Picks and Pans Review: Toronto Film Festival: The Oscar Race Begins

updated 09/22/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/22/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Every September, Hollywood studios trek to Toronto and launch movies with performances they hope could become contenders for Oscar gold. Several popular female stars glinted brightly at the 2008 festival. Here's a report:

PAR FOR THE CORSET
Keira Knightley, who earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Pride & Prejudice (2005), again dons corsets and ornate gowns (as well as towering wigs) for The Duchess. She flirts and suffers elegantly in a sumptuous biopic about the scandal-filled life of Georgiana Spencer, an 18th-century beauty and the Duchess of Devonshire. Opens Sept. 19.

IN RECOVERY
In the meandering Rachel Getting Married, Anne Hathaway gives a haunting performance as a fragile woman desperately trying to reconnect with her family after a long stint in rehab. Debra Winger, seen too little of late, shines as her emotionally absent mother. Opens Oct. 3.

BEEN THERE, WON THAT
Previous Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger both offer searing performances in The Burning Plain, a tragic drama from the screenwriter of Babel. No release date set.

BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME
Unlikely to be nominated is a wan Jennifer Aniston in Management, a total misfire of a comedy. She's stuck playing straight woman to Steve Zahn's would-be wacky—but mostly just stupefyingly dumb—slacker.

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