Fourteen-year-old actress Dakota Fanning made a pledge this weekend, to this reporter. It was consummated with a handshake in front of her mother, publicist, agent and pals.
She’s agreed: from now to until she’s 18, the star of “The Secret Life of Bees” isn’t going to be holding up any 7-11s, having an unwanted teen pregnancy or getting any tattoos or piercings.
Of course, this agreement was a light-hearted one, made in jest before she went into do press rounds for “Bees.” But she means it. “I swear I won’t do any of those things!” Dakota declared.
She’s a serious actress, folks, and she knows it. Her poise and comportment in “Bees” is such a revelation that she’s likely to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress this year.
She’ll have substantial competition. In the mix already buzz-wise are Meryl Streep in “Doubt,” and Kristin Scott Thomas in the French film “I Love You So Much.”
But now added to that category is Anne Hathaway, whose performance in Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married” is so devastating that her career is about to vault up several notches from her current place in the Hollywood hierarchy.
Like Fanning, and unlike Lindsay Lohan, for example, Hathaway comes from a stable home and family. Her parents and both of her brothers accompanied the 25-year-old beauty to the “Rachel” premiere in Toronto this weekend.
When Hathaway was knocked for a loop earlier this summer after the arrest of her boyfriend, Raffaelo Follieri, on a multitude of fraud charges, the Hathaways closed ranks. They swooped in, and took Anne to a summer house in Cape May, N.J., for some TLC and good-sense talk.
The result was Hathaway’s low-key but intelligent appearances with the Creative Coalition last month in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. From there, she went to Europe to promote “Rachel” and then came to Toronto.
At the Sony Pictures Classics dinner Sunday night for “Rachel,” at Michelle’s restaurant, Hathaway looked fully recovered from her sketchy press with Follieri and ready to assume the mantle of a potential Oscar nominee. She dined with director Demme, screenplay writer Jenny Lumet (daughter of director Sidney and granddaughter of legend Lena Horne) and co-stars Debra Winger, Bill Irwin and Rose Marie DeWitt.
Hathaway is in such a good position right now I’m told that she may appear on the cover of Vogue. This would be quite an achievement, since she’s probably most famous for starring in “The Devil Wears Prada,” a movie that gleefully sent up that magazine and all its foibles.
But Vogue knows the real thing, and Hathaway is simply remarkable in “Rachel,” Demme’s best work in a career filled with great films. Hathaway plays Rachel’s sister, Kym, a recovering junkie who has caused a terrible, life-changing accident in the film’s central family. Irwin and Winger are Rachel and Kym’s parents.
Filmed with hand-held cameras, “Rachel” combines Demme’s love of documentaries with his feature film prowess. In tone and texture, the movie often recalls Demme’s “Something Wild,” although Lumet’s original screenplay is far more serious and substantial material.
The movie also brings “back” the reluctant-to-work Winger, who will probably find herself competing with DeWitt and Penelope Cruz (in Woody Allen’s "Vicky Cristina Barcelona") for Best Supporting Actress. As the mother in a fractured family, Winger conveys almost the movie’s entire gestalt in her few scenes. It just raises the always unanswerable question of why she works so little.
As for Hathaway: her Julie Andrews-Audrey Hepburn days as the happy-go-lucky ingénue are over. She’s moved into serious territory here.
Believe it or not, a famous game show figures in another potential Oscar film for 2009.
Danny Boyle’s stunning India-based film, “Slumdog Millionaire,” was written by Simon Beaufoy, the man who brought us “The Full Monty.”
“Slumdog” is so sensational that the audience was hooting and hollering “Bravo” Sunday night at its Toronto premiere. Beaufoy has constructed a beautiful story, using the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” as a story hook.
The mesmerizing plot tracks the coming of age of two Bombay brothers as they lose their parents and fend for themselves in that city’s slums. In some ways, “Slumdog” echoes Fernando Merielles’ “City of God” in its depiction of orphans surviving againt the odds.
But Boyle, whose father served in India in the British Army, adds a twist as one of the brothers, now grown, goes on TV hoping to attract the attention of a lost childhood love from the Bombay slums. While playing the game, the young man is arrested and interrogated (the perfect Irfan Khan is the cop). The script cuts back and forth between the interrogation and the story of Jamal’s life.
There are no stars other than Khan in “Slumdog,” but a cast of incredibly talented young people including newcomers Dev Patel and the shining beauty Freida Pinto. Neither of these kids has made a movie before or been to the United States. All of that is about to change. Handled properly, “Slumdog” could be the surprise of this film season. It’s ebullient and moving, while at the same time quite thrilling.
Who would have thought it? The most pungent and surprising segment of the multi-starred and directed “New York I Love You” was made by “Rush Hour” wunderkind Brett Ratner.
Starring James Caan, Olivia Thrilby and Anton Yelchin, Ratner’s short episode in this riveting two-hour omnibus had an audience Saturday night in thrall.
Essentially, young Yelchin winds up on a New Year's Eve date with Thrilby, playing Caan’s daughter, in Central Park. She’s in a wheelchair but determined to have sex with Yelchin. Ratner suspends her from a tree in order to accomplish this.
Don’t worry: no Central Park trees were violated. I’m told a New Jersey was imported for the occasion.
The Ratner episode is one of 12 in “New York I Love You,” the sequel to “Paris, J’Taime,” a similar offering about the City of Lights that was a hit last year. Directors in the New York film include Mira Nair, Allen Hughes, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson and Shekhar Kapur.
The list of actors is something else again, including Portman, the aforementioned Irfan Khan, Kevin Bacon, Orlando Bloom, Chris Cooper, Christina Ricci, Bradley Cooper, Drea de Matteo, Julie Christie, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf and Robin Wright Penn.
“New York I Love You” was billed as a work in progress by the producers who showed it. They plan to bring it next to the Berlin Film Festival next February. There’s still work to be done and perhaps another episode to be added.
For a film about relationships set in New York City, the film is only multi-cultural to a point. While there are Latino and Asians featured, it’s strangely lacking in African-Americans, a glaring omission. That might have worked in the Paris version, but in New York, it’s just weird.
The next cities set for this film experiment, by the way, are Shanghai and Jerusalem.
Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush having a cigarette outside Toronto’s Soho Metropolitan Hotel. …Spike Lee with actor Derek Luke and the cast of his “Miracle at St. Anna’s” war movie, in the lobby of the Four Seasons after a terrific premiere. … Kevin Smith, director of “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” celebrating his rave "trade" reviews with Harvey Weinstein and cast at Trevor restaurant. ”Zack and Miri” should be the second Weinstein comedy hit of the season following their Woody Allen release, “Vicki Cristina Barcelona” already heading to $20 million. …
Colin Firth at a party for the Michael Winterbottom film “Genova.” After playing gay in “Mamma Mia!” Colin tells me: “You should see the scripts I’m getting!” … Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo at the “Blindness” party, where publicists worried that members of the inexplicable Hollywood Foreign Press — many elderly or infirm — might get lost in a blinding white cloud tunnel at the entry. Moby DJ'd the party, turning up the volume so loud that he cleared the VIP area in one fell swoop, including Adrien Brody with an attractive blonde named Sunrise. …