Cannes 2014: At least Mike Leigh scores a hit with “Mr. Turner”
Bonjour, film fans, and welcome to another year of gawking at the rich and opinionated elite who make up the Cannes Film Festival!
The 67th annual celebration of movies and money began with a rough welcome for a princess and the absence of the festival's unofficial king. “La Vie en Rose” filmmaker Olivier Dahan and Nicole Kidman‘s fictionalization of Grace Kelly's mid-century reign, “Grace of Monaco,” was decisively — and brutally — panned by critics.
We've recapped the savaging twice already, led by The Guardian's Peter Baker calling it “so awe-inspiringly wooden that it is basically a fire-risk.” Similarly, Time Magazine's Richard Corliss said it, “fails as either a stately drama of the BBC provenance or an entertainingly trashy tell-all.”
In fact, TheWrap's Steve Pond was relatively kind when he said, “It's not atrocious, and it's occasionally even entertaining,” though he also added, “it's also pretty laughable, an overinflated bit of foolishness that borrows from both Puccini and old Hollywood melodramas and never misses a chance to be melodramatic and silly.”
Missing from the premiere was the film's US distributor, Harvey Weinstein, who reportedly had quite a bit of friction with Dahan over the tone of the film. His absence wasn't a protest — though he might be able to gloat “I told ya so” — but instead a result of a long-planned trip to visit a refugee camp in Syria. At least someone has their priorities right. And, despite rumors that said Weinstein would disavow the film, they closed a deal to distribute it in the US. Or, re-closed a deal, since they had already paid $5 million for the rights.
Critics were much more pleased by this morning's high profile offering: Mike Leigh's “Mr. Turner,” a Timothy Spall-starring biopic of British painter J.M.W. Turner. Bradshaw, so angry at “Grace of Monaco,” was in a much better mood on Thursday, writing with glee at the conclusion of Leigh's latest movie.
“What a glorious film this is,” he writes, “richly and immediately enjoyable, hitting its satisfying stride straight away.”
Robbie Collin, writing for the UK's Telegraph, calls it Spall's best performance — or at least equal to that of his turn in Leigh's “Secrets and Lies,” which won the Palme d'Or in 1996.
And now for the dealmaking, which is why anyone goes to Cannes in the first place. After scoring big with a double dose of Jake Gyllenhaal at Toronto last year (stressing audiences with “Prisoners” and confusing them with “Enemy”), Denis Villeneuve hit it big on Wednesday. His planned adaptation of “Story of Your Life,” a short story by sci-fi star Ted Chiang, was bought for a rumored $20 million by Paramount.
It's a big check, but Paramount is getting an enticing package: Amy Adams will star as an expert linguist who is recruited by the military to determine whether aliens that land all over the earth have come in peace or are a threat to the human race (which would imperil our plans for depleting and destroying the planet).
Other deals include Nicolas Cage and Jake Huston starring in a crime thriller called “The Trust,” along with Emma Thompson and Daniel Brühl in the post-WWII “Alone in Berlin.”
Also: Jason Alexander will play a crazy optometrist in “Lucky Stiff,” a musical farce that will be directed by Broadway vet Christopher Ashley. Arclight films will be selling the international rights on that one.
Finally, reliable sources say that the sun is shining on the Croisette.