You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Youth’: A Tale of Searchlight’s Contrasting Contenders

How will this one shake out as both films re-emerge in Toronto?

Since acquiring John Crowley’s “Brooklyn” at the Sundance Film Festival, Fox Searchlight has been preoccupied. First came the summer counter-programming releases of “Far from the Madding Crowd” and another Sundance pick-up, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” Then came “Youth,” acquired at the Cannes fest, with stars like Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda. The studio dropped Davis Guggenheim’s documentary “He Named Me Malala” in Telluride and ended up in a long game with “Brooklyn” as the reigning back-to-back best picture champ’s awards slate started filling out.

For a time, “Youth” seemed to me like a great bet for the season. A story about aging artists looking back on life, seen through the kaleidoscopic lens of Oscar-winning maestro Paolo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty”), it could absolutely appeal to older voters. Searchlight brought the film to Toronto just four months after its world bow on the Croisette, but with “Brooklyn” coming back out into the light a full eight months later itself, I’m left wondering if it represents the bigger opportunity.

Unlike “Youth,” Crowley’s film is very even-handed. It never goes for overt emotion when it certainly could, never takes the bait of steering the Colm Tóibín adaptation (deftly handled by screenwriter Nick Hornby) into tragedy when you’re almost anticipating it. It remains, front to back, an absorbing character study featuring Saoirse Ronan’s finest work to date, another reminder that Emory Cohen (“The Place Beyond the Pines”) is one of the most exciting actors of his generation and a bevy of craft accomplishments — from eye-popping costumes and sets to gorgeous photography to an evocative score — that puts it, in my view, on the top of the Searchlight pile.

“Youth” has its moments. But they feel fleeting within a frenzied mixture, inspired only in bursts. What will help a film like that, however, is passion. There may be plenty who recoil at Sorrentino’s overt flourishes, but its lovers will defend it, meaning it will get a fair share of number one votes on the preferential ballot. “Brooklyn,” on the other hand, will be a broader sell. It will appeal to many different types, and that could be key to its own bid for success.

So keep an eye on this as the months tick by. Like taking on “Shame” in 2011, “Youth” represented an opportunity for Searchlight to jump into business with a talented filmmaker. And that will absolutely pay dividends. But I’m not convinced this one can survive as a best picture play. Caine’s performance is wonderful but reserved. The photography is striking but labored. Fonda’s work is boisterous and, actually, just the kind of element I could see representing the film on the whole come Oscar night. But “Brooklyn” hits all of its marks with an ease that makes it a more attractive option on the whole.

Or maybe, to the delight of the studio, it won’t have to be an either/or proposition at the end of the day. Whatever happens, they couldn’t have asked for two more contrasting contenders to work with, that’s for sure.

More Film

  • Backtrace Review

    Film Review: 'Backtrace'

    “You can’t kill me! I died seven years ago!” It’s very much to the credit of Matthew Modine that he persuasively sells this melodramatic scrap of dialogue, and every other aspect of his trickily written lead character, in “Backtrace,” a better-than-average VOD-centric thriller that likely wouldn’t work nearly so well without the veteran actor’s totally [...]

  • Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    Film News Roundup: 'Lawnmower Man' Director Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    In today’s film news roundup, “Elijah” gets a director, a French fry documentary starts shooting and “Uglydolls” moves its release date forward. PROJECT LAUNCH Brett Leonard, best known for directing ”The Lawnmower Man” and “Virtuosity,” will direct the supernatural feature film “Elijah,” based on the Old Testament prophet. Related Sterling K. Brown to Star in [...]


    SAG-AFTRA Commercial Negotiations Set for February

    With no fanfare, SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have set a mid-February start for negotiations for a successor deal to the union’s master contract, Variety has learned. The current three-year deal — which covers about $1 billion in annual earnings — expires on March 31. SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the ad industry [...]


    Oscar Nominee Sondra Locke Dies at 74

    Actress and director Sondra Locke, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination in her first movie role for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” died Nov. 3 at 74. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department confirmed her death. She died due to breast and bone cancer, according to Radar Online, which reported that she [...]

  • Clint Eastwood and Alison Eastwood'The Mule'

    Clint Eastwood: Why Alison Eastwood Came Out of Acting Retirement for Her Dad

    Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison Eastwood was done with acting after appearing in 2014’s “Finding Harmony.” Or so she thought. It was a Friday night and she and her husband were heading to dinner when her father’s producer Sam Moore called. “He [says], ‘You know, your dad wants you to do this film,” Alison recalls. “I [...]

  • 'Dead Women Walking' Review: Uncompromising, Powerful

    Film Review: 'Dead Women Walking'

    The sober and gripping “Dead Women Walking” focuses on the final days of a series of female inmates facing the death sentence. Divided into nine chapters, each inching its way inexorably closer to the moment of execution, the drama turns the fragmentation of its approach to a powerful advantage. Not only do the individual stories [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Sam Mendes' World War I Drama '1917' Set for Awards-Season Launch on Christmas 2019

    Universal Pictures has given an awards-season release date of Dec. 25, 2019, to Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1971.” Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners is producing “1917” through its DreamWorks Pictures brand. “1917” will open in limited release on Christmas Day then go wide two weeks later on Jan. 10, 2020. Mendes wrote the script [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content