Cannes Report, Day 7: Hollywood Women Disrupt Festival, ‘Loving’ Courts Early Awards Attention

Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon lead women making waves

Cannes Film Festival Women in Revolt
From left: Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon

While there are only three female directors competing at the Cannes Film Festival for the Palme d’Or out of 21, women have made a powerful showing.

Now a week into the program, Hollywood women have revolted to delightful and meaningful effect. Susan Sarandon and Jodie Foster have stood out for their outspokenness, Maren Ade with her competition sensation “Toni Edman,” and Julia Roberts‘ with her barefoot protest of painful high heels at her Croisette debut.

“I think studio executives are scared, period,” Foster said at the top of the festival when asked in a panel about the shortage of women behind the camera.

“I think this is the most risk-averse period in movie history. Now so many things have changed in terms of the economy, the structure of studios,” she said, adding that everyone should “get used to the landscape.”

Foster had the festival’s highest star wattage with her film “Money Monster,” starring George Clooney and Roberts. The Oscar winner seemed to defy last year’s poorly received dress code, which shamed women who wore flats to gala screenings in the Grand Palais theater. (Breakout star Sasha Lane, of “American Honey,” also went barefoot).

Sarandon, marking the 25th anniversary of her iconic female-empowerment adventure “Thelma & Louise,” spoke frankly and unapologetically about a subject many tiptoe around in the industry — director Woody Allen, who opened Cannes with his latest ensemble “Cafe Society.”

“I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don’t think that’s right,” the 69-year-old said during a panel.  “I have nothing good to say about him, I don’t want to go there.”

French comedian Laurent Lafitte caused some pearl-clutching at the opening night screening with a rape joke aimed at Allen that was really intended for exiled director Roman Polanski.

“You’ve shot so many of your films here in Europe and yet in the U.S. you haven’t even been convicted of rape,” Lafitte said. Allen brushed it off saying worse had been said about him — though Sarandon hadn’t hit town yet.

While last year’s female-directed stories failed to captivate, two this year have won festival attention — the unanimously praised “Toni Erdmann” from Ade, and Andrea Arnold‘s divisive “American Honey.”

In the German-language “Erdmann,” Ade depicts an aging father pulling a series of pranks on his terribly serious daughter in an effort to get her to lighten up. The film broke records for good reviews, according to Screen International, and was scooped up immediately by Sony Pictures Classics.

“Honey” has sharply divided festival-goers, as the pop-song-fueled odyssey into the American Midwest draws a certain portrait of drug-addicted, impoverished fly-over states. But Arnold has received major props for the film’s emotional resonance, her discovery of the aforementioned Lane and the impossible task of restoring a halo to male lead Shia LaBeouf.

Disruption is welcome — it’s a conversation that’s been raging in Hollywood for some time — but it hasn’t always been welcome at the long-conservative institution that is Cannes. There can be black tie at the revolution.

Elsewhere on the Croisette…


“Loving” An Early Awards Favorite

Jeff Nichols‘ interracial period drama made a big impression, one that is already suggesting little gold men down the road for the film starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga.

The pair play Richard and Mildred Loving, an ordinary couple trying to build a life — though one is black and the other white, which was a criminal offense in their time and place, late 1950s Virginia.

It’s a genre departure for Nichols (“Take Shelter,” “Midnight Special”) but with his similar moody effect, wrote TheWrap’s Ben Croll:

Edgerton plays his part well, but his character is a man of few words and even fewer facial expressions, so the role hardly offers a showcase for the actor’s range. Negga, on the other hand, is the real breakout. The laconic Nichols is not one for swelling strings or sweeping melodrama, and so he lets the film’s big emotional beats play out on her face. The net effect is that when thinking of the film’s poignancy, one thinks about Negga. That’s going to be an ace in her sleeve for the rest of the year.

Robert De Niro Edgar Ramirez Hands of StoneBobby The Boxer

In the seemingly annual tradition of guts-and-glory boxing movies that international film audiences must endure, here came Robert De Niro with “Hands Of Stone,” this one again brought by Harvey Weinstein (last year’s “Southpaw”).

“Hands” tells the story of Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán, starring Edgar Ramirez as Durán and De Niro as his longtime trainer Ray Arcel.

Wisely, the festival screening was accompanied by a career tribute to De Niro, who politely said “thank you” following a clip package of his work, and needed to be reminded to plug the film.

“The movie has been made the way it should have been made,” De Nior said. “So I hope — we hope — that you enjoy the movie.”

Get TheWrap’s complete Cannes 2016 coverage here.