The fall movie season has officially begun, with three high-profile films enjoying their world premieres at the Venice International Film Festival.
George Clooney's The Ides of March kicked things off last night. The film, based on a stage play by a former staff member of Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004, follows Ryan Gosling as he works as a press secretary for a candidate (Clooney) on a presidential campaign, becoming involved in the modern-day equivalent of "smoke-filled rooms" (i.e. shady deals with seedy insiders), and getting intimate with an intern.
Italian critics were quite positive, according to Screen Daily; Paolo Mereghetti of Corriere Della Sera said: “It’s a great film, well constructed and superbly acted. I’d give it three stars out of four.” Guy Lodge of In Contention expressed some reservations: "What we get instead is an absorbing, occasionally witty liberal suit-opera on 'West Wing' lines that nonetheless holds its juiciest sub-plots on a leash." Xan Brooks at The Guardian had similar thoughts, placing in context as the opening night film of a major international film festival: "What remains is your classic compromise candidate: a film that set out with a crusading zeal but had its rough edges planed down en route to the nomination."
Still, Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly claims it is "the first sure-thing Best Picture nominee on our hands." Also starring Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood, the film opens domestically on October 9.
Roman Polanski's Carnage and Madonna's W.E. screened for the press first and then premiered publicly on Thursday night. The former is an adaptation of Yasmina Reza's play "God of Carnage," starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly as two sets of parents who sit down for a chat after their children get into a schoolyard fight. The latter is a romantic drama about King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) and his relationship with Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough).
Carnage has its supporters and detractors. "Snappy, nasty, deftly acted and perhaps the fastest paced film ever directed by a 78-year-old," praises Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter. David Gritten also had a positive reaction: "It’s well-acted and giddily enjoyable, if slightly less so once the characters start to analyse their descent into barbarism." Lee Marshall at This is London observes: "The film also celebrates an old-fashioned, underrated cinematic pleasure: the chance to see an ensemble cast of fine actors sparring with each other, and at the top of their game." Another critic was less impressed: "The good news is that Carnage is very, very funny," writes Oliver Lyttelton at The Playlist. "But it’s also a film of very little ambition."
Normally we save the best for last, However, in the case of Madonna's W.E., it's difficult to find much that's positive. Critic Neil Young tweeted: "Oft-laughable results make KING'S SPEECH look like THE QUEEN." Kate Muir, who writes for The Times, had a similar reaction: "Screamingly, inadvertently funny." David Gritten, who is also covering the festival for Thompson on Hollywood, noted: "In particular sections of the British press, who seemed pre-disposed to dislike it because of Madonna’s articipation, turned vicious. Some US and Australian reactions, among others, were more favorable. My view on W.E. was that it’s silly and forgettable, but you could choose to be appalled or amused by it, and I chose the latter. It’s rather better than expected." David Hudson rounds up more critical notices at Mubi.
W.E. will be out stateside on December 9, while Carnage is set for release on December 16.