The much anticipated August: Osage County premiered yesterday to what seems to be the most mixed response of any festival movie so far. Critics are divided on the dysfunctional family dramedy, with most praising the acting while criticizing the direction of TV vet John Wells. It's hard to gauge the reaction to this one overall, because it did play to a highly enthusiastic crowd that seemed to love it, so It may be more of an audience movie than a critics one. But many critics do admit to liking parts of it, while confessing it's entertaining if not groundbreaking. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts are receiving very strong praise for their acting though, along with other cast members, and Julia spent the morning charming the pants off the press at the post-film Q&A so she's still got some of that old magic. We're going to have to wait and see where this ends up with reviews when it comes out officially, but if I had to guess I'd say that if it's a hit with mediocre to positive notices, the Academy will eat this up, given the big name cast. Meryl Streep is probably guaranteed her 18th nomination (amazing, isn't it?)
"This two-ton prestige pic won't win the hearts of highbrow critics or those averse to door-slamming, plate-smashing, top-of-the-lung histrionics, but as a faithful filmed record of Letts' play, one could have scarcely hoped for better." (Variety)
"An entertaining adaptation, delivering flavorful rewards in some sharp supporting turns that flank the central mother-daughter adversaries." (Hollywood Reporter)
"'August Osage: County' is a film of big, wild gestures, plate smashing, screaming, and tears, but not nuance, and it has all the effect of leaving one deadened, not moved." (The Playlist)
"A vastly enjoyable theatrical banquet, if perhaps not a profound one, is served up in a bit of a rush here, as if they can't wait to get to the next sitting in. But you certainly don't come away feeling hungry." (Daily Telegraph)
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom also premiered to mixed reviews, but praise for the actors, in what appears to be a similar reaction to August: OC (as I'm calling it). It was a movie that again played well with the crowd while garnering slightly lukewarm critical reactions to the film itself, which is kind of an old school biopic (think Gandhi) chronicling the life of South African leader Nelson Mandela. But the acting is highly praised, both Idris Elba and especially Naomie Harris (you might know her as the newest Moneypenny) as Winnie Mandela. In such a crowded year, I think it'll be hard for Elba to crack that Best Actor race, but Naomie Harris stands a much better chance at scoring a nom in Supporting Actress, where there's plenty of room so far. The bigger categories seem out of reach for this one though.
"Director Justin Chadwick's CliffsNotes version of Mandela's 700-page memoir never opts for a light touch when a sledgehammer will do...But for all its failings, there is one thing about 'Long Walk to Freedom' that can't be denied: Idris Elba gives a towering performance, a Mandela for the ages." (Variety)
"The one thing that is well highlighted is the importance of Winnie...she has the biggest arc in the film, going from a feisty young beauty to a devoted campaigner to the cause." (The Independent)
Elsewhere at Toronto, Philomena premiered to even better reaction than at Venice. My hunch that that movie is going to be a true crowdpleaser and awards threat seems to be proving correct, at least so far. And Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin also continued to get rave reviews from critics as well as more grumbling from audience members, and was acquired by the new studio A24Films for release, hopefully sometime later this year.
New trailer for Mandela (gives you a nice look at the old age makeup here):