‘Sacred Deer’ kills; ‘Suburbicon’ doesn’t live up to its promise

on Oct28

The weekend before Halloween is typically a graveyard for new movies, but there are a couple of recent openings that could find their way into the Oscar races.

And, no, “Suburbicon” is not one of them.

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season leading up to the Oscars.

I’m Glenn Whipp, The Times’ awards columnist and your newsletter host.

Don’t expect answers from ‘Sacred Deer’

When I talked to Nicole Kidman last year, she couldn’t stop thinking about a movie she made with Yorgos Lanthimos titled “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”

Lanthimos picked up a screenplay Oscar nomination for his last movie, “The Lobster.”

“And if you were puzzled by that movie,” Kidman told me, “you are going to be really perplexed by this one. Yorgos kept telling me it was very funny. ‘Hilarious’ is the word he used. I’m not sure everyone will agree.”

Perhaps not. “Deer” reunites Kidman with her “Beguiled” co-star Colin Farrell. They’re a married couple dealing with a 16-year-old boy who has a grudge against Farrell’s heart surgeon character and seems to be wreaking some crazy, supernatural sorcery to get back at him and, by extension, his family.

My colleague Mark Olsen spoke to Kidman, Farrell and Lanthimos recently. You can read his story here. The movie opened last week, doing great business in Los Angeles and New York. It will expand to a dozen other cities this weekend. It’s a deeply disturbing, discomforting film and, yes, occasionally darkly funny. Not “Big Bang Theory” funny. More like “A Clockwork Orange” funny.

Other movies worth finding this weekend: “The Florida Project” (definite best picture candidate, with Willem Dafoe almost assured a supporting actor nom) and Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck,” a beautiful adaptation of Brian Selznick’s picture novel. (I talked to Selznick here for a piece that ran in our fall movie preview. He also wrote “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”)

Suburbicon’ fails to live up to pedigree

The George Clooney-directed “Suburbicon,” a madcap comedy aspiring to be a socially relevant drama, premiered last month at the Venice Film Festival and went on to play at the Toronto International Film Festival.

That’s the path a movie with awards season ambitions takes, and with “Suburbicon,” you could see why Paramount Pictures would chart that trajectory. The film stars Julianne Moore and Matt Damon and features a screenplay originated by Joel and Ethan Coen, and later tweaked by Clooney and Grant Heslov. And Clooney is no slouch himself, though it has been a dozen years since he directed “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Unfortunately, the Coens wrote the “Suburbicon” screenplay in 1986 and then put it away in a drawer. It probably should have stayed there. The reviews have been terrible, including a scathing notice from Times film critic Justin Chang, who called its indictment of white privilege “condescending.”

Shortly after bombing at the festivals, a couple of awards pundits wrote that “Suburbicon” was never intended to be an awards season play in the first place. M’kay. Hopefully everyone involved enjoyed the nice trips to Venice and Toronto.

Envelope Screening Series up and running

Another film opening in limited release Friday, “Novitiate,” an occasionally moving and often excessive look at a young woman grappling with faith, kicked off The Envelope’s annual Screening Series. Times staff writer Mark Olsen spoke with writer-director Maggie Betts and cast members Margaret Qualley and Julianne Nicholson.

If you couldn’t attend, we’ve got you covered. Videos from the screening series events are posted here. You can watch three videos from our “Novitiate” night right now.


I’d love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can’t get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.


Twitter: @glennwhipp

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