March 25, 2017

Will Meryl, Jason and Clint ride the film festival circuit? – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell Three titles were conspicuously absent from the recently announced programming at this fall’s Venice and Toronto film festivals: Jason Reitman’s “Young Adult,” Phyllida Lloyd’s “The Iron Lady” and Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar,” all of which are expected by most pundits to make some noise in the upcoming awards race.

And while it’s possible Clint’s biopic, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead, could appear at one fall fest (more on that in a minute), it’s looking more and more likely that Reitman will hold his film back from the publicity circuit until he gets closer to the film’s announced Dec. 9 release date.

That’s a surprise. Reitman’s last two films – “Juno” and “Up In The Air” – benefitted from splashy bows at TIFF, Telluride and Venice, the launch pads for pictures with Oscar hopes. But columnist Pete Hammond writes for Deadline that Reitman “definitely won’t be riding the fest circuit” with his picture this year. Speculation over on The Playlist says it’s because the film – written by Diablo Cody – is darker than either “Juno” or “Air,” with Charlize Theron playing a woman forced to move back home when life doesn’t go the way she planned. But it’s also believed that Paramount will follow the same release pattern as David O. Russell’s “The Fighter,” which strategically picked its spots in last year’s awards race and parlayed that into seven nominations and two wins at the Academy Awards.

As for Eastwood’s J. Edgar Hoover picture, Hammond speculates that Warner Bros. might be angling for the opening or closing slot at the New York Film Festival, which would lead right into the film’s announced release date of Oct. 21. As Hammond notes, NYFF “demands complete exclusivity for their opening-night film,” which might explain why Eastwood’s film isn’t at Venice or Toronto … yet. But Clint ventured to TIFF with “Hereafter” last year, and could return to the Great White North with another winner underneath his arm of things don’t quite work out in Manhattan.

As for Lloyd’s “Iron Lady,” which stars Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, Hammond figures (rightfully so) that The Weinstein Company will follow the formula they established with “The King’s Speech” last year, bringing the film to Telluride and Toronto … so long as it’s ready in time. Lloyd’s film isn’t due out until Dec. 16, but can ride a wave of positive buzz if it connects with festival audiences at TIFF or Telluride and rolls out a winning campaign all season long.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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