Telluride Film Festival #46 Takes Off

by Paul O’Rourke

The 46th Telluride Film Festival’s first day began with a surprise and ended, at least for me, with another surprise. The patron-press screening goes always unannounced until just before it happens, a mantle of secrecy and a hallmark of his 3½-day event.

Had you asked me prior to that screening (and after the program had been officially announced) about the films I most wanted to see Ford v Ferrari would not have been on that list. Fortunately for me, the festival served it up for me first thing.

Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line)

Ford v Ferrari is a story based on a real life friendship and a real life collaboration between an American institution (the Ford Motor Company) and an American maverick, race car driver and manufacturer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon). And it is a story of that race car manufacturer, who in selling—at least for a time—his soul to the American institution, finds himself betraying—at least for a time—his friend, his technical and mechanical consultant, and ultimately his driver, Ken Miles (Christian Bale) on an extraordinary road to redemption.

The cinematographic and sound excellence in the numerous and exciting race scenes serve to emotionally engage the audience, but are, however, just a backdrop to the larger story, not so much about race cars as they are about the many levels of friendship, loss, and, as mentioned, redemption. As Ken Miles explains to his son, Peter, “when you are pushing the limits of a race car, you have to know how far you can push.” Ford v Ferrari shows us that the same maxim applies to relationships, of all kinds.

Both Damon and Bale were superb in their roles. Some of you who took in last year’s TFF might remember Vice, in which Bale plays a decidedly plump Dick Cheney. For his role as Ken Miles, Bale lost some 70 pounds and was still losing them as shooting began. The two will be considered at Oscar time next year. I give this film the checkered flag. It’s a winner. Please see it.

Renee Zellweger
Rupert Goold, Director

This sensitive and at times informative film explores the last year—with retrospective scenes giving the audience a sense of how she got to where she ended up—of Judy Garland, who most of the world remembered as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. In fact, Director Rupert Goold told Rebecca Keegan in Film Watch that that movie “had a huge impact on me as a child. It was one of the first haunting artworks that I lived with.”

Renee Zellweger’s performance captures the essence of Judy (it was really like watching Judy Garland, not Renee playing Judy). It’s part Dorothy, who wants to be nothing more than your average “girl next door,” and part embattled wife and displaced mother who struggles with what she’s become and who really only wants to “go home again.” It’s a heartwarming and heart wrenching story—replete with great musical numbers and a memorable score (Gabriel Yared)—of what it means to feel your world-renowned talent and even your less known private life slowly slip away, and, more importantly, what you do in response to that inevitability.

Silver Medallion recipient Renee Zellweger’s career that began in 1993 with a bit part in Dazed and Confused, took a significant and positive turn with her role in Jerry Maguire (1996), and changed forever with Bridget Jone’s Diary (2001), seen as it was in Elk’s Park on Wednesday night, providing more than a little hint that she and Judy just might be coming to town.

Judy seems to be the almost logical next step—we won’t say culmination just yet—in Zellweger’s 26-year career. Following her Oscar-winning role in Cold Mountain (2003) and her strong performance in Cinderella Man (2005) Zellweger brings all of her cinematic experience and talent—including her voice—to Judy, laying bare a woman who comes to the harsh realization that it takes more than clicking the heels of her ruby slippers to get her home again. This is a must-see film. Renee Zellweger is certain to receive justly deserved acclaim for her role; an Oscar would not be a farfetched notion.

Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner
Cast includes Idina Menzel, as Howard’s wife, Judd Hirsch (Taxi), and NBA star Kevin Garnett
Directed by brothers Josh and Benny Safdie

Uncut Gems is complex, disturbing, fast moving, at times overly “loud” but often comedic (in a manic and tragic-hero sort of way). It is a story of jewelry storeowner, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler)—in what has to be his career-best role—who is always on the lookout for the next big scam, only because his last big scam went a little haywire and he needs another score to settle the fallout from the previous mess-up.
The backdrop for this film, credit due to cinematographer Darius Khondji (Evita), renders the New York cityscape as much a part of the show as the colorful cast of characters, and I do mean “characters.”

Uncut Gems is helter-skelter all the way through, and just when you come close to believing relief is at hand, things, as they often do in life, change in unexpected and diabolic ways.

ED. note: Stay tuned for more film reviews by Paul O’Rourke throughout the week.