Home Movies Oscars: “Stronger” was a Dud at the Box Office, But Jake Gyllenhaal...

I’ve finally seen David Gordon Green’s “Stronger” thanks to an Academy DVD. Roadside Attractions, famous for burying films on release, isn’t exactly aggressive about getting publicity. The film made $4 million US and another mil or so internationally, and just faded away. It’s about the Boston Marathon bombing but I’m not sure people up there even went to it.

On top of that, Peter Berg made a really good movie called “Patriots Day” with Mark Wahlberg about the bombing. That one made $31 million and another $18 mil overseas. It could be done, if done right. Oh well.

“Stronger” is a strange movie. It’s based on the story of Jeff Bauman, a Costco employee who went to the finish line of the 2013 marathon to woo back his girlfriend. He was blown up by the Tsaenaev brothers and lost both of his legs. It’s a tragic story. But somehow Bauman, who was basically a bystander, got a book deal, the book was published, it became this movie.

Bauman’s a nice guy, but he’s not a hero (which he acknowledges) and after a while you wonder why you’re watching this movie. He didn’t save anyone, he’s not that smart, he’s not going to do anything great once he recovers. His family is like the one from David O. Russell’s “The Fighter”– hard Boston accents, they smoke, drink and curse like sailors.

So it’s clear why there was no audience. But two of the actors are standouts: Gyllenhaal and Miranda Richardson as his mother. Each should be rewarded with awards noms this season. Also, the editor, Dylan Tichenor, deserves kudos. Jake looks realistically like he’s lost his legs. Movie magic is something. Gyllenhaal’s performance is intense and nuanced. I hope it’s not overlooked. Richardson is a hoot, and you know the smoking, drinking, cursing Boston mother is always good for a nod (see Melissa Leo).

If Jake is nominated for an Oscar, his competition right now is sketchy. Everyone’s up for Gary Goldman as Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour.” It’s presumed that both Daniel Day Lewis and Tom Hanks will make it in for “The Phantom Thread” and “The Post,” but no one’s seen those movies. I’d put Sam Rockwell in lead for “Three Billboards.” He was excellent. Newcomer Timothee Chalamet is also getting a big push for “Call Me By Your Name.”

What if DDL or Hanks doesn’t work out? Then we’ve got a problem. This was not a good years for leading men. You may see a move for Adam Sandler in “Meyerowitz.” But it really hurt that “Dunkirk” didn’t have a leading man performance, all supporting. Because I do suspect that “Dunkirk” is inching closer and closer to Best Picture at the moment of everything that’s been seen.

Stay tuned…

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