After a 10-minute standing ovation at its Cannes premiere this week, Harvey Weinstein is going to make a big awards-season push on The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby, and in particular the performances of Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. Following that thunderous ovation and glowing reviews, Weinstein told his marketing team it has been a long time since he’d seen performances like these, and that they were to start working on the Oscar campaign strategy and go for it.
The new strategy will be to release the Ned Benson-directed film on September 26 at the start of awards-season films. I mean Them, the version that played Cannes, the one that Benson cut to tell a straight narrative story. Some six weeks later into Oscar season, TWC will release Him and Her, the two versions of the love story that played to acclaim at Toronto last fall. I saw Them at its later premiere screening, and came away feeling that Weinstein has a lot to work with. It is a moving story of a married couple on the rocks which showed sides of Chastain and McAvoy I hadn’t seen before. I came away actually wanting to see the other two versions, something I never expected.
One of the most interesting occurrences of the festival is how some of the best reviewed films here found their groove, something my colleague Pete Hammond has been chronicling all week. It’s clear that Bennett Miller was smart to avoid the last Oscar season so that he could take the time to make Foxcatcher as good as he could, a move done in concert with Sony Pictures Classics and producer/financier Megan Ellison. That movie also played like gangbusters here and will be right there in the Oscar mix.
In the case of Eleanor Rigby, Benson had already done his job as a first-time director who generated not one but two critically well-received art house films on the same subject, drawing a $3 million deal from TWC. Benson told me right before Cannes that he, Chastain and his crew made the decision themselves — in consultation with Weinstein — to see if there was another version that might give the film a chance to be seen by the widest possible audience. The way he and Miller succeeded, seeing through their vision in a collaborative manner, is so admirable to me. Contrast that to the opening-night debacle that was Grace Of Monaco, where director Olivier Dahan basically ran away with a film that had great potential in its script, and unwisely brought it to Cannes in the spirit of defiance, only to see it get butchered. His decision to be so publicly obstinate and his unwillingness to listen to his cast, his screenwriter, his distributor and the actors who made that movie is going to haunt the La Vie En Rose helmer going forward. It is more important than ever for filmmakers and their distributors to be change-able, in service of these fragile films, because you only get one shot at a first impression. Especially when you choose a global venue to deliver it.