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TIFF ’10: Javier Bardem and Alejandro González Iñárritu are “Biutiful”

By Sean O’Connell

Hollywoodnews.com: We continue to preview anticipated titles screening at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival in our “Road to Toronto” feature.

The fest kicks off on Sept. 9, and HollywoodNews.com will be on the ground bringing you reviews, interviews, and a clearer glimpse at the ever-shifting Oscar race.

To read our previous preview columns, punch “TIFF” into our search window. Today, we’re digging in to a difficult, emotional drama that divided audiences and critics at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival last May, but recently secured a major victory when Roadside Attractions acquired its U.S. distribution rights.

Biutiful

The Plot: Tormented family man Uxbal (Javier Bardem) struggles with present-day problems in Barcelona while confronting the sins of his checkered past.

The Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Babel,” “21 Grams,” “Amores perros”)

The Cast: Javier Bardem, Blanca Portillo, Ruben Ochandiano, Felix Cubero, Martina Garcia

The Scoop: Iñárritu reportedly tells a streamlined story of one man’s fight for redemption after playing with puzzling narratives and plot trickery in previous pictures like “Babel” and “Amores perros.” Mexican fans of Iñárritu who feared (unnecessarily) that this valued member of cinema’s “Three Amigos” – with Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro – had gone Hollywood may rejoice that the storyteller is back working in his native language for the first time since “perros.” The rest of us can anticipate what is supposed to be a breathtaking performance from the reliable Bardem in the lead role.

Awards Potential: The film’s best bet appears to be Bardem, who took home the Best Actor prize for “Biutiful” at Cannes, and could ride a wave of support throughout the Oscar race. Counting against him? He just won an Academy Award in 2008 for his chilling performance in Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men.” But that’s unlikely to cost him a nomination if his “Biutiful” performance is as good as we’ve heard.

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