate at the 20th Anniversary Best Buddies Gala at the Carlu; the event raised over $1.42 million. Founder of Best Buddies International, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, nephew of John F. Kennedy, was also in attendance to support the cause for the second consecutive year. Louis Vuitton also held an evening fete in support of TIFF’s Reel Comfort charity, which supports mental health patients at Toronto General Hospital and St. Michael’s Hospital through film presentations and workshops.

This TIFF signaled a return to serious story lines, reflecting a world with such sobering current events. Perhaps it’s driven by stars tired of playing rehashed versions of Superman and wanting to take on more flawed, human characters. With The Imitation Game winning top prize at TIFF—the coveted People’s Choice Award—we also see audiences craving engagement over escape. Let’s hope Hollywood takes note.