He’s been behind some greatness over the years (“The Grifters,” “High Fidelity“), but since his award-winning success with “The Queen” in 2006, Stephen Frears has had a rotten run—no one’s been particularly keen on “Cheri,” “Tamara Drewe” or “Lay The Favorite,” while HBO movie “Muhammed Ali’s Greatest Fight” won few over at Cannes. But in a few weeks, he’s returning to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs, and going back to the Venice Film Festival, where “The Queen” was unveiled, for new film “Philomena.”
Like the earlier film, it’s a film designed as a hopefully awards-grabbing vehicle for an older British actress, in this case Dame Judi Dench. And the first trailer for the picture, unveiled this morning by UK distributors Pathe, suggest she might well be in with a shout when Oscar season nears. The based-in-fact film stars Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the script) as disgraced journalist/spin-doctor Martin Sixsmith, who aids the titular Philomena (Dench) on her quest to track down the child she was forced to give up for adoption as a teenager.
It doesn’t look like it’s going to reinvent the wheel—it’s cut from the same sort of cloth as, say, “Venus“—but the performances seem reliable and, unless we’re being optimistic, Coogan’s hand in the writing seems to be elevating things beyond the mum-friendly Oscar fodder it might be (and that Harvey Weinstein is certainly hoping it will be, having picked up rights earlier in the year). It’ll be unveiled at Venice on August 31st, and we’ll have our verdict for you then, ahead of the UK release on November 1st, and a US bow that’s yet to be announced, but should come before the end of 2013. Watch the trailer below (and keep your eyes peeled for a split-second reaction shot of Michelle Fairley, aka Catelyn Stark from “Game Of Thrones“).