Fans of Reese Witherspoon will have plenty of chances to see her this Oscar season. She’ll be in the big-screen adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (out December 5) and the much-anticipated Inherent Vice (out January 9). But first, she’ll appear next in The Good Lie (out October 3), a based-on-true-events story about a no-nonsense, just-get-it-done type — think Erin Brockovich with a Southern twang — who helps three Sudanese refugees adjust to life in America and reunite their family. In the trailer, the culture clashes between the African trio — played by Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, and Emmanuel Jal (the latter two of whom were once child soldiers) — and Witherspoon’s character are obvious, and she receives some friendly ribbing from them, getting teased in particular about her single status.
The Good Lie shares executive producers with The Blind Side, the film that finally got Sandra Bullock her Oscar. It’s probably safe to assume that Witherspoon is aiming to take a second gold man home next March — and that this film will share the white-savior tropes as its football-themed predecessor.
As problematic as that white lens is for exploring African issues, there’s no denying that an accessible, feel-good film like this one just might be the only way many viewers ever learn about the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” the name given to the 20,000 displaced and/or orphaned boys during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). And a greater variety of rich, meaty roles in studio films — which are the majority of projects that get nominated for the Academy Awards — for actresses would help make the “Nice White Lady” trope parodied by MadTV less glaring.