Awards Profile: Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Rio’

FILM: “Rio”
PRODUCERS: Adam Ackland, Luca Guadagnino, Riva Marker
DISTRIBUTOR: No distribution yet

DIRECTOR: Luca Guadagnino
WRITERS: Steven Knight

CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Benedict Cumberbatch, and more

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): A struggling actor travels to Rio de Janeiro to visit a wealthy friend, only to get sucked into a plot to fake his friend’s death.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED:

Coming off of the Academy Award winning “Call Me By Your Name,” filmmaker Luca Guadagnino is looking to showcase a mastery of multiple genres. His official follow up is the soon to be released remake of “Suspira,” but then there’s this baity mystery. Penned by top tier screenwriter Steven Knight, it represents an interesting potential contender. This is very early on in the life of the movie, so we’re purely speculating. Still, when recent years have seen the presumed frontrunners come up short, a smaller and edgier player like this might have room to shoot to the top.

Besides Guadagnino at the helm, “Rio” has an A-list cast, led by the trio of Benedict Cumberbatch, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michelle Williams. All three are Academy Award nominees, and in the case of the latter two, arguably due to outright win Oscars. Williams especially has been nominated multiple times, so any prestige project like this bears watching. As for Gyllenhaal, he always seems to come up just short, so you can argue that he’s becoming more and more due for his second citation.

“Rio” gives me a vibe along the lines of “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” which is a tremendous positive for some. Everyone involved is a previous Oscar nominee, from the trio in the cast, to Guadagnino behind the camera, and even Knight on the screenplay front. That’s a promising foundation to build upon. Without it having been filmed (the production crew hasn’t even been announced yet), there’s a mystery about it that can actually help with buzz. At this stage, everything is a positive and the best case scenario is still on everyone’s mind.

If this film builds on what Guadagnino showcased with “Call Me By Your Name,” the sky is the limit here. It’s early days for the movie, which has not even gone before cameras yet. We’re solely basing this on the talent involved, which is considerable. Time will tell, and plenty could go wrong, but optimism reigns supreme right now.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:

Prior to last year’s Oscar winner, Guadagnino had yet to direct a movie that voters responded to. Frankly, “Rio” sounds closer to something like “A Bigger Splash” than “Call Me By Your Name,” all things considered. That film had its fans, but few if any were among the Academy voting branches. We’re still not sure if Guadagnino is an emerging Oscar darling, or just had a one off success. Had he scored a Best Director nomination in 2017, though would have helped. For now, the jury is still out on him as a prestige filmmaker.

Not having any distribution yet also may factor into the equation. That’s not a dealbreaker, as it’s still in pre production. Still, when you don’t know who’s handling it, you have to hedge your bets. That may not solve itself until a festival debut, if one happens. Even then, depending on the fest, “Rio” may end up being bumped until next year. Then, it’s a whole separate scenario, as some contenders benefit from that, and others decidedly do not.

You have to consider “Rio” a 2018 X factor. As just mentioned above, there’s a strong chance that this isn’t ready this year and contends in 2019, so keep that in mind as well. There’s just no way to fully know what the film will do. If you’re aggressively bullish on this, there’s little to stop you. If you’re more conservative on its chances, there’s plenty to consider there as well. For now, it’s a movie that truly could go either way.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

Motion Picture – Adam Ackland, Luca Guadagnino, Riva Marker
Director – Luca Guadagnino
Actor in a Leading Role – Jake Gyllenhaal
Actress in a Leading Role – Michelle Williams (Could go Supporting)
Actor in a Supporting Role – Benedict Cumberbatch
Actress in a Supporting Role – Michelle Williams (Could go Lead)
Original Screenplay – Steven Knight
Production Design
Cinematography
Costume Design
Film Editing
Makeup & Hairstyling
Sound Editing
Sound Mixing
Original Score

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