Two exceptional films scheduled to hit Boise screens in the next few weeks may have a difficult time luring mass audiences. One, the profoundly original Room, tells the story of Ma, a young mother imprisoned by a sexual predator, and her 5-year-old son born in captivity. I promise it is one of the finest movies you'll see this year. The second, star-studded Truth, featuring Robert Redford as Dan Rather, is such a provocation, CBS has banned any advertising for the film from its stations.
I'm embarrassed to admit, after reading a cursory description Room, I debated whether to attend the premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival in September. As I was leaving the queue in front of the theater where Room was playing, a young woman implored me to stay. (I'm eternally grateful to her.) She began to tell me about the source material of the film: the 2010 novel of the same name by Irish playwright Emma Donoghue, told from the little boy's point of view, his innocence framing the horrific circumstances. Therein lies the miracle of Room, which filled me and my fellow audience members with so many emotions, we leapt to our feet to cheer for this amazing film. By the end of TIFF, Room was the People's Choice winner, the only award TIFF bestows and, unless my Oscar radar is offline, I would bet my last dollar Room will nab nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Brie Larson), Best Supporting Actor (the adorable Jacob Tremblay) and Best Supporting Actress (Joan Allen). Larson's radiant performance as Ma is the favorite to win Oscar gold.
As for Truth, apparently CBS can't handle it. Truth stars the always fine Cate Blanchett as 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes in the story of how Mapes and her investigative team (played with great supporting fervor by Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss and Dennis Quaid) unearthed an expose that would have crippled the reelection efforts of then-President George W. Bush. Mapes and her team found a military source who testified Bush had, in effect, gone AWOL during his time with the Texas National Guard. The source even produced documents supporting the claim. But we all know how that ended, don't we?
Perhaps not. Truth, based on Mapes' memoir, has us believe the truth was the real victim when Mapes and then-CBS anchor Dan Rather (Redford) were taken to task for the questionable validity of their source and documents.They were raked over the coals for truthfulness of their sources rather than the truthfulness of the story.
Speaking for myself, I'm not terribly convinced Mapes and company didn't err and did deserve the punishment they received—they were all kicked to the curb—but I don't depend on Truth for the, well, truth any more than I depend on Oliver Stone for American history.
Truth is an excellent film. Blanchett is as good as she has ever been, and this is some of Redford's best on-screen work. Don't expect to see any advertising for Truth on CBS, though. Earlier this month, network executives said they were so incensed, they wouldn't help promote the film. Forbes Magazine wrote Truth's producers couldn't be more pleased.
"I would argue the move had the opposite effect," wrote Forbes contributor Scott Mendelson. "CBS refusing to air Truth TV commercials is priceless advertising."