EXCLUSIVE: This year’s 71st edition of the famed Cannes Film Festival is heavily focused on international cinema , but in terms of American filmmaking it appears to be slim pickings. This year has one of the smallest collections of American-bred movies in a while, although that has been the trend in recent years. In the main official competition there is only Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman, and David Robert Mitchell’s Under The Silver Lake, but none in Un Certain Regard. Out of competition is perhaps the highest
profile picture, Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story which will have its international premiere in Cannes several days after its World
Premiere in Hollywood. In the Directors Fortnight there is the terrific Debra Granik film, Leave No Trace, first seen in Sundance, and in Critics Week there is another Sundance refugee, Paul Dano’s Wildlife which is opening the section May 9th as a “special screening”. I just was able to view the latter film here in New York on Friday ( where I have stopped for a Broadway binge a few days before heading to France) and was very impressed not only by Dano’s directorial debut , his script co-written with Zoe Kazan, but also by the performances from Jake Gyllenhaal ( also a producer in addition to his supporting role), Bill Camp , Ed Oxenbould, and especially Carey Mulligan who gathered sensational reviews in Sundance and clearly gives one of her finest performances , if not finest to date. That is saying something for an actress coming off great work in Mudbound , her most recent film and a fine collection of other performances in the past decade. Although there is much unknown still to be viewed among the Cannes selections I can say for sure there is definitely going to be strong fall awards buzz for her extraordinary turn as a Montana wife and mother circa 1960 stuck in a downward spiral as her marriage starts to crumble and the life she imagined for herself slowly slips away. Ed Oxenbould expertly plays her son who sees his “perfect” family falling apart and the film revolves mostly around them, with Gyllenhaal as her husband , and Camp as an employer with whom she has an affair while her husband is away attempting to find some misguided career direction as a firefighter. Watch an exclusive clip featuring Mulligan and Oxenbould by clicking the link above.
In a phone conversation Friday where she called me from her home in England, Mulligan said she was very excited to return to Cannes for the upcoming international premiere of the film this coming week. It won’t be her first time on the Croisette. She’s been there three times before with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in 2010 and both The Great Gatsby and Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013. She particularly remembers the Gatsby year, as do I, especially for an elaborate, but heavily rain soaked tented after-party Warner Bros threw. “It rained so much. I got hit in the face by an umbrella on the red carpet. It was not what I had imagined, it was not the glamour moment I was anticipating, ” she laughed. Certainly the dialed down , more indie-centric Critics Week screenings at the Hotel Miramar theatre well down the Croisette from the action of the Official Selection at the Grand Theatre Lumiere will be a different experience altogether, and one she is equally looking forward to on this trip, especially considering she has been friends with Dano and his girfriend and collaborator Kazan for several years. “I am really happy for Paul. I think it’s awesome. I can’t wait to be with them. I have known Paul and Zoe for a decade so it’s going to be really nice to hang out with them when we get to do this stuff,” she said. Hopefully the weather will be nicer.
Mulligan says it took her about 90 minutes to read the script and immediately say yes when Dano sent it to her. “I was done with Mudbound so it was the summer of that year. It was
such an interesting character. The script is so well-written, the relationships were so clear and there was so much to play with. I just thought she (her character Jeanette) was at such an interesting point in her life having found herself with an adolescent son, having moved from town to town, and I got the sense of whiplash when one day she just woke up and realized half of her life had passed her by. It was so exciting to get the offer to play and the cast turned out to be amazing, ” she said while noting she had also known Gyllenhaal for quite a while. Mulligan also enjoyed shooting in the Montana and Oklahoma locations where the film was made. “I think she’s sort of buckling under the weight of all the expectations put upon her to be the perfect mother and perfect housewife. I love this sort of mad streak that goes through her, wanting to tear it up and start again. She tries on different versions of herself, exploring with all the people she could have become. I definitely identify with the feeling of a bittersweet nostalgia recognizing you are not in your 20’s anymore, you are not a teenager anymore and suddenly have all these responsibilities in your life,” said the star of the acting challenge that is polar opposite of her own life where she is happily married with two young children of her own.
This is the kind of role actors kill for and it seems to be coming in a year when there are already a number of fine female performances including – just for starters – Charlize Theron in Tully, Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan in The Seagull, and Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams in Disobedience, all of this coming on top of an Oscar race in which the Best Actress contest was far more crowded than that for Best Actor for a change. Mulligan has also taken notice, but with caution based on experience. “I think there is an upswing. I agree. I have noticed it as well. People were talking about it at Sundance too where Maggie Gyllenhaal had this amazing role, and Toni Collette too. But not to be negative but not long ago there felt like there was a really good moment and then it went back to the status quo. I am cautiously optimistic things will go in the right direction finally, but having noticed this pattern before I think it is still important that female writers and directors are given opportunities, ” she said.
Like many actors, Mulligan takes matters into her own hands in order to insure she gets her own opportunities, and that includes the New
York stage where she is following up her Tony nominated Broadway turn a couple of years ago in the acclaimed Skylight by bringing her one woman show Girls And Boys from London to Off Broadway next month. She says appearing in NYC on stage was always a childhood fantasy and whether on Broadway or Off Broadway (she sees no difference) she is looking forward to it, especially this show which she says has great timeliness. “It is a woman’s story about her life but it is very pertinent at the moment so I am really excited to be doing it.”
But first comes the trip back to Cannes and another key festival moment for Wildlife from FilmNation which IFC Films releases domestically in the Fall and for which I expect Mulligan could find herself back into the heart of the Oscar race where she was previously nominated (and won a BAFTA) for her breakthrough role in An Education in 2010. Certainly the Sundance critics couldn’t come up with enough superlatives. Now it is on to rest of the world and the Cote d’Azur.