Cannes 2023: The buzziest films from the festival

Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Lily Gladstone attend the Killers of the Flower Moon premiere at the Cannes Film Festival
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At the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, critics got an early look at a number of movies that could be destined for Academy Awards glory. The packed lineup included new films from Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson, not to mention the premiere of one of the most anticipated tentpoles of the summer. These are the movies everyone was talking about at Cannes this year — for better or worse.

'Jeanne du Barry'

Cannes got this year's biggest controversy out of the way on day one with the premiere of Johnny Depp's "comeback" movie, "Jeanne du Barry," directed by and starring Algerian actress Maïwenn. Depp plays King Louis XV, while Maïwenn stars as the title character who falls in love with him. Cannes' choice to open the festival with the project drew some backlash following Depp's defamation battle with ex-wife Amber Heard, though attendees ultimately seemed to have a stronger reaction to that than to the actual movie.

It's a "handsome period piece that feels both flat and shallow, and certainly far from any scandal," said Jordan Mintzer at The Hollywood Reporter. Depp is "adequate but not especially engaged" in the film, wrote Variety's Peter Debruge, and given he's "the kind of player who delivers practically every performance with a wink," it's "odd that even when his Louis is actually supposed to be winking (at Jeanne), the sparkle isn't there." Still, the film doesn't sound like a total disaster, as IndieWire's Ben Croll described it as "more frustrating than a misfire."

'Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny'

"​​Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" — one of the year's most anticipated films — had a much more mixed reception at its premiere than expected. The movie received a "muted standing ovation," and during parts of the screening, "audience members could be heard whispering out of boredom in French," Variety reported.

"Dial of Destiny" sees Harrison Ford return as Indiana Jones for the final time in the franchise's first film not helmed by Steven Spielberg (James Mangold, known for his work on "Logan," took over directing duties). Ford is joined on his adventure by Indy's goddaughter, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Mads Mikkelsen stars as the ex-Nazi villain.

Mangold "ensures we go out on a high" in this "rollicking, globe-trotting ride," Total Film's James Mottram said of the film, while Empire's John Nugent called it a "fitting goodbye" to Ford's Indy. Deadline's Stephanie Bunbury said it has "the same gleeful spirit" as the original Spielberg film. But other critics were far less impressed. It's a "rather joyless piece of nostalgic hokum," wrote Variety's Owen Gleiberman, while The New York Times' Manohla Dargis said it "plays like a greatest-hits reel" and is "at once overstuffed and anemic."

'Killers of the Flower Moon'

This year's most fervently anticipated Cannes film was Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon," and according to critics, it did not disappoint. Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, Scorsese's over-three-hour epic is a true crime story about murders in the Osage Nation in the 1920s. Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, and Robert De Niro star.

"Killers of the Flower Moon" is the "richest, strongest movie" that Scorsese has made "in nearly 30 years," declared The Guardian's Xan Brooks in a five-star review that dubbed the movie an "instant American classic." It also features the "best performance of Leonardo DiCaprio's entire career," according to IndieWire's David Ehrlich, and multiple critics pointed to Gladstone as a standout worthy of Oscar consideration. She's "the revelation" of the project, providing the "wounded heart of the movie," wrote David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter. A Best Picture Oscar nomination for the film seems guaranteed, and don't be surprised to see DiCaprio and Gladstone in the mix for acting wins.

'The Zone of Interest'

If there was a movie critics loved even more than "Killers of the Flower Moon," it may have been Jonathan Glazer's "The Zone of Interest," which currently holds a 100 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The director's first film since 2013's "Under the Skin" is a Holocaust drama centered on Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), commandant of Auschwitz, who lives next to the concentration camp with his family.

"We spend most of the film watching them go through the mundanity of everyday life," scenes that are chillingly contrasted with the "horrific sights and sounds of the Holocaust," said Next Best Picture's Matt Neglia. The result is a movie that is "devastating in the quietest way," added Time's Stephanie ZacharekBBC's Nicholas Barber praised it as a "masterpiece" that "raises the question of how much suffering we are all willing to ignore, just because it's happening in another part of the world, or just outside our homes, or beyond our own zone of interest." The film won the festival's Grand Prix award.

