Of course you’ve seen the photos. Julia Roberts, Ryan Gosling, Amal Clooney and Charlize Theron posing on the red carpet steps and waving to throngs of photographers and screaming fans. What you don’t know: The nightly gala premieres at the Grand Theatre Lumiere at the Cannes Film Festival is more drop-dead glamorous than it looks. Reporters aren’t even allowed to stand on the sidelines and ask questions. Those photographers? Every single one is in a tuxedo. They don’t have a choice — the dress code is black tie. (After last year’s shoe controversy, women are allowed to wear flats. But only Roberts had the clout to go barefoot.) Once you’ve made it into the theater, an usher greets you and personally escorts you to your seat. You reside in a velvet chair in awe until the cast steps foot inside. At that moment, even the most jaded journalist is required to stand and applaud.
After all that breathless buildup, it’s a bit of a letdown as the lights go down and you remember that you’re actually there to, you know, watch a movie. The lot at the 69th annual edition was a mix of mainstream blockbusters (Money Monster, The Nice Guys), head-scratching dramas and beautifully directed gems. My 14-film sampling ranged from Oscar-worthy to boo-worthy (sorry Kristen Stewart!). Here’s a tres, tres casual rundown:
Writer-director Woody Allen’s messy personal life sparked crazy controversy at the outset of the festival. As for his film? It’s a 1930s-set trifle in which a broken-hearted New York nightclub manager (Jesse Eisenberg) settles for a society girl (Blake Lively) because his crush out in Hollywood (Kristen Stewart) has her eye on someone else. Fans of Allen’s oeuvre will recognize familiar topics such as marital infidelity and sibling strife. Indeed, the luminous visuals enhance a mild story.
Truth: It’s time to start taking Shia LaBeouf seriously again. The actor is a standout in this entrancing drama about free spirits who drive across the sprawling Midwest hawking magazine subscriptions. Its newest member, a wily teen named Star (Sasha Lane in her movie debut), is instantly drawn to LaBeouf’s cocky, gun-toting Jake. Can’t blame the girl. Though the eyebrow ring is kind of a turnoff.
That Oscar buzz you hear all the way from the French Riviera is for a crucial and elegantly told drama that centers on unassuming Mildred and Richard Loving, the first interracial couple allowed to be legally wed in the South. (The Supreme Court didn’t overturn the law until 1967.) As played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, the couple’s plight will move you.
Kristen Stewart (again!) plays Maureen, a personal shopper who covets the clothes she must purchase for her boss . . . . wait, that doesn’t even begin to describe the all-out weirdness of this glamorous mess. Maureen is also a medium desperate to connect with her dead twin brother. Is he texting her from the Great Beyond? Did he commit a murder? And are the special effects supposed to look that silly? At least Stewart gets style points for trying something out there. Waaaaay out there.
Never underestimate the appeal of a real Black Swan. In the early 20th century, ultradedicated modern dancer Loie Fuller (SoKo) makes use of colorful light displays to become an international star. That is, until fellow American Isadora Duncan (an ethereal Lily-Rose Depp) arrives on the scene, seduces her and rises to even bigger fame. Even when the film missteps, the divas enrapture.
To prepare for his role as a New Jersey bus driver, Adam Driver really went behind the big wheel. But it takes genuine soul to portray this gentle character, a married man named Paterson who also pours his poetic thoughts into a journal. On Paterson’s route, the journey is more important than the destination.
Hell or High Water
Two blue-collar brothers. One (Chris Pine) needs money to prevent foreclosure on this ranch. The other (Ben Foster) is a wildcard fresh out of jail. They decide to rob local banks — all with a steely local ranger (Jeff Bridges) in the rearview mirror. The cast is so strong in this gritty Western that you’ll root for the good and the bad.
The twisted Roald Dahl classic is now a whimsical — if disappointingly defanged — Steven Spielberg film. In England, a Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) plucks an orphan (Ruby Barnhill) out of her bed and keeps her in his cave. That’s where he stores children’s dreams — and may inadvertently put you to sleep. If nothing else, enjoy the E.T. nod.
Impress your friends by informing them this heartwarming 168-minute German dramedy — about a tenuous father-daughter dynamic — was a huge crowd pleaser. (Then add some industry talk: Sony Classics picked it up for domestic distribution.) The life of serious, corporate-minded Inas (Sandra Huller) is upended after her father (Peter Simonischek) visits and desperately tries to loosen her up. The tension in their relationship makes the jokes pop and the emotion soar.
Festivalgoers only got a taste of this November Shrek-like musical featuring the voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick — just enough to get everyone excited for fall. In one clip, she serenades him with the Cyndi Lauper classic “True Colors.” Smiles were shining through.