I leave for the Toronto Film Festival in five days (I like getting there early), and I’ve just done a re-scan and there are at least five high-profile festival selections that are putting out mild distress signals. No torpedo holes, no manning the lifeboats, but expressions of concern on the captain’s face. It means dredging up old material and I hate that, but I can at least re-review the situation with three of them:
(a) Steven Zallian‘s All The King’s Men (Columbia, 9.22) — This Mike Medavoy– produced period political drama has been giving off sputtering noises since it was yanked almost a year ago from Sony’s late ’05 release schedule. I’m not implying it’s a bad or even half-bad film — it might be half-decent or even good — but Sony won’t pre-screen it and Medavoy won’t even pick up the phone which tells you there are feelings of uncertainty behind the palace gates. And Sean Penn‘s delivery of his Willie Stark speeches, shouted and bellowed with that cracker-barrel hick accent, exudes a kind of profound anti-charm. And Sony’s decision to open Men in late September rather than October or November hints at something also. Any way you cut it, Men is coming into the festival with a wounded rep;
(b) Emilio Estevez‘s Bobby (Weinstein Co., 11.17) — Estevez is a director who has demonstrated his chops three times before (Wisdom, Men at Work, Rated X), and I just don’t see this one working out all that well, especially with all the problems he had during production. That really funny Bobby story written last year for Esquire by screenplay polisher John Ridley includes a crew-member judgment that the script reads like “an episode of Love Boat ’68.” And then there’s that Bobby one-sheet, which uses three lines that Sen. Ted Kennedy spoke in his eulogy speech for his slain brother during the funeral service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral: “He saw wrong and tried to right it. He saw suffering and tried to heal it. He saw war and tried to stop it.” Bobby is not a biopic, and this ad copy therefore reeks of dishonesty. And there’s also that initial announcement that Bobby is going to be screened as a “work in progress”.
(c) Anthony Minghella‘s Breaking and Entering (Weinstein Co., 12.8) — The campfire talk a few weeks ago was that Harvey Weinstein was on the fence about Minghella’s film coming out this year. (Harvey changes his mind all the time, but still…) And an Oscar campaign stategist not employed by the Weinstein Co, told me a while back that the word on B & E was that it wasn’t quite Oscar-calibre. It now has a 12.8 platform release plan, but Weinstein has mulled bumping it into the winter or spring of ’07. Smell the air, do the math.