The Toronto International Film Festival has always been one of the main platforms where Oscar-worthy films are born, and this year is no exception.
There’s the gritty Netflix movie “Beasts of No Nation” that will certainly be in the conversation. And then there’s the heart-wrenching “Room” that at the very least will garner nominations for its lead actors.
Based on the Boston Globe’s 2002 work in the Massachusetts Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal – the uncovering of the alleged child molestation cover-up by the city’s local Catholic archdiocese – it’s the kind of well-crafted story Academy members gravitate toward.
A big reason for its success is the ensemble cast McCarthy compiled, which includes Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, and Billy Crudup.
The film has an “All the President’s Men” vibe to it as we follow the Globe’s investigative department, Spotlight. Spotlight is the oldest, continuously operating newspaper investigative unit in the US, headed by Robby Robinson (Keaton) in the movie. The paper’s new editor, Marty Baron (Schreiber), assigns Spotlight a follow-up piece on a column the paper wrote about a priest who was allegedly caught molesting a child decades earlier.
At first the follow-up is thought to be just a good chase. But reporters Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams) and Michael Rezendes (Ruffalo) discover that this is far from “a few bad apples in the bunch.” They begin talking to victims and a tenacious lawyer (Tucci) who represents them. Soon, the Spotlight team discovers that close to 90 priests in the Boston area have been “relocated” or put on “sick leave” after the Catholic Church discovered they were sexually molesting children.
- Open Road
The biggest challenge with these kind of dramatic, newsroom-focused stories is finding the action that keeps the audience involved. But “Spotlight” does this well.
“Spotlight” accomplishes what films like “All the President’s Men,” “The Insider,” and “Good Night, and Good Luck” did so well. It gives a behind-the-scenes look at a story that general audiences know a lot about thanks to years of constant news coverage on the subject, and it brings on actors who lift the stakes through their performances of scenes set in mundane meeting rooms, doorsteps, and back-alleys.
Though all the actors bring their A-game, standouts in the movie are Ruffalo and Keaton.
Keaton is no stranger to the newsroom. He was perfect as an editor of a New York tabloid in Ron Howard’s “The Paper” in 1994. Here he’s the Boston native who slowly realizes he’ll have to ask a lot of tough questions of people he’s known for most of his life to get to the bottom of the story.
Ruffalo, who plays the tenacious reporter Rezendes, is a go-getter so engrossed in his career that his marriage is falling apart. Even when he can step away, say for a jog, he finds himself right back at the newsroom.
Don’t be surprised if either – perhaps both – get nominations on Oscar night.
McCarthy, who you’d recognize as an actor in countless movies (a memorable one is playing Dr. Bob in the “Meet the Parents” movies), has had success as a director in the past with indie titles “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor.” But “Spotlight” – he also co-wrote the screenplay – is a well-crafted, easy-to-understand drama that shows his elevation as a storyteller. There could be an Oscar nomination in his future as well.
“Spotlight” opens in theaters November 6.
Watch the trailer: