The holiday movie season is historically over-crowded. Films angling for awards attention coming out left and right tossed in with the less ‘prestige’ titles all to take advantage of the profitable two week period in December where everyday is Christmas. This year is no exception– 47 Ronin, Jack Ryan and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty are just a few of the grand slew of presents Hollywood is leaving under our trees this year. We’ve already covered the respective roster of films thrust in our direction this winter, but now we can add another film to list – Stephen Frears’ Philomena.
The Weinstein Company has confirmed that the film, starring Judi Dench, will open in New York and Los Angeles on Christmas Day – interestingly the same day Weinstein will unveil the Meryl Streep drama August: Osage County. They plan to release the film wide on January 10th. The film, which just had its world premiere to much praise and standing ovations at the ongoing Venice Film Festival, stars Dench as a woman who many years earlier was forced to give up her child, and the reporter (played by Steve Coogan) who picks up her story. Harvey Weinstein, seeing a hopeful awards contender, secured the film in a bidding war earlier this year. Word had been soft before the Venice unveiling of the film, though the UK release is scheduled for November 1st.
Coogan co-wrote the screenplay along with Jeff Pope based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, whom Coogan portrays in the film. Philomena might hit a sweet spot with the Academy as well as more mature audiences with heartrending story of an Irish woman who while pregnant in her youth was condemned to a slavish life at an abbey after being taken in nuns. Decades later, a worldly but bitter journalist decides to write her story as a human interest piece. A recent trailer (below) taps into more sharply the broader comedy of the film.
Frears recently guided Helen Mirren to an Academy Award in 2006’s The Queen and the filmmaker, as well as Dench and Coogan, all received standing ovations for world premiere on the Lido. Dench most recently starred in the blockbuster Skyfall as well as the worldwide phenomenon for women of a certain age in last summer’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, both of which had quiet murmurs of awards talk last year which ultimately failed to come into fruition; the six-time Academy nominee and one-time winner (for Shakespeare in Love) may have better luck this year. Coogan, who co-wrote, stars and produces Philomena, most recently provided voice work for the summer blockbuster Despicable Me 2 and played Julianne Moore’s ex-husband in the indie drama What Maisie Knew this past May.
We will keep you posted on the lasted news on the endurance fest that is the holiday movie season.