Does Dark Horse Trucker Stumble En Route to Awards Season?
Ready or not, here Oscar season comes. Or maybe, as for so many films this time of year, the operative phrase is "worthy or not." That's the judgment facing Trucker, the microbudget indie that has corralled early awards-season hype for star Michelle Monaghan on the basis of a couple early festival raves and a distributor ballsy enough to say, "Yes, we want an Oscar." But first it has to convince audiences to see it, which I'm not terribly sure this Trucker's new trailer [ahem] is going to accomplish.
As always with the Two-Minute Verdict, a movie's sales pitch -- not the movie itself -- is the subject at hand. I haven't seen Trucker; maybe it is the heavyweight drama that warrants cautious Oscar optimism for Monaghan, who plays a booze-swilling, one-night-stand-having, lady truck driver reunited with her estranged son when his father is hospitalized with cancer. And maybe it does justify the distributor's press release currently making the rounds, announcing an "October 9 release date for the film, putting it right into the middle of the Fall awards season."
But first things first, Monterey Media: How about positioning Trucker as anything but the pseudo-gritty, weep-on-the-cheap odd-coupler depicted in the trailer? How about teasing the character dynamics that make a role an Oscar Role (similar to the way Sony Classics successfully positioned Melissa Leo for Frozen River) instead of condensing the film to one-note melodrama? Definitely downplay the usurpage factor of other actors like Nathan Fillion ("I've never thought about a woman the way I think about you!"), Benjamin Bratt and young Jimmy Bennet, who's seems to always be good for a well-timed, perfectly cut philosophical gem. Then we might be on to something.
And Oct. 9? Really? Isn't that Carey Mulligan's day to lock up her Best Actress nomination when An Education opens in Trucker's same limited markets, thus monopolizing the press, word-of-mouth and prestige Monterey has in mind for Monaghan? Bummer. She could have been a contender.
VERDICT: Better luck in 2010.