Posted by Larry Gleeson
By Paul Liberatore
Two of the most glamorous women in Hollywood, Amy Adams and Emma Stone, brought megawatt star power to Thursday night’s opening of the 39th Mill Valley Film Festival.
Wearing a frilly, cream-colored lace dress, Stone arrived first at a kickoff reception at Mill Valley’s redwood-shaded Outdoor Art Club. She was ushered in a side gate as a star-struck throng of photographers and festival officials silently watched her every move.
“Hi,” she said with a self-conscious smile as she stepped gingerly down a garden path. “I just hope I stay up.”
Stone, who patiently smiled through the de rigueur photo shoot in front of a backdrop emblazoned with the logos of the festival and its sponsors, should be extra light on her feet these days after singing and dancing with co-star Ryan Gosling in one of the opening night movies, “La La Land.” Known for her large expressive eyes, she won the best actress award when the romantic musical opened the Venice Film Festival.
This was her first appearance in Mill Valley.
“And what a first time it is,” she exclaimed at a pre-show press conference. “But I’ve been in Northern California before. I love it up here.”
Minutes later Adams swept in, looking stunning in heels and a black sheath dress sparkling with sequins. She made the trip to Marin to promote the other opening night movie, “Arrival,” in which she stars as a linguistics professor who tries to communicate with aliens who land on earth in what looks like a gigantic Easter egg.
At a press conference, she cracked the assembled reporters up with an imitation of Canadian director Denis Villeneuve.
“He does it much better than I do,” she said, getting an even bigger laugh.
Marin music and film fans may be more interested in a movie she has in development about Janis Joplin, one of Marin’s most famous departed rock icons. This week marked the 46th anniversary of Joplin’s death of a drug overdose in a Los Angeles hotel room.
Asked how the project was going, Adams sighed and said, “Here’s what I say about the Janis project: When Janis wants it to happen it will happen. I think she’s still a powerful force here. Her spirit lives on.”
While opening night normally showcases big-budget Hollywood movies, Mill Valley is known for its support of independent cinema, including movies by local filmmakers like “The Rendezvous,” an action-adventure film based on a book by San Rafael’s Tricia Hellman Gibbs, daughter of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival founder Warren Hellman. The movie, Gibbs’ first as a producer, follows Rachel, a Jewish-American doctor as she tries to solve the mysterious death of her treasure-hunting brother.
It screens at the festival on Saturday and again on Monday.
“This festival is ideal for me because it’s right in my own backyard,” Gibbs said at the reception as she scanned the crowd for director Amin Matalqa. “I can go to the bluegrass festival one weekend and the next one show my movie here, where all my friends can come. All the people I know are right here in Mill Valley.”
Festival founder and executive director Mark Fishkin said this year’s schedule strikes a balance between “fabulous, exciting, beautiful guests” in high-profile films with awards season buzz as well as movies that get lesser attention but deserve to be seen.
“This year’s program has substantial documentaries that have something to say and very rich international films from something like 40 countries,” he said. “And we have some great local filmmakers. This year’s festival is certainly in line with what we like to do.”
The festival runs through Oct. 16.