Toronto: 'Therese' An Acting Showcase, But Is It Big Enough for Academy to Notice? (Analysis)

The film's principal quartet consists of fast-rising youngsters Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton and Oscar Isaac, as well as revered veteran Jessica Lange.

TORONTO -- On Saturday I attended the Toronto Film Festival's world premiere at the Princess of Wales Theatre of Charlie Stratton's Therese, the most recent of many adaptations of Emile Zola's 1867 "naturalist" novel-turned-play Therese Raquin (which may have inspired The Postman Always Rings Twice). The dark period-drama, about an illicit affair that leads to murder and then guilt in 1860s Paris, boasts a first-rate cast led by rising stars Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac and Tom Felton and featuring the revered veteran Jessica Lange in a key supporting role. Roadside Attractions picked up its U.S. distribution rights shortly before the fest got underway and the film, which will be released in 2014, received a nice round of applause upon the conclusion of its first screening.

Like, say, Jane Eyre (2011), Therese and everyone in it is very good, but it is probably just too small of a production to attract much end-of-the-year awards attention -- although, as proved to be the case with Jane, an Oscar nomination for best costume design might be attainable.

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The film's dark story centers around a girl named Therese (Olsen) who, following her mother's death, is taken in by a mean aunt, Madame Raquin (Lange), and ordered to adhere to strict rules, perform chores and care for her sickly cousin Camille (Felton) -- who, to her shock and dismay, she is later informed she is to marry. The marriage is doomed from the start thanks to his Norman Bates-like closeness with his mother and his effete, asexual nature. When Laurent (Isaac), a handsome and virile friend of the family, comes to visit, he and the sexually starving Therese embark on a passionate love affair. But for Therese and Laurent to ever truly to be together, Camille must exit the picture, and how Therese and Laurent go about making that happen has major implications for all four characters' lives.

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