In news that should surprise no one, Amy Adams delivers not one but two stellar performances in a pair of buzzy movies that will follow debuts in Venice with screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival this week. The five-time Oscar nominee could soon be adding to that total, perhaps getting another chance — or two — to become a first-time winner.
Adams is landing the biggest kudos for Arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s slow-burn sci-fi alien invasion drama set off by 12 gigantic, Frisbee-shaped UFOs touching down at seemingly random points around the globe. She’s also reliably stunning in the brutal and beautifully shot Nocturnal Animals, the sophomore directorial effort of fashion icon Tom Ford about a woman who receives a shocking book written by her ex-husband, which then plays out as a story-inside-a-story.
Of the two, Arrival is the vehicle more likely to earn Adams some awards attention for her role as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist and professor at a prestigious university recruited by the U.S. military to help understand and communicate with the enigmatic extraterrestrials.
Independence Day: Resurgence this film ain’t. French Canadian filmmaker Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) is just as — if not more — concerned with the personal effects the E.T. landing has on the psyches and emotional states of his human subjects as he is the world as whole. This gives Adams, as a woman who we’ve seen endure her own crisis prior to the arrival, and who could hold the key to Earth’s survival, ample time to shine as a lost soul in need of healing. And though the actress has a simpatico costar in Jeremy Renner as the mathematician she’s teamed up with for “the show,” Arrival is her vessel.
Critics have taken note. The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang calls it “a quietly huge performance” while The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney noted its richness “in emotional depth.” “Someone give an award already,” Slashfilm’s Angie J. Han declared after a Toronto screening. And the movie in general has triggered major feels at TIFF, just from our own unofficial gauging of film press reactions.
In Nocturnal Animals, Adams delivers what might as well be considered a dual role. In the present day, her Susan Morrow is a jaded, pill-popping, one-percenter who holds extravagant art openings and shares a ridiculously swank Los Angeles home with her unfaithful businessman husband (Armie Hammer).
Her world is rocked when she receives a manuscript of the new book by her estranged ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). He’s dedicated the novel (called Nocturnal Animals) to her, and it’s a devastating thriller about a man whose wife and daughter are kidnapped one night on a dark West Texas highway.
This triggers flashbacks to memories of her meet-cute with the writer, when the then-Southern-drawled Susan (in scenes reminiscent of Adams’ breakout role in the North Carolina-set indie Junebug) was young and hopeful and petrified by the thought of one day turning into her bourgeois mother.
Animals is more of an ensemble film than Arrival — Aaron Taylor- Johnson and Isla Fisher also appear, and the standout of the bunch is Michael Shannon as a terminally ill cop clean out of damns to give. But Adams anchors the film, and it’s through her worried eyes (and some comeuppance) that we experience the film’s emotional and physical brutality.
“Adams’ innate vulnerability is nicely played off here against Susan’s sleek appearance,” wrote THR’s Rooney in his review, adding that she is the “compelling center” of the film. “I know Amy Adams is putting all her Oscar chips on ARRIVAL but don’t overlook her incredibly specific work in NOCTURNAL ANIMALS. She’s fab,” tweeted Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan.
An Oscar nomination for either — or both — would add to Adams’ previous Oscar nods for Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter, The Master, and American Hustle… and amazingly, all those nominations would be over only an 11-year span. “Amy Adams should get nominated for Best Actress for both films and win both Oscars in a tie,” thinks Collider’s Matt Goldberg.
As the Los Angeles Times’ Glenn Whipp notes, Adams could be this year’s Leonardo DiCaprio. He was famously 0-for-5 before finally bear-hugging an Oscar earlier this year for The Revenant. “The 42-year-old is overdue,” says Whipp, who also cautions that neither Arrival nor Animals is the type of film traditionally championed by Oscar voters.
But hey, at the very least, Adams has doubled her odds.