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All Aboard the Elle Fanning Hype Train

Elle Fanning isn’t exactly a new kid on the block.  In fact, her first film was a full 15 years ago, when she was the two-year-old version of Lucy Diamond Dawson in I am Sam.  Since then, Fanning has often portrayed younger versions of her older sister Dakota, but her filmography extends well beyond playing second-fiddle.  Her breakout role was likely her turn as Alice Dainard in J.J. Abram’s Super 8, which I enjoyed just fine.  But, it is her most recent work that augurs greatness.  Maleficent was a strong performance, and she also managed to be the second best actor in Trumbo, behind the Oscar-nominated Bryan Cranston.  Then there was The Neon Demon.  After gushing about this film, I decided to look more closely at the career of Fanning, and I was surprised to find her starring in seven films between now and the end of 2017!

What follows is a look at these seven films, in an effort to generate some Elle Fanning hype before she ascends to the upper echelon of Hollywood.  That way you can feel superior to your friends when you say that you enjoyed the movies of Elle Fanning before it was cool (I know I will!).

20th Century Women (2016) – Julie

This is film slated to be released first, with a December 2016 release date (though it will premiere at the New York Film Festival in October).  There is precious little information regarding this film, just a bland synopsis:  “The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s”.  More encouraging is the talent assembled.  Alongside Fanning we also get Alia Shawkat, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and Annette Bening.  It was written and directed by Mike Mills, and could end up being quite a nice indie film.  Most exciting, it is to be distributed by the production studio A24, of which I am an unabashed fanboy.  Add it all up, and there is great potential for this little film to come out of nowhere and surprise a lot of people

Live by Night (2016) – Loretta Figgis

This film is decidedly less under-the-radar.  That’s kind of what happens when Ben Affleck writes, directs, and acts in a crime drama set in Boston.  This one focuses on the Prohibition era and casts Affleck as the gangster son of a policeman as he climbs the ladder of organized crime during this tumultuous time.  Fanning is slated to play the love interest, but hopefully there is more for her to do in the film.  Some basic plot elements suggest that she will be more than arm candy, but I will not spoil such things here.  Elsewhere, this is a star-studded affair of the highest caliber.  It isn’t hard to talk yourself into getting hyped up for an Affleck film focused around Boston and crime, but this has the potential to be Elle Fanning’s introduction to the more casual movie fan.  If Live by Night is on par with Affleck’s other directorial projects and Fanning stands out, expect to hear the buzz around her getting louder.

Ballerina (2016) – Félicie Milliner (voice)

I am such a fan of good animated films, and I especially like when they are produced by smaller studios and succeed.  This film has Fanning voicing a young orphan who dreams of becoming a ballerina in 19th century France.  After traveling to the big city and assuming the identity of someone else, she studies at the Grand Opera House.  This film has the least-impressive resume attached to it, as it is being co-directed by two relatively fresh faces, Eric Summer and Eric Warin.  Summer has a great deal of experience directing television in France, and Warin is mostly known for his work in the animation department on the wonderful The Triplets of Belleville.  It wouldn’t surprise me if this film just falls by the wayside and is mostly ignored, but it could also come completely out of left field and knock your socks off.

The Beguiled (2017)

This is the kind of film that I want to be very good, but might fall a little short.  It is billed as a drama / western and is directed and written by Sofia Coppola (she adapted a novel by Thomas Cullinan).  I am a huge fan of Lost in Translation, but Coppola has never really equaled that film, and it has been quite a while.  In The Beguiled, which is set during the Civil War, a Union soldier (Colin Farrell) is held captive in a Confederate girl boarding school, and his interactions with some of the women turn amorous.  Fanning is one of the girls, obviously, but there is also Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Kidman.  I am always impressed by Colin Farrell, and I want Coppola to reach her full artistic heights again.  The subject matter certainly offers that opportunity, and the talent assembled around it offers a great deal of potential.

Sidney Hall (2017) – Melody

This is a real quiet one, but has the potential to be quite powerful.  Director Shawn Christensen adapted some of his short stories into this screenplay, which tell the story of a young novelist named Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman) who writes the book of his generation and then struggles under the weight of his fame and success.  The film is divided into three sections:  one when he is 18, then 24, then 30.  This is an intriguing subject, and I absolutely love when stories explore artistry, creativity, and what it means to be a “success” in these endeavors.  Fanning likely plays the love interest of Sidney Hall, and I am certain there are some juicy dramatic scenes that Fanning will be able to nail.  This is also the film with the most “indie” feel, at least to me.  There is a lot of young talent, an original dramatic story, and a directorial debut, so this could basically go anywhere, but I am optimistic.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017) – Zan

Here’s a real weird one, based off of a Neil Gaiman short story (so we’re definitely off to a strong start!).  Here, two teen-aged boys head to a party to chat up some girls.  Of course, since this is a Neil Gaiman story, the girls are actually aliens and all sorts of weirdness and hilarity ensues.  Fanning is the lead girl / alien here, and Alex Sharp plays the boy Enn.  I honestly don’t know what to think about this one, but I am going to read the short story soon to get a better feel for the tone.  It’ll be a long wait for this one, but it could wind up being a quirky and fun film.

A Storm in the Stars (2017) – Mary Shelly

The final film on the docket for Fanning is this intriguing little chestnut based on the romance between Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft, who later wrote Frankenstein.  This film is just packed with things that make it interesting.  First, we’ve got the acting talent, which in addition to Fanning sports a few Game of Thrones stars (Maisie Williams and Stephen Dillane) and other accomplished British actors.  The story also seems awesome, and I have already expressed my penchant for the kinds of themes one can explore through a narrative involving creative endeavors, inspiration, and writing in general.  But, by far, the coolest element of A Storm in the Stars is the director, Haifaa Al Mansour.  You’ll be forgiven for not recognizing this name, as Al Mansour has only two features to her name:  the documentary Women Without Shadows and the BAFTA-nominated Wadjda.  Still, as Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, your attention is almost demanded when she decides to tackle a project like this.  Her talent is evident, and her ability to bring a powerful, unique perspective to this story should be heralded by lovers of film.

So there we have it – seven films starring Elle Fanning over the next 16 months.  Understandably, we have varied amounts of information on each of these films, both because some are closer to release and also their respective budgets.  Regardless, I think that each of these films brings something cool to the table, whether it is an interesting source material, an emerging director, or a talented cast.  I am also excited that most of these films are small, independent movies, and even the one with the highest budget (Live by Night) isn’t some franchise blockbuster.  For those interested in something besides the latest superhero flick or rebooted intellectual property, these films starring Elle Fanning could be just what you’re looking for.






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Derek Jacobs

Chicago,IL 60606

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