This summer, after all the post-Endgame blockbusters that have met expectations but may not have surpassed them, with the industry wondering about sequel fatigue at the box office and none of the mid-to-low budget films being able to distinguish themselves from the pack, finally we have a winner.
The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang, starring Awkwafina, has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and opened in limited release this weekend in four theatres. It’s per theatre average was $87,833 which is $10K higher than Avengers: Endgame’s per theatre average – which means The Farewell has the highest per theatre average of any film in 2019.
And that’s exactly the kind of momentum you want going into a wide release. It was one of the most acclaimed films coming out of Sundance. With a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes plus that kind of box office performance, they can build on bringing the film to a wider audience and, also, build a potential award season run. The Farewell is being distributed by A24. A24 happens to be the studio behind Moonlight and Lady Bird, two films that also came out strong after film festivals.
I saw The Farewell on Friday morning in Toronto at a press screening. Not sure I can write about it yet because it’s stole my soul – Lulu Wang made a film that spoke directly to me, to the experience of being of two places, of being both North American and Chinese, of being true to yourself and to your family, and while sometimes that can break you up, it’s the thing that can also make you whole. This film is the perfect manifestation of the idea that specificity can be universal. This family’s particular true story (and lie) is relatable to every family, no matter the background.
So what are the Oscar possibilities? Awkwafina might have an outside shot at Best Actress. Adapted Screenplay for Lulu might be where they have the strongest chance, if any. But I’m hoping there’s a push for Zhao Shuzhen, who plays Nai Nai, the grandmother. Awkwafina’s nickname for her is “Teacher Zhao”, and she’s been acting since she was 16 years old; this is her first American film – and Variety calls her the “breakout star”. She is EXQUISITE. The Farewell is exquisite. I can’t wait for more of you to feel it for yourselves. We’ll post a proper review soon as the film becomes available in more markets. Do not sleep on this one!
Yours in gossip,