Robert Downey Jr.’s The Judge opened the Toronto International Film Festival Thursday night, but critics appear undecided on the obvious Oscar bait film.

The Judge stars Downey as lawyer Hank Palmer, a cocky hot-shot who makes a nice living representing rich clients, who goes home to smalltown Indiana after his mother dies and must confront his estranged father, Joseph (Robert Duvall). Joseph, a county judge, is on trail for murder and refuses his son’s attempts to help.

The Toronto audience met the drama, produced by Downey and his wife, Susan Downey, with a standing ovation Thursday night, and the film practically screams Oscar. However, critics are skeptical as to The Judge’s awards potential, mostly due to its formulaic, overly dramatic storyline. Furthermore, though The Judge’s storyline is reminiscent of classic Hollywood films, it is a far cry from the social movement, or issue films that tend to sweep come Awards season.

It seems The Judge is less of a great film and more of an Oscar vehicle for Downey and Duvall, who have already been deemed early front-runners for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively – “middlebrow awards bait with the potential for landing [Downey] the Big One,” described Indiewire’s Matt Mueller.

David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) directed the soapy drama, which also features Vera Farmiga, Dax Shepard and Vincent D’Onofrio, but critics agree that the film belongs to Downey and Duvall.

“There are several father-son scenes of considerable intensity that ask both Downey and Duvall to go places they have seldom gone onscreen, physically and emotionally. Even when the circumstances seem contrived, the actors mine moments of truth that resonate with raw emotion,” wrote critic Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter.

The Judge isn't the only TIFF film with early Oscar buzz. Reese Witherspoon has been attracting major award buzz for her turn in Wild, which will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival Monday, Sept. 8.

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