Last night’s screening of Darkest Hour here at the 44th Telluride Film Festival was a jaw-dropper. It isn’t a surprise that Oldman could pull off Churchill — after all, we’ve seen him unrecognizable onscreen before. I suppose that what surprised me was the humanity he brought to the role. With portrayals of Churchill you tend to have either/or — either you have a brilliant portrayal of the man or you have the humanity, that is, the human being beneath the impression. Oldman delivers both, having studied film clips of Churchill. Oldman is not your typical publicity friendly actor, unlike his co-star Ben Mendelsohn who plays King George (brilliantly). Mendelsohn was much more comfortable talking to a room full of festival goers than was Oldman, although due to time constraints it had to be a short Q&A.
Every so often there is that unequivocal performance — Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln. This is one of those. There is not a moment in the film when you think you’re watching Oldman play Churchill. You are watching Churchill. For better and worse you’re watching him.
The other person to watch, of those I’ve seen so far, is Hong Chau in Downsizing. While there will no doubt be think piece upon think piece upon think piece about the use of her dialogue, one hopes that those folks will remember that Chau is a daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, and draws from her experience being raised in that family. Yes, her accent is the butt of jokes throughout, but she is the heart and soul of the film. She’s a strong character who guides the film with the strength her presence, both as a character and as an actress. Here’s hoping she earns not think pieces but the praise she deserves.
Greta Gerwig had a great launch last night with Lady Bird, which she wrote and directed. By all accounts it was well and warmly received, launching Gerwig as formidable director.