Robert Zemeckis is in town for the premiere of his excellent drama, “Flight,” the closing film of the New York Film Festival. Yes, “Flight” could be a Best Picture nominee, Denzel Washington is a cinch for a Best Actor nod, Zemeckis has done a fine job and the original screenplay is very, very good. But wait–all that in a minute.
Zemeckis told me last night that, although he’s sad about the retirement of Bob Hoskins, he has a “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” ready to go. The brilliant 1988 combination live action and animation film has been begging for a sequel forever. “I have a script at Disney, and we’re just waiting for all the executive changes to settle down there,” Zemeckis told me. If I know Alan Horn, that’s a project he’ll get moving quickly. What great news!
Now, to “Flight,” in which Denzel plays a pilot who has to land a jumbojet in an open field when his plane–full of passengers–suddenly breaks apart. The crash sequences are startling realistic, and his character–Whip–is a hero for saving lives.
But “Flight” turns out not to the Sully Sullenberger story at all. It’s a far richer, more textured story. And once it starts playing out, Washington and Zemeckis take us on a brilliant but harrowing ride. The movie is so perfectly cast that every part of it works. It’s also kind of a breakthrough because Washington is joined by Don Cheadle, the other top African American actor in Hollywood for drama. Cheadle plays the lawyer who has to keep Whip from destroying his own life and career. And the cool thing, in this very well crafted screenplay by John Gatins, is that race is never mentioned. “Flight” may be remembered as a watershed film.
Other terrific actors: the very fine Tamara Tunie as a flight attendant who may play an integral role in Whip’s future; Bruce Greenwood as the airline rep; James Badge Dale as a character in what can only be thought of the as the movie’s surreal moment; Brian Geraghty as the copilot, Melissa Leo, Kelly Reilly, and John Goodman in what may be his Oscar turn of the year.
The movie also has an excellent soundtrack including few songs by the Rolling Stones and a sly scene in which the Muzaked version of the Beatles “With a Little Help from My Friends” is playing in an elevator.
“Flight” isn’t perfect, but it’s very well played as a search for truth even when no one really wants to find it. The question is whether or not Whip, albeit a hero, is also lying to himself and to others about his demons. And Denzel is great at playing bad. Just as in “Training Day,” he sort of beams the worse his characters behave. And Whip behaves very badly.
Great party followed the screening, at the Stone Rose, but for some reason neither Denzel nor Don Cheadle showed up at accept kudos. The rest of the cast was there, as well as Paramount chief Brad Grey, Debra Winger, who brought her 15 year old son Babe Howard (father is actor Arliss Howard), director James Toback, New York veteran actors Bob Dishy and Judy Graubart, Celia Weston, Mitchell Lichtenstein, and Marisa Tomei. Marisa and Tamara (a “Law & Order” vet for years) are both graduates of “As the World Turns”–although Marisa preceded Tamara by a couple of years. They reminisced about the show and another grad who Marisa had run into earliert that day, Julianne Moore.
Tamara, by the way, married to singer Gregory Generet, starts her gig singing at Feinstein’s at the Regency beginning October 30th. The photo with this story was taken by Greg, who was tall enough to get it while fans and other photogs crowded around the actresses.