Netflix made a bold calculation when it announced its ambitious plan to release 10 films in theaters this fall before making them available on their streaming platform. The decision has paid off big time.
The streaming service’s “Marriage Story,” the Noah Baumbach-helmed relationship drama, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, has already garnered effusive praise from the critics and will prove to have legs during the upcoming awards season. In particular, Johansson has earned some of the best reviews of her career, catapulting her into a particularly strong Best Actress field.
As the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) culminates on Sunday, Johansson joins Renée Zellweger in “Judy” and Kristen Stewart in “Seberg” as the early favorites. While we would never count out Meryl Streep in this year’s offering for her part in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat,” (another of Netflix’s fall slate) or Jennifer Lopez‘s role in Lorene Scafaria’s “Hustlers,” the buzz emanating from TIFF is that the complex performances by Johansson, Zellweger, and Stewart may earn them multiple nominations.
Johansson and Stewart have not yet received Academy Award nods in their careers, but Zellweger was nominated for Best Actress Oscars for “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “chicago” in 2001 and 2002, respectively, before winning as Best Supporting Actress for “Cold mountain” in 2004. She virtually disappeared from the screen after some reported cosmetic surgery resulted in hurtful criticism. Fortunately, the “Jerry Maguire” star has made a recent comeback, including the Netflix limited series “What/If,” in which she plays a venture capitalist. In the biopic “Judy,” Zellweger draws on her musical theater chops honed in “Chicago” as she gives a powerful performance as Judy Garland in her tragic final years.
“Marriage Story” tells the story of a theater director (Driver) and his wife (Johansson), an actress, as they grapple with a gut-wrenching, bicoastal divorce. It has earned widespread critical praise with a 100 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the type of intimate, character-driven introspection at which Baumbach excels (“The Squid and the Whale,” “Margot at the Wedding,” “Greenberg,” “Frances Ha,” “While We’re Young,” “Mistress America”).
In another biopic, “Seberg,” Stewart portrays Jean Seberg, the star of Jean-Luc Godard’s French New Wave classic, “Breathless.” Critics have praised Stewart’s most adult role to date, even as they pronounce the overall film uneven, as noted by Variety. The film chronicles the FBI’s surveillance of Seberg in the 1960s due to her relationship with activist Hakim Jamal (played by Anthony Mackie), who was Malcolm X’s cousin. The targeting is portrayed as contributing to Seberg’s ultimate suicide.
The film festival circuit continues next with the New York Film Festival which runs from Sept. 27 to Oct. 13.