Oscilloscope greets 'Messenger'

To release the film theatrically in November

Oscilloscope is hearing the message.

Adam Yauch's upstart label has picked up North American rights to Oren Moverman's directorial debut "The Messenger," which premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival.

The company will release the movie theatrically in November; it also plans an awards push for cast and filmmakers, reps said.

"Messenger" stars Ben Foster as a young soldier recently back from Iraq who is assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification Service, which travels the country informing families that a loved one has been killed overseas.

Woody Harrelson co-stars as Foster's gruff, more experienced partner, and Samantha Morton plays a woman whose husband recently was killed in combat and to whom Foster is attracted.

Moverman wrote the script with Alessandro Camon; Lawrence Inglee, Mark Gordon and Zach Miller produced.

The movie has received a number of good notices on the festival circuit, picking up two prizes in February in Berlin. A number of buyers were interested during and right after Sundance, but the lukewarm boxoffice record of war-themed dramas gave them pause.

The filmmakers, however, said they didn't necessarily see "Messenger" as a straight Iraq tale.

"While there is a military backdrop, there are also more universal ways of connecting to this material," Moverman said. "This is a movie that deals with grief and how we find out about a death, and that's something we all experience in one way or another."

Oscilloscope now has acquired three films out of Sundance -- it already bought the documentaries "No Impact Man" and "Burma VJ" -- as much as any other acquisition company.

Dramas that tug at the heartstrings have struggled at the boxoffice this season, which could make "Messenger" a tougher sell. But Moverman -- the screenwriter behind such critical darlings as "Jesus' Son" and "I'm Not There" -- said there are hopeful elements to the picture, too.

"I would say it is a feel-good movie," he said. "It just doesn't make you feel good all the time."