Sunday, April 25, 2021

THE FATHER (2020) + OSCAR PREDIX



The Father (2020) begins with classical music on the soundtrack and glimpses into a quiet, spacious, generously decorated flat occupied by a man (Anthony Hopkins) who has the carriage of one who prefers his moments alone. Right away, his daughter (Olivia Colman) comes to visit and, despite the film's tasteful trappings and cool, confident visual style, the ground beneath the feet of the viewer (to say nothing of the characters) begins loosening, shifting, becoming less reliable, ever more so mapping the tenuous connection to the reality that the man is apparently holding onto, the degree to which he is increasingly, against his dwindling will, ever more alone . The writer-director Florian Zeller (adapting his own play) seems to have an instinctive feel for how the camera can be used to both provide a foundation for and to undermine that reality, yet as the depths of Hopkins' character's condition becomes clear-- he's suffering from Alzheimer's disease-- Zeller also demonstrates how democratic his sympathies are. In fact, rather than just telling the story of how difficult the awful slide into dementia is for those whose responsibility it is to care for the one suffering, Zeller, and Hopkins, keep us connected with the disorientation, the strange euphoria that turns on a dime into hostility, loss of pride, confusion and desperation which characterizes the common experience of losing one's mental capacities.

What you've undoubtedly heard about Hopkins-- that this is a career-best performance minus even the slightest whiff of untoward ostentation or sentimental pandering-- can be said of the rest of the cast too, from Rufus Sewell and Mark Gatiss as, respectively, Colman's husband and a man who claims to be the same (though we remain as unsure of his actual identity as Hopkins for the bulk of the film's lean 97-minute running time); to Olivia Williams and Imogen Poots as the women who are in various capacities charged with Hopkins' care; and especially Colman, who probably has the most expressive, inviting, empathetic face in movies right now. Colman draws you in with her agonized loyalty to a father who can't seem to keep straight who she is or what she's telling him, but she also effortlessly connects with her character's varied layers of anger, guilt and even the slight spark of joy that comes in those increasingly rare moments when she seems, if only momentarily, to make a connection with the father she loves, the father she wants to escape, the father who is helplessly slipping away. The Father forces a confrontation with a horror that many viewers may already be familiar with, one which for some of us might well be lurking in the shadows of family history. But it is the actor's art, the ability of Hopkins and Colman to convey the tiptoe terror of confronting such darkness without ever strangulating the audience with signifiers and histrionics, that prevents the movie from becoming an unbearable, unpleasant wallow. It's not likely to happen, but it wouldn't hurt my feelings one bit to see either or both of them take home another little gold man a few hours from now. ******************************************

Before I go, a revised look at my best-of for the past year, now that I've seen a few more contenders:

FIRST COW
COLLECTIVE
EMMA.
LOVERS ROCK
AMERICAN UTOPIA
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
MINARI
ZAPPA
THE FATHER
DA 5 BLOODS
And my don't-bet-the-house Oscar predictions too! What follows is a list of the nominees I think will win, followed by my preferences in (parentheses). And remember, I'm no fan of NOMADLAND, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN or MANK...
PICTURE: NOMADLAND (MINARI)
DIRECTOR: Chloe Zhao (Lee Isaac Chung)
ACTRESS: Carey Mulligan (Viola Davis)
ACTOR: Chadwick Boseman (Anthony Hopkins)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Yuh-jung Youn (Yuh-jung Youn)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Lakeith Stanfield (Paul Raci)
ANIMATED FEATURE: SOUL (no preference-- I ain't seen none)
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI (THE FATHER)
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (MINARI)
SONG: ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI (ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI, I guess...)
SCORE: SOUL (DA 5 BLOODS)
SOUND: SOUND OF METAL (SOUND OF METAL)
COSTUME DESIGN: MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM (EMMA.)
ANIMATED SHORT: BURROW (no preference)
LIVE-ACTION SHORT: THE LETTER ROOM (no preference)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: NOMADLAND (THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7)
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: TIME (COLLECTIVE)
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: HUNGER WARD (no preference)
EDITING: PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (THE FATHER)
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE: COLLECTIVE (COLLECTIVE)
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM (EMMA.)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM (THE FATHER)
VISUAL EFFECTS: TENET (LOVE AND MONSTERS) ***********************************

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