Alejandro Gonzalez pic stars Javier Bardem

Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment have acquired U.S. distribution rights to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Spanish film and Javier Bardem starrer “Biutiful,” capping a protracted sale process that saw buyers grappling with how to market the difficult drama.

While the film drew mixed reviews when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Bardem’s performance was widely praised, and he won the fest’s top acting award. Pic’s marketing campaign is likely to highlight that performance, as well as Inarritu’s past credits, including “Babel” and “21 Grams.”

Insiders say Roadside will release “Biutiful” in an awards run starting the last week in December.

Deal for domestic distribution was announced by Roadside co-prexy Howard Cohen and Mickey Liddell of Liddell Entertainment. Pact reunites Roadside and Liddell, who partnered last year on comedy documentary “Good Hair.”

” ‘Biutiful’ joins the growing pantheon of tremendous, groundbreaking work by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu,” Cohen said. “It’s a deeply felt film, guaranteed to rock audiences to their core, and that’s due to the amazing reciprocity between filmmaker and actor. Alejandro and Javier are two halves of the same whole.”

Roadside and Liddell were both intrigued by “Biutiful,” and decided to pool their resources.

Based on a script by Inarritu and Argentine-born scribes Armando Bo and Nicolas Giacobone, “Biutiful” tells the story of a Barcelona crook and single father of two small children who

must get his affairs in order when he learns he’s dying. He also has the ability to speak with the dead.

Roadside’s decision to distribute “Biutiful” with Liddell follows the company’s successful marketing and release of another challenging drama, “Winter’s Bone,” which Roadside acquired at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Directed by Debra Granik and toplining Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone” has grossed $5.2 million at the domestic B.O., a strong showing for a pure arthouse title. Lawrence’s breakout performance has landed her several roles, including one in 20th Century Fox’s upcoming “X-Men: First Class.”

“Biutiful” was produced by Menage Atroz, Mod Producciones in association with Focus Features Intl., with participation from Television Española, Televisio de Catalunya, and support from the ICAA Ministerio de Cultura. Focus Intl. repped international rights.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more