Three major Oscar contenders hit Telluride this weekend; Moonlight, Bleed for This and Manchester by the Sea. The first two were seen for the first time, Manchester debuted earlier this year at Sundance. To say the reviews for A24’s Moonlight are rapturous would be an understatement. As of this writing, the film holds on to a perfect 100 score on Metacritic, just as Boyhood did two years ago – and, incidentally, a film Moonlight has been compared to. Bleed for This, from Best Picture-winning distributor Open Road Film (Spotlight), is starting a bit mixed and feels more like just an acting play for Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart. Manchester by the Sea is scooping up predictably excellent reviews almost across the board, including career-best notices for Best Actor contender Casey Affleck.
Moonlight would have been ghettoized as a LGBTQ film had it been released a decade earlier, considering that dimension of his self-discovery. Today, no real category applies, and with any luck, this resonant film will connect with audiences in a more universal way.
The entire cast shines, particularly Mahershala Ali as a drug dealer who takes Chiron under his wing in the first segment. Harris is heart-breaking as the boy’s mother, her life taking its own journey during the course of the film. As for the three actors who play Chiron’s unrequited love, the best is André Holland, who radiates regret and sweetness as the adult Kevin.
BLEED FOR THIS
No less impressive is Aaron Eckhart, virtually unrecognizable as Kevin Rooney, the balding, pot-bellied boxing coach who not only trained Mike Tyson, but convinced Pazienza to fight at his natural weight, psyching him into extending a career that three straight losses had practically cut short.
And Teller? He’s done some transforming, too — building his abs as surely as Eckart let his gut go for his role — and he shows additional courage in staying true to the real Paz’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s porn ‘stache. As with “Whiplash,” where he basically played an asshole-in-training, Teller is ideally cast as someone whose very profession demands a lack of cuddliness that is also the actor’s stock in trade.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Sad and beautiful, Manchester by the Sea is not a dark film, nor really a depressing one. It’s just about living with the truth laid bare. And that might be, in the end, the only thing that matters.
It’s been a while since [Michelle] Williams had a role this good, but she’s lost none of her unerring knack for emotional truth in the meantime, and she has one astonishing scene that rises from the movie like a small aria of heartbreak.
Manchester by the Sea contains multiple detonations, the kind a lesser drama would save for its climax. In Lonergan’s style, he sets them to classical music—the most harrowing to Albinoni’s mournful Adagio in G Minor, resulting in a sequence of sudden loss that has few equals.