Notably absent from Sunday’s Golden Globes was Boston Marathon biopic “Stronger,” the Jake Gyllenhaal starrer that drew awards buzz back in September for the “Nightcrawler” actor’s portrayal of bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, who lost both his legs in the blast.
But despite its warm reception from critics, many of whom had called Gyllenhaal an early lock for best actor, the movie’s failure to materialize at the Golden Globes is hardly surprising. In fact, barring a significant surprise when Oscar nominations are announced later this month, it seems safe to say that “Stronger” has fallen off voters’ radars.
As the Oscar race grew crowded this past fall, with films like “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” emerging as awards heavyweights (and ultimately earning Golden Globes for best picture in their respective genres), discussion of “Stronger” as a bona fide contender noticeably cooled off. And Gyllenhaal, though praised for his performance, was being inched back from frontrunner to long shot even before critics started hailing James Franco (for “The Disaster Artist”), Daniel Day-Lewis (for “Phantom Thread”), and Gary Oldman (for “Darkest Hour”). Considering the cold shoulder Gyllenhaal’s received from both the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards — two major tests for Oscar hopefuls — it would be surprising to see his fortunes shift this late in the game.
Why didn’t “Stronger” go the distance? The answer, as is often the case in Hollywood, might have something to do with that pesky bottom line. The movie made just $6 million against its modest $30 million budget, rendering it a big box-office failure for Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. (For comparison’s sake, “Patriots Day” — another drama built around the 2013 bombing — made just over $50 million worldwide against a $45 million budget, a disappointing figure but at least one that broke even.) Though it’s not entirely unheard of for financial flops to find awards success, that usually requires continued buzz from critics and robust campaigning efforts from a studio — neither of which “Stronger” could harness.
If “Stronger” is truly out of the running, Massachusetts can expect to come up unusually short at the Oscars this year. In 2017, locals (well, those still amenable to Casey Affleck, at least) had “Manchester by the Sea” to cheer on; the year before, of course, saw “Spotlight” win best picture, drawing international attention to the Globe’s prized investigative unit in the process. Looking back a little further, the Bay State also struck gold in 2013 — with Ben Affleck’s best picture victor “Argo” — and 2011 — when five-times-nominated “The Fighter” earned supporting actor and actress trophies for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, and “The Town” nabbed a supporting actor nom for Jeremy Renner. This may just not be Boston’s year — though, especially considering that generous Mass. film tax credit, no one’s saying it’s unlikely next year could find the Bay State coming back, ahem, stronger.Isaac Feldberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @isaacfeldberg.