Directed and written by: Ned Benson
Cast: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Ciaran Hinds, Viola Davis, Bill Hader, William Hurt and Isabelle Huppert.
Synopsis: The film is told from differing perspectives of Connor Ludlow (James McAvoy) and Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain), a young married couple living in New York.
The film was originally a two-part drama, titled The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, subtitled Him and Her. The film was acquired by the Weinstein Company for an alleged $3 million after its screening at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was eventually trimmed down to one full-length film, combining both perspectives. The film has been selected to premiere at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
Why It Could Succeed:
This is Benson’s first feature-length film, but he isn’t a new name to the industry. Benson has made a name for himself in Hollywood for being a script doctor and having three of his screenplays make the coveted Blacklist, an annual list of the best unmade screenplays, including Eleanor Rigby. Chastain, however, isn’t a newcomer to the Oscars. She was nominated in 2012 for The Help and in 2013 for Zero Dark Thirty. She’s an Oscar-darling at this point and voters are surely waiting for the right performance. McAvoy has never been nominated, but given the right vehicle, Oscar voters might give him the recognition he deserves – no one can deny he can act after his performance in Joe Wright’s Atonement (2007). In the supporting actor’s category, there’s Isabelle Huppert to consider. She’s best known for playing the austere, masochistic piano teacher in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2001) – a tour de force performance. According to early reviews, she plays a chain-smoking, booze lover. Sounds like Oscar bait. Viola Davis also has a role in the film. She’s been nominated twice before: in 2012 for The Help and in 2009 for Doubt. The academy loves her, as well, it’s just a matter of time before she gets her statue.
Why It Could Not Succeed:
Despite making the Blacklist, the material sounds quite trite – a married couple in a tumultuous relationship. How many times have we seen this story before? The performances have to be top-notch to pull off this film. And, as aforementioned, it’s Benson’s first feature. The Academy tens to give precedent to established filmmakers when it comes to the Best Director and Best Picture category. The best chances of this film getting recognized come awards season are for the performances and possibly the writing.
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain
Best Actor: James McAvoy
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Isabelle Huppert
Best Original Screenplay: Ned Benson