Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Toronto Review: Annette Bening Is Ready for Her Oscar As Famed Swimmer Diana Nyad, with Jodie Foster MVP

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Annette Bening should have had Oscars before now, but this is her time.

Bening plays Olympic swimmer and broadcaster Diana Nyad in the true story of the athlete’s challenge to swim from Cuba to Key West at the age of 61. This really happened: Nyad went on this mission four times before completing it on the fifth.

What you think looks like maybe a not so interesting sports mockumentary turns out to be a terrific, top notch film in the hands of directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. They’ve made exciting action documentaries like “Free Solo” and “Meru,” and a won a lot of awards. But this is their first narrative film with actors — Bening and two time Oscar winner Jodie Foster at the forefront — and they’ve pulled it off.

Julia Cox wrote the screenplay from Nyad’s book and at first you do think this is fairly simple story of Nyad achieving a dream she attempted and failed at in 1978. Cox, a TV writer, soon finds her legs as the film settles down introducing everyone and we get to see Bening — stripped of make up and beefing up — peel back the layers of a know it all, not always sympathetic woman who has battled through life for some success.

Bening isn’t alone in this endeavor. Foster plays Bonnie, her former girlfriend and now manager and best friend with disarming charm. Foster usually plays tough characters. But Bonnie is so likeable, she’s our way “in” to Nyad. You figure if Bonnie likes her, we should too. The casting works beautifully. Rhys Ifans is the amiable ship captain who helps the ladies on their adventures, and a supporting of crew members rounds out the gang.

“Nyad” — as Diana tells us over and over — is about not giving up. But it’s also about friendship and perseverance. There’s also spectacular cinematography and editing that give the movie an edge even though you surmise that everyone will come out ok.

Please let’s give Annette Bening her Oscar already. She trained for this thing like a professional athlete, is never anything but authentic in her portrayal of Nyad. It’s the performance of a lifetime, after many, many others.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
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