'May December'

From "Carol" director Todd Haynes, "May December" takes place years after a married couple, played by Julianne Moore and Charles Melton, dominated the tabloids with a scandalous and age-inappropriate affair, during which she was in her 30s and he was 13. In the present, an actress, played by Natalie Portman, is researching the couple to prepare for a film about them.

"May December" is "very funny and light on its feet, but it's also a deeply uncomfortable movie," said Vulture's Bilge Ebiri. The Wrap's Tomris Laffly praised it for being "heady, grown-up and committed to a refreshing dose of moral ambiguity at a time in cinema where moral pandering sadly seems to be the default." While Portman and Moore both received praise for their performances, the film's "real revelation is Melton," who "reveals the frightened boy beneath his male-model exterior," according to The Playlist's Charles Bramesco. The project was acquired by Netflix.


Director Hirokazu Kore-eda made a big splash at Cannes in 2018 after winning the Palme d'Or with "Shoplifters," and he returned this year with "Monster." His latest revolves around a mother whose young son begins displaying concerning behavior, but it "soon becomes apparent that his teacher" is the "source of all the problems," per the festival website. As "the mystery unfolds, the truth turns out to be more complex than expected."

The "warmly exuberant and carefully restrained" film "is a mighty entry in the queer coming-of-age canon," wrote Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson, while the Los Angeles Times' Justin Chang said the "absorbing, ambiguously titled movie builds to a moving finish, one that reaffirms Kore-eda's peerless skill at directing young actors in particular."

'Anatomy of a Fall'

Justine Triet directs this French courtroom drama about a writer whose husband dies under mysterious circumstances, only for her to be arrested and accused of murder.

"Anatomy of a Fall" is a "twisty, thought-provoking drama" that boasts a "compelling central performance" by Sandra Hüller, Lee Marshall said at Screen DailyThe Playlist's Elena Lazic gave the movie an A+ rating and described it as a "breathtakingly intelligent and subtly perverse masterpiece." The film was acquired by Neon, the distributor behind movies like Best Picture-winner "Parasite," and it earned the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.

'The Sweet East'

Acclaimed cinematographer Sean Price Williams made his directorial debut with "The Sweet East," in which a high school student, played by Talia Ryder, is separated from her class during a visit to Washington, D.C. She then heads on a road trip, where she encounters various strange characters.

The film becomes a "sniveling little satire of modern American," in which "every liberal punchline is taken at face value, and every morsel of progressive logic is treated like a joke," mused IndieWire's David Ehrlich. An early scene even features Andy Milonakis playing a conspiracy theorist who believes he's uncovering a pedophile ring, à la Pizzagate — and in the world of the movie, he's right. Later, our protagonist comes across a white supremacist, played by Simon Rex. Ayo Edebiri and Jacob Elordi also star.

It's a "timely film that still feels timeless," said The Playlist's Rafaela Sales Ross, "an expansive chronicling of a slice of America ripe for many a rewatch."

'How to Have Sex'

Molly Manning Walker's directorial debut isn't some sort of public service announcement. Rather, it's a film centered around teenage British girls who embark on "a rites-of-passage holiday — drinking, clubbing and hooking up, in what should be the best summer of their lives," per the festival description.

"How to Have Sex" is "less of a PSA about consent and more of a realistic, subtly tragic character study about what it means to be desecrated as a human being," wrote Slashfilm's Lex Briscuso. In terms of performances, Walker "hit an absolute home run," and "what could have easily been a rote, didactic PSA about consent and sexual assault is graced with nuance by a superb breakout performance" from co-lead Mia McKenna-Bruce, wrote Katarina Docalovich at Paste. Indeed, Variety's Guy Lodge said it "should be a star-making" role for her. The film was picked up by Mubi.

'Asteroid City'

Wes Anderson returned to Cannes with "Asteroid City," which, according to some critics, is one of his best films in recent years. Boasting a star-studded cast that includes Jason Schwartzman and Scarlett Johansson, the film is set at a Junior Stargazer convention in a desert town where an alien invasion takes place.

It's Anderson's "most disarmingly spiritual film in some time" but "just as raucously fun" as 2014's "The Grand Budapest Hotel," said Siddhant Adlakha at Inverse. It's also the director's best movie overall since "Grand Budapest," wrote The Daily Beast's Esther Zuckerman, a "thoroughly hilarious piece that coalesces into something almost haunting."

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