Lion (2016): Middlebrow Movie of True Story about Adoption and Tchnology, Starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman

Is Lion, which world premiered over the weekend at the 2016 Toronto Film Fest, the Weinstein Company’s Oscar card?

The true-story of Saroo Brierly, who was adopted from India as a boy and later used Google Earth to locate his family, gives the indie distributor perhaps his best chance of awards glory this year.

It’s uplifting, humanistic, and unabashedly sentimental, all things that Oscar voters usually love.

The  President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), Cheryl Boone Isaacs, was on hand both at the Toronto premiere Saturday night and at its after party at Soho House.

Garth Davis

The crowd at the Princess of Wales Theatre roared as the credits rolled, leaping to their feet for a standing ovation. There were also audible sniffles during the picture’s climax.

Critics were more mixed in their appraisals, suggesting that the picture’s appeal may be too broad and populist.

Most liked the first reel, where a five-year old Saroo is separated from his family on the streets of Calcutta.

Nicole Kidman: Supporting Actress Oscar Nomination?

Nicole Kidman, de-glamorized as Saroo’s adopted mother, may have the best chance at landing a nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Dev Patel also impressed playing the adult Saroo as a man haunted by his past. The sense, however, was Patel would be more viable in a supporting, rather than lead, campaign.

The Weinstein Company (TWC) has blended Oscar advocacy with social justice issues to great effect in the past, with such middlebrow films as “Philomena” and “The Imitation Game.”  Both of those movies earned Best Picture nods, while drawing collective attention to their central social issues, adoption rights and gay rights, respectively.

Message Movie?

Lion clearly intends to have a similar impact. The picture concludes with a message about the 80,000 children in India who are lost each year, urging audiences to learn more about what they can do to help.

“I hope it creates a platform for change,” said director Garth Davis during a question and answer session after the film screened. He said he hoped more people would consider adoption. “If you’re in a loving family that’s all that matters,” he said.

Harvey has been dogged by rumors that the Weinstein Company is in financial trouble; the studio has lost many key executives.  He’s also signaled that he is more interested in TV than the movie business–a more stable and reliable source of revenues .

Lion plays like an ode to technology’s power to connect disparate worlds and make us whole.

Going into Toronto, director Davis admitted that the company Google loved the film: “It’s a wonderful advertisement for them.”