Physical transformation is the new normal in the movies these days, from Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey to Bradley Cooper (see “American Sniper”).
The latest is Jake Gyllenhaal, who dropped 30 pounds by eating next to nothing and running 15 miles to the locations for Indie-Spirit nominated “Nightcrawler,” and then built up 15 pounds of extra muscle working out six hours a day for six months for “Southpaw.” Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Kurt Sutter, the film also stars Rachel McAdams and Rita Ora.
At his annual Cannes presentation, Weinstein promised that his company would deliver an Oscar nomination for Jake Gyllenhaal for his dramatic role as a troubled, muscle-packed fighter. He explained that the festival offered the movie an official slot, but they withdrew “Southpaw” in order to let Gyllenhaal participate on the Competition jury. He promised to show the film, and his people invited press to a Tuesday night market screening, which was canceled in favor of a later glittery yacht showing attended by Gyllenhaal and celebrities in Cannes.
Now, a smattering of press have seen the film, which opens July 24, in time for its Shanghai Film Fest debut. Do Fuqua and Gyllenhaal deliver the goods? Here’s the early word:
“A bluntly conventional melodrama about a champion boxer forced to undergo a grim crucible of physical, emotional and spiritual suffering. Yet the undeniable intensity of Gyllenhaal’s bulked-up, Method-mumbling performance may leave you feeling more pummeled than convinced in this heavy-handed tale of redemption, in which director Antoine Fuqua once more demonstrates his fascination with codes of masculine aggression, extreme violence and not much else.”
“A taut boxing yarn about a champ who loses it all and has to fight his way back to keep custody of his daughter, ‘Southpaw’ sticks to tried-and-tested genre rules, yet an edgy cast — led by formidable leading man Jake Gyllenhaal — keeps the story in sharp focus.”
“At the Cannes Film Festival in May, Weinstein Company head Harvey Weinstein all but guaranteed that ‘Southpaw’ would figure prominently into this year’s awards race. He only showed the film privately at the time — but now that the boxing movie directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jake Gyllenhaal has screened at the Shanghai Film Festival, it’s safe to report that Weinstein is right … to a degree. In the South of France, the exec talked about how Gyllenhaal deserved an Oscar nomination last year for “Nightcrawler,” and suggested that his company would be working hard to put the actor on the Academy’s slate this year. And he’d be smart to do so, because a fierce Gyllenhaal is indeed the biggest draw, and the likeliest awards contender, in ‘Southpaw.'”
“This drama isn’t particularly subtle in either its characterisations or its plotting, every turn of the narrative punctuated by a grim urgency that tends to oversell the stakes of what’s occurring. Whether it’s Maureen’s cruelly unfair death or Billy’s ignominious fall from grace, ‘Southpaw’ has a furrowed-brow glumness that can feel like a stacked deck against our hero, as if the filmmakers wanted to make sure to throw every obstacle at Billy lest we doubt the severity of his predicament, no matter how inexplicable the individual hardships might be. (For a man apparently so rich, he plummets into destitution oddly fast.)”