Only death and taxes are certain things in this world. Two other things are, as well: Glenn Close and Lady Gaga are locked up for Best Actress nominations for “The Wife” and “A Star is Born,” respectively.
In Toronto I saw three more potential nominees to fill out the five spots. Will all of them land with Glenn and Stephanie Germanotta? It’s too soon to say, especially with more women coming like Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie in “Mary, Queen of Scots.”
But top of the list is Nicole Kidman, who is devastating in Karyn Kusama’s cop drama, “Destroyer.” We have never seen Nicole like this– a mess, really, down and dirty, a good cop who’s also a bad cop. She’s gray inside and out. Erin Bell is a police detective who’s seen too much, it’s all bad, and she doesn’t care anymore. Her partner (Sebastian Stan, excellent, in flashbacks) whom she loved is dead. She has a juvenile delinquent daughter and an ex husband (Scoot McNairy, also top notch) to deal with, and she’s haunted by her past. “Destroyer” is sort of Nicole’s “Klute.” She takes every chance. Kidman is a formidable actress, and this one of her very best performances.
At the same time, Nicole had a second film at TIFF, “Boy Erased,” written and directed by fellow Aussie Joel Edgerton. This is a based on a true story of a couple (Nicole, Russell Kidman) who sent their 19 year old son to gay conversion therapy. Mike Pence better watch out: if this is what he was really advocating, he’s in big trouble. Edgerton himself plays the leader of the firm. (In real life, this guy turned out to be gay himself, of course.) Crowe, who’s squandered so much time, is very good. Hedges, of “Manchester by the Sea” fame, can’t go wrong. (He’s also in “Ben is Back” — see below– and “Mid 90s.”)
But it’s Kidman who brings “Boy Erased” home as the mom, Nancy Eamons. In real life, Kidman is about a foot taller than Eamons, who I met. But she’s got her blonde hair, her accent, and she’s a pistol. For a while, Eamons went along with her husband on this (they’re still married) but once she saw the horrors of gay conversion, she become the cavalry. Kidman could get a Supporting nomination for this one. Watch her make Nancy’s story arc support the main story. And when she finally rescues her son (Hedges), the audience claps as Nancy finds her voice.
Two more moms lurk out there for Best Actress consideration. Sienna Miller has the role of her life in
“American Woman.” Jake Scott’s drama about a young mother whose teen daughter (also a young mother) has echoes of the recent real news story of Mollie Tibbetts. But there’s more, lots more, thanks to Miller’s mesmerizing lead, and really fine supporting work from Christina Hendricks, Amy Madigan, Aaron Paul, and Will Sasso. Miller has been so good in “American Sniper” and other films, but here she’s the lead she’s supposed to be. Casting directors: Sienna Miller is a movie star. In “American Woman,” she’s a revelation. I hope someone releases this in 2018, if not as soon as possible.
And then there’s Julia Roberts. She has an Oscar, and nominations, and can do anything. She’s a Big Movie Star. Sometimes in a drama she can get a bit caustic. But in “Ben is Back,” written and directed by Peter Hedges, she’s spot on as the mother of a drug addicted kid whom she doesn’t trust. Peter Hedges (The Station Agent, Gilbert Grape) in real life is the dad of Lucas, and he’s written him a wonderful role. But it’s Julia’s Holly– like Steve Carell in “Beautiful Boy” (to be discussed later)– who’s there for her kid no matter what. Roberts does some of her best work here, just terrific.