When Florian Zeller’s psychological thriller, “The Father,” played on Broadway, Frank Langella had the part of Anthony, a man who was suffering from severe dementia and couldn’t differentiate what was real from his imagination. Langella won the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Play.
Now that Anthony Hopkins has stepped into the role for the movie, I’m at least consoled that Langella will get a Supporting Actor nomination at the next Oscars for “The Trial of Chicago 7.”
You do have to have a commanding actor to play Anthony, it’s not like he’s an award winning slam dunk. Hopkins, with five Oscar nominations, is as good as it gets. He’ll get a sixth nomination and could easily win Best Actor for this performance, which is so nuanced and rich, it’s kind of breathtaking. Just as in “The Two Popes,” last year, Sir Anthony delivers a master class in acting. You can’t take your eyes off of him.
Ditto for the two Olivias– Colman and Williams– the second part of the puzzle that makes “The Father.” When we first meet Anthony, we’re pretty sure he has dementia and maybe this is one of those tearjerking movies about having to deal with a deteriorating parent. But then the Olivias emerge, and so do questions about what exactly is going on here. Add to the mix two men who appear in Anthony’s flat who may or may not be married to Olivia Colman’s Ann: Rufus Sewell and Mark Gatiss. Zeller quite clever makes us feel as if we might have dementia ourselves.
Audiences should eat up “The Father” the way they loved “Get Out,” simply as a thriller that requires 100% attention. It may not have the racial undercurrent, but it’s sly enough that it transcends all genres. And Hopkins, who’s known forever as Hannibal Lecter, gets a rare second iconic role on his long, storied, resume.