Directed by: Mike Leigh
Starring: Timothy Spall, Leslie Manville, Ruth Sheen
Synopsis: A look at the life of British artist J.M.W Turner.
If you ask your average moviegoer they probably aren’t too familiar with Mike Leigh. But the Academy is more than accustomed to the British director’s unique style. Leigh is a seven-time nominee and his last three films have all been nominated for an Oscar. Leigh will try to make it four in a row with his bio of famed British artist J.M.W. Turner.
What makes a Mike Leigh film so unique is how he develops his scripts. Leigh is known for his use of improvisation techniques to create the story of his films. First he creates an outline for the overall story and the individual characters, but he then collaborates with his actors and lets them improvise how each scene plays out. It allows for the actors to take full ownership of their performances and allows Leigh to find the best for way for the film to play out.
Leigh will bring back a number of his usual players for “Mr. Turner,” most notably Timothy Spall and Leslie Manville. Manville is coming off an acclaimed performance in Leigh’s last film “Another Year.” Many thought that she was on her way to an Oscar nomination, but it didn’t materialize. It’s possible that if she delivers another strong performance the Academy could push her over the edge for a bit of a make-up call.
Spall meanwhile, is a well-respected character actor that has been in films like the “Harry Potter” series, “Sweeny Todd,” “Enchanted” and “The Kings Speech.” He was the lead in Leigh’s only film to date to receive a Best Picture nomination, “Secret and Lies.” As Turner, Spall will have his most high profile role of his career and his fellow actors may eat up a performance that he helped crafted from scratch.
Why It Might Fail:
The biggest factor in whether or not “Mr. Turner” ends up a legitimate contender for a Best Picture slot is the titular subject himself. J.M.W. Turner was a British painter during the late 18th and early 19th century. He is most known for his use of watercolors and paintings of landscapes. To a lot of people a movie about those subjects sound more boring than watching paint dry.
Obviously, Mike Leigh has a reason for tackling Turner’s story and we’ll just have to wait and see what that is. But in the end Mike Leigh will be drawing more people to this film based on his name than that of his subject, and if he can’t make Turner’s story more interesting to the rest of us than it will be hard for the film to gain any traction.
Leigh’s history with the Oscars may also be a bad omen for the film’s chances overall. Leigh has been nominated seven times personally but, as mentioned before, only one of his previous efforts has been nominated for Best Picture. The Academy usually finds a spot for his writing and often a spot for one of his actors, but they’ve had a harder time embracing his films overall. If I were a betting man that would stay true for “Mr. Turner.” A strong candidate for writing and a possible acting nod for Spall, maybe some below the line categories, but it will struggle in other major categories.
Best Original Screenplay
Best Supporting Actress
Best Costume Design
Best Production Design