THURSDAY, AUGUST 06, 2015 01:27 PM EDT

Rating: 3.5 stars

TORONTO – You’re barely a few minutes into the Toronto-based indie film Diamond Tongues before you realize its star Leah Fay Goldstein has the ability to “work cute” very well.

As Edith, a frustrated actress with four years of rejection to her credit, she is an expert at painting a smile-and-a-lie over the non-starter that is her career.

This could be the springboard for a Hollywood story about an indefatigable optimist who finally finds herself, an ultimately feel-good movie wrapped around its charismatic lead.

But it isn’t. Diamond Tongues has been reviewed at hipster meccas like Slamdance as a kind of indie/millennial All About Eve – mostly because Edith isn’t very nice behind her smile, and she actively sabotages other people’s careers, including that of her best friend Clare (Leah Wildman).

To me, it also evokes another film trope – the-descent-into-madness – lite. The catalyst is the decision of her ex-boyfriend Ben (Adam Gurfinkel) to become an actor himself – with improbable immediate success.

The irony of the role of Edith is that Goldstein, who livens up every scene she’s in (and she is literally in every scene), is playing a character who is dying inside. And her bouts of inappropriate behavior become more pronounced – promiscuity with online creeps, malicious acts that border on criminal – as she sinks deeper into her malaise.

And malaise is what Canadian filmmakers do best. Diamond Tongues is about 20 minutes longer (and more morose) than it need be, because of the tendency by directors Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson to linger on a scene long after we “get” it. Goldstein “pops” on the screen in its dramatic and mordantly-funny moments, though you could get impatient waiting for them. But most of the acting-world minutiae rings true, from the impersonal auditions to the insincere flattery to the presence of predators.

Full disclosure: the actress – who also performs as co-lead of the Juno-nominated alt rock band July Talk under the name Leah Fay – is the daughter of Sun comment editor Lorrie Goldstein. I’m happy not to have to avoid him based on what I’ve seen. And I’m pretty certain she got where she has on talent – Lorrie’s pull in showbiz being somewhat limited.

Her cred in the music and hipster world probably has something to do with the contribution of music by Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning, and the participation of George Stroumboulopoulos in a stardom-fantasy-interview scene.

So apparently, Goldstein has something to fall back on if this music thing doesn’t work out. In an impressive feature debut, she carries literally an entire movie. And in the midst of this heavy lifting, she manages to make us feel for an otherwise unlikable, deceitful protagonist.

Diamond Tongues is playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until Aug. 13th. It will also screen at the Open Roof Festival on Aug. 19th.

Source: Toronto Sun