Annette Bening & Jodie Foster Shine in Swimmer Biopic – The Hollywood Reporter

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Filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin hosted the first screening of their Oscar-winning documentary, Solo for free, in Telluride five years ago. It is therefore fitting that their first reporting feature, Nowalso the world premiere at Telluride this year. Solo for free followed the determination of a lazy mountain climber, and Now also studies an obsessive athlete: marathon swimmer and journalist Diana Nyad, who decided to swim from Cuba to Florida, a journey of 110 miles, when she was over 60 years old.

The film has already raised some controversy, with some athletes and other sports commentators criticizing some of the joys that Nyad had trumpeted during her long career. But it is a credit to the filmmakers that, even if they want to celebrate Nyad’s achievements, they do not shy away from dramatizing her selfishness and controversial personality. And even people who have mixed feelings about the real Diana Nyad will be mesmerized by Annette Bening’s fierce and terrifying performance in the title role.


The bottom line

Mesmerizes in and out of the water.

Bening has always been a performer who has banished vanity, and here she is willing to highlight Nyad’s single-mindedness and arrogance. The main relationships in the film are Diana’s friendship with her coach, Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster), and with John Bartlett (Rhys Ifans), the captain of the ship she sailed on in failure as well as the She had a successful swim. There is a danger that Nyad will bring out both of these alliances with her character flaws. It’s a tribute to Bening’s performance that she keeps us captivated by Nyad even at her most ridiculous.

After all, the theme is universal – the quest to defy aging and prove that there is no expiration date for daunting ambition. The film, written by Julia Cox, begins at Diana’s 60th birthday party, in a scene that acknowledges the swimmer’s lesbianism without making any issue of it. From this early moment, the friendship between Diana and Bonnie is dramatized with respect but without emotion. Diana’s single-mindedness puts pressure on the relationship more than once, but the two women’s commitment to each other turns out to be very moving.

Foster hasn’t had many roles in recent years, and her subtle, deep performance makes us realize what we’ve been missing. The work of these actresses is not in vain here. Bening convinces us of Nyad’s effort along with her ruthlessness, which makes Foster’s loyalty to her more difficult. In a strong female-led film, it is also worth acknowledging the contribution of Ifans, who has had a long career but gives perhaps his best performance as a wise-cracking, hard-nosed ship captain who decides to join Nyad in her last attempt to cross. the ocean, although he is sick. (Bartlett died in 2013, after Nyad’s successful swim.)

There are some flaws in the statement. Later in the film, Diana talks about being abused by her swimming coach when she was a young teenager. But if the filmmakers wanted to go into this issue, they should have introduced it much more clearly earlier in the film. It plays almost as an afterthought here, a forced nod to the sexual abuse many athletes have experienced. Perhaps this element should have been included, but it is not handled as smartly as most of the other material in the film.

On the other hand, the cinematography by Claudio Miranda (Oscar winner for Life of Pi) brings the swimming scenes to vivid life. The ocean scenes were mostly shot in the Dominican Republic and are always captivating and sometimes suspenseful, with sharks and jellyfish threatening Diana’s journey.

In their documentary debut, directors Vasarhelyi and Chin demonstrate the same command of cinematic storytelling that has animated their documentaries (which include The Rescue and Wildlife apart from Solo for free). Perhaps the script could have benefited from a slightly darker edge, but as an emotionally charged experience and an acting performance, Now scores.

Full credits

Venue: Telluride Film Festival
Distributor: Netflix
Production Companies: Black Bear Pictures, Mad Chance Films
Cast: Annette Bening, Jodie Foster, Rhys Ifans, Ethan Jones Romero, Luke Cosgrove, Jeena Yi, Eric T. Miller
Directors: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Screenwriter: Julia Cox
Based on the book by: Diana Nyad
Producers: Andrew Lazar, Teddy Schwarzman
Executive producers: Bill Johnson, Jim Seibel, Michael Heimler, Vanessa Humphrey, Julia Cox, D. Scott Lumpkin
Director of photography: Claudio Miranda
Production Designer: Kara Lindstrom
Costume Designer: Kelli Jones
Editor: Christopher Tellefsen
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Musical director: Susan Jacobs
Cast: Avy Kaufman

2 hours 1 minute

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