After proving herself an accomplished director and producer, Angelina Jolie is preparing to step back in front of the camera. The last time we saw her in a live-action role was in 2015’s By the Sea. Fortunately, her latest project, The Kept, sounds like a match made in (Best Actress-winning) heaven. According to Variety, the film is based on the James Scott novel of the same name, an intense thriller centering around murder and family strife in rural New York, all taking place at the turn of the 20th century.
Jolie will star in, and of course produce as well, the historical-fiction drama, which will be written by Alice Birch (Lady Macbeth). The Kept follows the story of a band of murderers who attack an isolated farm family in 1897, slaughtering almost everyone. Wife and mother Elspeth Howell returns home to find the bodies of her family, her husband and four of their children, with only her son Caleb surviving. Before she can take her remaining child and run, Elspeth is shot as well. The 12-year old Caleb must then take care of his wounded mother until she is finally strong enough to hunt down the men responsible — pursuing them deep into the frozen wilderness.
The film’s driving factor will obviously be revenge and the bond between the grieving mother and son. Perhaps this revenge-driven narrative will give the film its very own John Wick style success — with a period-piece twist. After all, everyone loves a good tale of comeuppance and the righting of grave wrongs. Jolie’s impressive resume of dramatic as well as action roles show that she’s capable of bringing us to tears while also skillfully wielding a weapon. What more could you ask for?
The actress did get her start in gritty drama as well as action, from her breakout roles in both Girl, Interrupted (for which her harrowing portrayal of Lisa earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2000) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. She’s also further shown her chops for intense action sequences in 2005’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith and later in 2010’s Salt. It’s not hard to see the actress taking these action hero characters and transforming into the tragic yet bloodthirsty mother figure The Kept demands.
Most importantly, at least for Jolie’s career, is how much The Kept smacks of Oscar-bait. Its storyline and literary background are already the perfect recipe for the Academy, coupled with Angelina Jolie-infused star power. Beyond that, though, the period-piece setting and familial tragedy, along with the protagonists’ desperate and avenging scrape through the wilderness, it feels as if the film could end up reminiscent on some level to another Oscar favorite from a couple years back…
Yes, I mean The Revenant. Obviously, there were a lot more elements to that film that made it stand out at the 2016 Oscars besides just a good story. Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s directing commanded major attention, while the visionary cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki completely stole the show. But the similarities and motivations behind both this film and The Kept, along with their A-list actors headlining them, help point towards the latter’s possible success at the Academy Awards. Not to go completely conspiracy theory on the subject, but it’s true that The Revenant was also based on a novel (though also based on a real historical figure, adding to its clout).
Ideally, The Kept will be more of a success as a movie rather than just earning Angelina Jolie her first Oscar for Best Actress (though she definitely deserves it). It would be refreshing if Jolie and the rest of the team behind the project could create a highly personal film with a good look at grief and motherhood, really pulling out what the actress and writer are capable of. Jolie’s time behind the camera, seeing a different perspective on filmmaking, has probably only made her all the more formidable a performer. The Kept could perhaps become a gritty non-mainstream adaptation instead of falling into the Oscar-bait pit.
Jolie is in the process of shooting Come Away at the moment, which she will also star in and produce. That film is said to be a prequel to the classic stories of “Peter Pan” and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Her other upcoming projects include the anticipated Maleficent 2, set to finally premiere in 2020. There’s no word on when The Kept will begin production, but clearly, it will be one to keep an eye on for further casting announcements and plot details.