It was a rough week for one of the year’s so far best-received Oscar contenders, Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River. On Friday, an executive producer of the film, Harvey Weinstein, was suspended as co-chief of the Weinstein Company, its distributor, pending an investigation of claims in the New York Times that he was sexually abusive toward a series of actresses and others. Weinstein acknowledged some misbehavior, but promised to sue the Times; no matter how things sort out, that can’t help a movie about the rape and disappearance of vulnerable women.
A few days earlier, the sniper attack in Las Vegas provoked fresh calls for stringent gun control. Again, that was a tough break for Wind River, in which the Wyoming hero, played by Jeremy Renner, hunts predators—human and otherwise—with a high-powered rifle. He isn’t quite a vigilante; but the film’s underlying respect for gun-barrel justice could take some viewers, and voters, outside a suddenly smaller comfort zone.
If the Oscars are to some extent a national mood ring, the colors are still shifting, blue to black, white hot to blood red. There’s no reason a fine picture like Wind River can’t eventually overcome an accidental association with still confused events and reactions. But Weinstein didn’t do the film any favors on Thursday, when he used a limited apology statement to say he would be devoting his free time to a campaign against the National Rifle Association, an organization with which Renner’s fictional hunter, Cory Lambert, might feel a certain empathy.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s The Current War, of which Weinstein is a credited producer, is another film that might benefit if he were to simply clam up for a while. The movie, about the battle between the American inventor Thomas Edison and the Pittsburgh industrialist George Westinghouse, has no obvious thematic ties to the headlines. But the last thing anyone needs to see when it pops up at the Mill Valley Film Festival or elsewhere this month is Harvey Weinstein giving its starlets Katherine Waterston and Tuppence Middleton a big hug.
On Monday, a non-Weinstein film, Marshall, also took some damage when Open Road scratched its premiere amid grief over the deaths in Las Vegas. The picture is a Connecticut-set courtroom drama in which the young Thurgood Marshall defends a man who says he is falsely accused of rape—difficult turf with sexual outrage now back on the front page.
With tensions high at home, it increasingly looks like a good season for movies from someplace else. Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, about Winston Churchill, is tip-toeing into the limelight this week, with a showing at the Mill Valley festival on Thursday, and another set for the Hamptons on Saturday. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is up to $187 million at the box-office and counting (even as American Assassin and American Made drift).
By Friday, a lobby costume showcase at the Landmark Theaters in West Los Angeles, where Oscars voters cluster, had replaced the sleek African-American period couture of Detroit with Judi Dench’s outfits from the very British Victoria and Abdul. As we get angrier here, the prospects get better for films from over there.