‘Camp X-Ray’: Kristen Stewart & Peyman Moaadi praised, but mixed reviews for Sundance political drama
The Guardian‘s Xan Brooks wasn’t too crazy about first-time feature film director Peter Sattler’s Camp X-Ray, screened at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival last week, though he did appreciate the acting of stars Kristen Stewart (Twilight, On the Road) and Peyman Moaadi (the male lead in Asghar Farhadi’s 2011 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner A Separation). In Camp X-Ray, Stewart plays a U.S. army private sent to Guantanamo, where she befriends one of the inmates, Ali (Moaadi), who claims to be an innocent man trapped in the American gulag and who also happens to be a devout follower of both the Koran and the Harry Potter books. Xan Brooks wrote:
“Nestled somewhere deep inside Camp X-Ray – possibly in handcuffs, conceivably hooded – is a decent, heartfelt film just longing to be free. Sattler deserves credit for spotlighting the dehumanising conditions inside Guantanamo … The performers, too, do the best they can. Moaadi … is suitably anguished as Ali, while Stewart copes well as his pensive prison guard, constantly trying to act more tough than she is. It’s a role that reminds us what a fine performer she was in the likes of Into the Wild and Adventureland, before her turn as mopey Bella Swan steered her into a creative cul-de-sac.” (Note: Though released in 2009, Greg Mottola’s Adventureland was actually shot in late 2007/early 2008.)
In The Independent, Emma Jones writes that in Camp X-Ray Peyman Moaadi’s “excellence” in the exchanges between the prisoner Ali and Private Cole “elevates Stewart: this is the best we’ve ever seen her,” while in Variety, Rob Nelson writes that Camp X-Ray‘s “two leads are excellent and play off each other deftly. … [Peyman Moaadi] calibrates precisely the character’s mix of humor, anger, despair and endurance. In a turn that will surprise and impress those who know her only from the Twilight films, [Kristen Stewart] is riveting, especially in the final scenes …”
‘The One I Love’ gets rave
Directed by Charlie McDowell from a loose screenplay – reportedly an outline with some suggested dialogue – by Justin Lader, and lots of improvisation by its two leads, The One I Love stars Elisabeth Moss (Golden Globe winner for Top of the Lake and with another film at Sundance 2014, Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip) and Mark Duplass (as actor: Safety Not Guaranteed; as director: Jeff, Who Lives at Home) as a couple on the brink. According to Geoff Berkshire’s Variety review, this mix of romance and fantasy features references to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Twilight Zone, which should make for – at the very least – curious viewing. Ted Danson has a supporting role as a therapist.
Berkshire enthused about The One I Love: “Boasting spectacular performances from [Mark] Duplass and Elisabeth Moss … this incredibly assured directorial debut of Charlie McDowell essentially turns the idea of a two-hander upside down and inside out.”
‘Low Down’: Solid performances in uneven film
Writing about first-time feature director Jeff Preiss’ Low Down, about drug-addicted pianist Joe Albany, Variety‘s Scott Foundas remarks that Preiss “certainly knows the music and the milieu, but proves less adept at shaping the material into a consistently compelling narrative.” On the plus side, Low Down offers “a gallery of very fine performances from John Hawkes [as Joe Albany], Elle Fanning [as his daughter, Amy Albany] and Glenn Close.”
Kristen Stewart Camp X-Ray photo: Sundance Film Festival.
‘Grace of Monaco’ U.S. March release canceled as biopic starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly to open Cannes Film Festival
Directed by Olivier Dahan, and starring Nicole Kidman as Oscar-winning Hollywood actress-turned-European princess Grace Kelly, Grace of Monaco was to have been a (possibly) strong Oscar 2014 contender – at least in the Best Actress category. After all, Dahan had guided 2007 Best Actress Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose; Nicole Kidman is a respected actress with one Academy Award win (for Stephen Daldry’s The Hours) and two nominations (Moulin Rouge!, Rabbit Hole); and, last but certainly not least, Grace of Monaco was to have been released in North America by the Oscar-savvy The Weinstein Company.
However, Harvey Weinstein was reportedly unhappy with Olivier Dahan’s final cut, and demanded that Grace of Monaco be reedited. Thus, the film’s North American release was postponed from fall 2013 to March 2014. And there went Nicole Kidman’s Oscar 2014 chances. At least for the time being, Kidman’s Oscar 2015 chances seem iffy as well.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Weinstein Company has pulled Grace of Monaco from its March 14, 2014, release slot. In its stead, TWC will release another biopic, David Frankel’s British-made One Chance, featuring James Corden as Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. No other release date has been announced for Grace of Monaco.
But why the (indefinite) delay? Well, according to rumors, Harvey Weinstein, who has no creative control over the French-made film, remains adamant that Grace of Monaco be reedited prior to its North American release. Olivier Dahan, for his part, is unwilling to abide by Weinstein’s demands. “There are two versions of the film at this moment,” Olivier told Libération in fall 2013, “mine and his … which I find catastrophic.”
Dahan also accused Harvey Weinstein of creating a Grace of Monaco trailer that doesn’t reflect the film, later insisting that the actual film conform to its trailer.
‘Grace of Monaco’ at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival
Gaumont will be releasing Grace of Monaco in France and several other territories on May 14, 2014, the same day the French Riviera-set film is scheduled to open the Cannes Film Festival. (Note from the Editor: As pointed out by a commenter below, the Cannes opening almost surely had something to do with The Weinstein Company pulling Grace of Monaco from its March release schedule. Less clear is why they waited until the last minute to do so, and whether or not the U.S. release version, whenever it comes out, will be any different from the international one.)
Written by Arash Amel, Grace of Monaco focuses on the time Alfred Hitchcock invited Grace Kelly, then Princess Grace of Monaco, to return to the screen to play the lead in Marnie. At the time, Charles De Gaulle’s government was at odds with Monaco, which ran the risk of being annexed by France. Ultimately, Tippi Hedren landed the role.
Besides Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco also features Tim Roth as Prince Rainier III, Paz Vega as Maria Callas, Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Alfred Hitchcock, and Robert Lindsay as Aristotle Onassis, in addition to Milo Ventimiglia, Parker Posey, Geraldine Somerville, Frank Langella, Jeanne Balibar, Nicholas Farrell, Philip Delancy, and Derek Jacobi.
Grace Kelly was featured in only 11 Hollywood movies from 1951 to 1956. During that period, she was nominated for the 1953 Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for John Ford’s Mogambo, in which she and Ava Gardner vied for Clark Gable’s (sexual) attention. The following year, Kelly won the Best Actress Oscar for George Seaton’s The Country Girl, co-starring Bing Crosby and William Holden.
Additionally, Grace Kelly was featured in three Alfred Hitchcock movies – Rear Window, opposite James Stewart; Dial M for Murder, with Ray Milland; and the French Riviera-set To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant. Her last two movies, both released in 1956, were Charles Vidor’s The Swan, in which she plays a princess torn between Alec Guinness and Louis Jourdan, and George Sidney’s musical remake of The Philadelphia Story, High Society, with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.
Picture of Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco: Stone Angels.