French Exit closed the New York Film Festival last night ahead of its planned February 2021 debut and that keeps it in line for awards consideration in this altered Oscar season. The eccentric comedy from Azazel Jacobs is based on the 2018 novel by Patrick deWitt, who adapts his own work (he’s also responsible for the source material for 2018’s The Sisters Brothers).
To say Exit is experiencing mixed reviews and social media reaction is an understatement. The focus of most Academy chatter is whether or not Michelle Pfeiffer will land her fourth nomination and her first in nearly 30 years. The star garnered nods for 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons for Supporting Actress and lead for 1989’s The Fabulous Baker Boys and 1992’s Love Field.
First things first: the wildly divergent critical notices probably keep this out of contention for anything and anyone other than Pfeiffer. That leaves her costars Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts, Danielle Macdonald, and Imogen Poots out of the conversation. Yet even some of the negative reviews point to sterling work from Pfeiffer as a down on her luck socialite widow who relocates to Paris. Variety called it the “role she’ll be remembered for” in a likely bit of hyperbole. Several other publications were far less kind, but kinder to its lead.
Best Actress currently looks more crowded than Best Actor. Already screened performances like Frances McDormand in Nomadland and Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman appear headed for the final five (with McDormand as a near shoo-in). There are major hopefuls waiting in the wings including Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy), and Jennifer Hudson (Respect) among others.
I have had Pfeiffer listed in fifth place for some time in my weekly estimates (ahead of Adams and Hudson). Whether that changes with my update on Thursday is something I’ll need to ponder. I believe she could absolutely still make the cut, but I don’t think this weekend’s showing guarantees her a spot. Some soft reviews could be a detriment, but that didn’t prevent Renee Zellweger from taking gold last year as Judy. Bottom line: Pfeiffer may need to play the waiting game as the verdict comes down for other possible nominees. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…