2018 Awards Profile: Joel Edgerton’s ‘Boy Erased’ from Focus Features

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Welcome to the 2018 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you at some point this year (at least at this time of writing). We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday through Friday to talk about their awards hopes and analyze the film’s chances for success. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a movie, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Boy Erased”
PRODUCERS: Joel Edgerton, Steve Golin, Kerry Kohansky-Roberts
DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features

DIRECTOR: Joel Edgerton (“The Gift”)
WRITERS: Joel Edgerton (Based on the book “Boy Erased: A Memoir” by Garrad Conley

CAST: Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Cherry Jones, Joel Edgerton

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): The son of a Baptist preacher is forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program.

“Boy Erased” hails from a memoir of the same name by Garrard Conley. Garrard (played by Lucas Hedges) chronicles his time at a gay conversion camp at the age of 19. He is sent to the camp by his strict conservative parents (Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman), one of which is a Baptist pastor. While at the camp, Garrard clashes with the head therapist (Joel Edgerton) and rebels against the camp’s goal to turn homosexuals straight.

We still live in a country where gay conversion therapy is legal in forty states. Between this and Sundance’s “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” film seems ready to tackle this archaic practice. This gives “Boy Erased” a level of prestige and importance that makes it easier to place it as a contender in above the line categories.

The past two years have been great for Lucas Hedges. He burst onto the scene with an Academy Award nomination for Manchester by the Sea in the Supporting Actor category. Since then, he followed up that performance with two pivotal supporting roles in Best Picture nominees. Roles in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Lady Bird” proves Hedges is no one hit wonder. Hedges won stellar reviews for “Lady Bird” in particular as a high school student struggling with his sexuality. This bodes well for “Boy Erased,” which marks Hedges’ first leading role. With a growing fanbase and a proven track record of showing great range, Hedges stands to be a major factor in the leading actor race.

Few stars are on a role like Nicole Kidman. She returned to the Oscars for her performance in 2016 for “Lion,” marking six years since her last nomination. Early in 2017, she ran the gauntlet winning every TV prize in sight for her role in HBO’s “Big Little Lies” as Celeste Wright, an abused Monterey housewife. As a producer, she established herself as one of the foremost businesswomen and content creators in the entertainment industry. High profile indie roles in “The Beguiled” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” kept her sharp. As a homophobic Baptist mother, the role provides Kidman with plenty of meat to play. Early photos in her wig show another transformation that will make the Academy take notice.

“Boy Erased” comes off, more than anything, as a passion project for Joel Edgerton. Edgerton writes, directs, produces and stars in a pivotal supporting role. The best shot he has at a nomination would be in the Adapted Screenplay category. The memoir generated headlines and many positive reviews. The story is dramatic and affecting enough that, even if it doesn’t show up in all categories, it can break into the writing category. His next best shot comes in the Supporting Actor category. Edgerton has racked up over seventy acting credits. He came closest to Oscar attention with “Loving” in 2016, which gave co-star Ruth Negga her first nomination. As the leader of the conversion therapy camp, Edgerton possesses a meaty role that fits with the category’s love of antagonists.

Finally, if the film catches on in a big way, he may find himself also nominated for director and producer. Edgerton’s feature directorial debut The Gift was a sleeper hit that was met with positive reviews. Between the two, Picture seems more likely. The Academy has shown improvements since a few years back when Carol was snubbed in Best Picture. Moonlight famously won Best Picture in a groundbreaking upset that is still celebrated. Call Me By Your Name may not have performed as well as “Moonlight,” but it still found its way into the Best Picture lineup. “Boy Erased” looks high profile enough to contend in the top category if the actual quality matches the buzz of the project.

There is a wealth of supporting actor possibilities from this film. Opposite Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe tackles the role of Garrard’s Baptist priest Father. Crowe had a quick, yet successful run with Oscar. He nabbed three consecutive nominations from 1999 – 2001, winning his second bid for Best Actor in “Gladiator.” However, since then Crowe has run dry with awards groups. Even the Golden Globes and SAG Awards haven’t awarded him since “Cinderella Man” in 2005. Could this be his ticket back to Oscar?

Lastly, in this category, we have Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan. Dolan plays Jon, another member of the conversion camp Garrard attends. Dolan has made a name for himself as a promising, young director and a beacon for gay filmmakers. He seems on the cusp of major mainstream attention and this role could bring him that attention he deserves. We saw “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” become the first film since “Bugsy” in 1991 to take up multiple spots in the Best Supporting Actor field. Maybe this year sees more than one of these Supporting Actor players make it into the final five.

The best chance “Boy Erased” has to show up below-the-line is in Best Original Score. Jonny Greenwood is fresh off his first Oscar nomination in that category for Phantom Thread.” It stands to reason he could show up for the second year in a row. Before “Phantom Thread,” Greenwood was a fan favorite. Most notably, Greenwood scored many of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, including “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master” and “Inherent Vice.”

Potential Nominations

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director – Joel Edgerton
  • Best Actor – Lucas Hedges
  • Best Supporting Actor – Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe, Xavier Dolan
  • Best Supporting Actress – Nicole Kidman
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Joel Edgerton
  • Best Original Score – Jonny Greenwood

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