Summer is when distributors check out the movies coming in and make decisions about the best time to release them. Some movies just cry out as Oscar bait, and Warner Bros. has slotted writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton’s civil rights drama “Just Mercy” for an Oscar-qualifying December 25 limited release before going wide January 10, 2020. (It was slated for January 17.)
This studio doesn’t make awards decisions lightly; it wouldn’t stick a modestly budgeted drama into the height of the Christmas rush without good reason. Other high-profile, year-end Oscar contenders include Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” starring Soairse Ronan, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, and Timothee Chalamet, which is likely to skip the fall festivals due to its late release date, as well as Jay Roach’s “Fair Game,” starring Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron as the gutsy women who take on Fox news czar Roger Ailes (John Lithgow).
“Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler, who bonded with Crettin on the 2013 awards circuit as they accompanied “Short Term 12” and “Fruitvale Station,” respectively, introduced his friend to Michael B. Jordan. The actor took on a producing role as well as starring in this true story of the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson. The movie focuses on the young lawyer’s first case, as he takes on the task of trying to free an innocent death-row prisoner Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx).
Brie Larson reunites with Cretton, who directed her breakout movie “Short Term 12” as well as biodrama “The Glass Castle.” Cretton adapted Stevenson’s bestselling 2015 memoir “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” with Andrew Lanham.