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Cannes 2010: 'Fair Game's' fair response

May 20, 2010 |  1:27 pm

As we write this, "Fair Game," one of the Cannes Film Festival's most high-profile movies, is making its public premiere at the festival. It remains to be seen how the viewing public feels about the the Doug Liman-directed, Sean Penn- and Naomi Watts-starring drama about the Valerie Plame incident. But if it's anything like the way it played at the media unveiling earlier in the day, that should give film fans and distributor Summit mild, but not overly strong, encouragement.

The film, which is the only picture directed by an American to play in the festival's competition section, does a fine job of conveying the treacherous position that Plame and husband Joe Wilson found themselves in after the Bush administration, in a politically motivated gambit, helped out Plame as a CIA agent (without, interestingly, ever naming Robert Novak, the columnist who was the conduit of said outing). Liman — and, especially, the top-flight performances — convey the appropriate tension and injustice at the entire sordid matter.

But the film can't ultimately escape the fact that this is, essentially, a movie about people writing articles, who are writing articles about people who write reports. It's not a political thriller, despite a director skilled in same willing to deploy some thriller techniques, and the reaction in the press screening channeled as much. That should confirm what we suspected: This could pose some marketing issues for Summit, which hopes the topical film will be this year's "Hurt Locker" -- an awards powerhouse and media darling (though, of course, that film was hardly a box-office juggernaut either). (For more, check out Rachel Abramowitz's piece on the film in The Times.)

Several other things stood out at the post-screening news conference, including the absence of Sean Penn (reluctant to turn out for the dog-and-pony show — we mean, testifying before Congress) as well as Plame herself, who's in Cannes promoting a nuclear-nonproliferation documentary. Asked about her absence, Liman said that he had wanted her there too, but "we were told in the history of Cannes that we wouldn't normally bring the people who the film is based on to the press conference." We hope that changes for the U.S. rollout — Plame is a galvanizing and compelling figure, and she could be used to help sell the movie. The movie could use it.

— Steven Zeitchik, reporting from Cannes, France


Photo: A scene from "Fair Game." Credit: Cannes Film Festival.

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Great movie


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