Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock have each won an Academy Award for a performance on the big screen. But now the two stars are generating buzz for appearing on the small screen, in productions on streaming services. Roberts appears in the 10-part Homecoming on Amazon Prime, while Bullock can be seen in the Netflix film, Bird Box. While the two-hour Bird Box can be viewed in one sitting, Homecoming, which clocks in at more than 10 hours, requires a larger commitment. Each provides a terrific platform for two actresses who can pull in large audiences.
Julia Roberts in Homecoming (Photo Credit: Jessica Brooks courtesy of Amazon Prime)
Roberts plays Heidi Bergman, a counselor who works at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, a residential program which purports to help soldiers adjust to civilian life. Most of Bergman’s sessions are with Walter Cruz (Stephan James), a new arrival who survived an IED attack that killed one of his friends. Initially, Bergman believes in the process which involves not only counseling Cruz, but supervising his medication. Walter’s mother, Gloria (Marianne Jean-Bastiste), becomes suspicious of the treatment facility when she is not allowed to visit her son. Soon, Bergman becomes suspicious, too.
There are flash forwards to Bergman’s life four years later. She’s living with her mother, Ellen (Sissy Spacek), working as a waitress, and has no memory of her time at Homecoming. She also doesn’t recognize her former supervisor, Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale), who seeks out Heidi to make sure she has no recollection of what went on at the facility. Homecoming’s true purpose is revealed slowly and while there are no big surprises, the tension is enough to keep the viewer watching. Homecoming has generated interest not only for Roberts’ role, but also because it’s based on a podcast that was created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg. Already the success of Homecoming has led to producers scrutinizing other podcasts for possible hits.
Sandra Bullock in Bird Box (Photo courtesy of Netflix)
Bird Box, a post-apocalyptic thriller, is based on a novel by Josh Malerman. Like Homecoming, Bird Box boasts a terrific supporting cast – BD Wong, Jacki Weaver, Sarah Paulsen, and John Malkovich. Bullock plays Malorie, a mom trying to save her two children from supernatural forces. Anyone who doesn’t cover their eyes winds up choosing suicide. Malorie has to convince her two children to stay blindfolded, while guiding them into a boat and down a river, evading encounters by those who try to get survivors to remove their blindfolds. Along the way, Malorie loses her sister, Jess (Paulsen), as well as her partner, Tom (Trevante Rhodes).
Despite some negative reviews, the film has been viewed more than 45 million times and become a cultural phenomenon. Unfortunately, there has been an unforeseen consequence – people taking the “Bird Box” challenge, blindfolding themselves and trying to perform tasks, like crossing a street or driving blindfolded. Many have posted their actions on YouTube. Netflix has issued a strong warning. Will it be enough? We hope so.
Top: Sandra Bullock in Bird Box (Photo courtesy of Netflix)