Everyone likes a surprise, and perhaps the biggest this fall is "Frances Ha." Greta Gerwig had mentioned that she'd quietly shot a film which she'd written the script for, but what the indie starlet neglected to mention is that the film had been written with and directed by Noah Baumbach. Revolving around an aspiring dancer (Gerwig) and her relationship with her best friend, the black-and-white film also features "Girls" breakout Adam Driver and Sting's daughter Mickey Sumner in the cast, and it has already earned favorable words out of Telluride (including a positive review from us). And given the lower budget, it might well be a canny acquisition, even if none of Baumbach's films to date have done great business -- "The Squid and the Whale" remains the top grosser, at $7.3 million. But if it continues strongly in Toronto and pleases audiences the way it did in Colorado, then it might well inspire a bit of a bidding war.
For all the critical plaudits it inspired, "The Tree Of Life" was not a wild success in the U.S. While we're sure they weren't expecting blockbuster business, Fox Searchlight must have been hoping for a little more than the $13 million that the film took in, only a touch more than "The New World" made, and a third of the gross of "The Thin Red Line" way back in 1998. And while a new film by Terrence Malick is always going to cause excitement among buyers, after it premiered in Venice, potential distributors might be a bit cautious. Granted, the film has already sold out worldwide, with the U.S. the lone territory left up for grabs, but the film's divisive reception in Venice will give those holding the checkbooks a bit of pause. Not to mention that the nearly dialogue-free film will be a potentially tougher sell to audiences than "The Tree Of Life." However, with a running time under two hours, and a more accessible, contemporary setting, that could make the more experimental edges a bit easier to sell. And having Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko lead your film doesn't hurt either. And if it plays better in Toronto than it did in Venice, this one could certainly become a very hot ticket.
Brian De Palma's last film, "Redacted," made a less-than-glorious $65,000 in theaters on its domestic release. But his last decade of work aside, the filmmaker has plenty of box office hits on his side, including "Mission: Impossible," "The Untouchables," "Carrie," "Scarface" and "Dressed To Kill." And it's the latter in particular that gives hope to "Passion" (a remake of the 2010 Kristin Scott-Thomas-starring French-language thriller "Love Crime"), a return to the kind of movie that he made his name on, and that has plenty of stuff to bring in crowds: principally, the ever-reliable combo of sex and murder. In a landscape where the De Palma-esque "Black Swan" made $300 million worldwide, we're sure plenty of distributors will be curious, especially with the ever-popular Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in the lead roles. Now, we're not quite sure who would actually taking this one -- Fox Searchlight, Focus and The Weinstein Company might turn their noses up, while someone like Magnolia would feel a bit small. But unless the film is a "Black Dahlia"-level disaster, this should get some degree of attention, and may even sell ahead of TIFF on the back of its Venice premiere later this week.