The last time Luc Besson tried his hand at directing a film about a famous female historical figure, the result was his underwhelming 1998 release, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.
It looks as though the Transporter and Taken franchise writer will do better during his second turn at bat (so to speak), based on early footage from Besson's latest film: The Lady, an artsy biopic that chronicles the struggles of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, a longtime advocate of democracy in Burma.
Michelle Yeoh headlines The Lady as a somewhat younger version of Aung San Suu Kyi - a woman whose father, Aung San, was responsible for negotiating Burma's independence from the British Empire in 1947. Besson's film largely focuses on Kyi's decision to (in a sense) follow in her father's footsteps and become involved in Burma's pro-democracy movement, beginning in the late 1980s.
The Lady also chronicles the strain that decision put on Kyi's relationship with her family, including her significant other: Tibetan culture scholar Michael Aris (David Thewlis). The two were eventually forced apart when Kyi was put under house arrest, just prior to her National League for Democracy's landslide victory in Burma's 1990 general elections.
Check out the full-length trailer for The Lady (via Yahoo! Movies) below:
Yeoh looks to do well as the refined and poised Kyi, as does a haggard-looking Thewlis as her stressed, but steadfast, husband. Their relationship appears to serve as "the heart" of The Lady and helps to heighten the personal conflict for Kyi, who is torn between a sense of responsibility for her fellow countrymen - and a desire to not sacrifice her own family in the process. It's a tried-and-true dilemma that storytellers have resorted to many a time in the past, especially in tales about important historical figures, but Besson looks to utilize it well here.
This theatrical preview for The Lady is clearly positioning the film as an awards contender - what with its "best of" vignette of dramatic scenes from the picture and swooning (trailer) score. However, the movie itself looks quite solid and appears to boast some quality performances, lovely bits of cinematography, and the sort of rousing real-life subject matter that can make for an excellent non-fiction narrative.
In other words - yes, The Lady is Oscar bait, but that doesn't mean it won't be good Oscar bait.
Biopics often suffer from being overly-forumalic, especially when they attempt to encompass the entirety of their subject's life. The Lady looks to take an approach more similar to other promising biographical pictures about famous political figures that are on the horizon - including this winter's The Iron Lady and Steven Spielberg's upcoming Lincoln - by narrowing its gaze to a specific portion of Kyi's life. So that bodes well, as far as critical prospects for Besson's film goes.
The Lady does not have an official U.S. theatrical release date yet. However, it is expected to be given a very limited release in 2011 - in order to quality for the 2012 Academy Awards - before being given a wide release next year.
Source: Yahoo! Movies