Last year, Lionsgate distributed two Oscar contenders made by its Summit Entertainment film label — “La La Land” and “Deepwater Horizon” — and another, “Hacksaw Ridge,” that came from an outside source. This year, the distributor has another strong hopeful with a Summit title, “Wonder,” as well as with two independent productions, “The Glass Castle” and “Stronger” as well as the Amazon Studios hit “The Big Sick.”
After initial screenings of “Wonder” went so well, Lionsgate pushed the picture back from a planned release in April to the height of awards season with a November 17 opening. Two years ago, child star Jacob Tremblay generated a ton of Oscar buzz for his scene-stealing performance in “Room.” Now, with “Wonder,” he has a role that could well make him one of the youngest Oscar nominees ever. Based on the 2012 bestselling young adult novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio, this heartfelt film tells the story of Auggie Pullman ( Tremblay), a boy born with a facial deformity who endures a decade of surgeries before finally allowed to enroll in school. Oscar winner Julia Roberts (“Erin Brockovich”) plays his overly protective mother Isabel while Owen Wilson has his most dramatic role ever as his father Nate who pushes him to spread his wings. Working from an adaptation by Steven Conrad (“Patriot”) and Jack Thorne (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”), Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) does a deft job at balancing the sentimental with the serious.
Brie Larson won an Oscar for playing Tremblay’s mother in “Room.” In “The Glass Castle,” she portrays journalist Jeannette Walls in an adaptation of her bestselling 2005 memoir about her upbringing by her dysfunctional parents: her alcoholic father Rex (Woody Harrelson) and her artist mother Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). The family lived in poverty while Rex squandered Rose Mary’s money. Oscar voters love to award performers who portray real people, so perhaps this will be Larson’s ticket back to the Oscars, and possibly a chance for past nominees Harrelson and Watts to win their first trophies. Larson’s “Short Term 12” director Destin Daniel Cretton , who adapted Walls’ book with Andrew Lanham, is at the helm.
With “Stronger,” Jake Gyllenhaal could well win the Best Actor Oscar for his heartfelt portrayal of Jeff Bauman, Jr. who lost both his legs in the bombing of the 2013 marathon. Bauman was waiting at the finish line to cheer on his girlfriend Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany). Despite his life-threatening injuries, this 27-year-old Boston native was a key eyewitness whose help proved invaluable in the hunt for the bombers. The film then follows them on his long road to recovery, which entailed grueling physical therapy as well as counseling to come to terms with his injuries. Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown shine as his parents Patty and Jeff Bauman. John Poliono, who has a recurring role on “This Is Us,” adapted Bauman’s memoir of the same name and David Gordon Green (“Our Brand Is Crisis”) directed. As this feature from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions opens on Sept. 22, expect it to unspool first at the film festivals in Telluride, Venice and/or Toronto.
Below, detailed listings of each of these Oscar contenders, including release dates, creative types, cast lists, running times, plot summaries, and receptions both critical and commercial.
“The Glass Castle” (Lionsgate) – Aug. 11
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writers: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham, Marti Noxon (based on the memoir by Jeannette Walls)
Cast: Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, Woody Harrelson, Iain Armitage, Sarah Snook, Max Greenfield
Summary: Destin Daniel Cretton’s adaptation of the bestselling memoir recounts the coming of age of a young girl who grows up in the nontraditional household with a dysfunctional family.
“Stronger” (Lionsgate) – Sept. 22
Director: David Gordon Green
Writer: John Pollono (based on the book by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Clancy Brown, Miranda Richardson
Summary: This biographical drama from David Gordon Green centers on Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing who helps the police track down the killers while struggling to recover from devastating injuries.
“Wonder” (Lionsgate) – Nov. 17
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writer: Steve Conrad (based on the book by R.J. Palacio)
Cast: Julia Roberts, Jacob Tremblay, Owen Wilson, Mandy Patinkin
Summary: This Stephen Chbosky directed adaptation of R.J. Palacio’s book centers on a young boy with a facial deformity trying to fit in at a new school.