You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Will “Half Nelson” Overcome Odds to Become Indie Success?

Will "Half Nelson" Overcome Odds to Become Indie Success?

When “Half Nelson,” one of the best American independent films of the year, opens today in theaters, will it become the latest low-budget American drama to fall by the way side next to celebrity-driven superindies such as “Little Miss Sunshine“? Or will it defy the odds and reach an audience hungry for strong performances and compelling psychological depth? While Ryan Gosling delivers a fiercely dedicated performance as a crack-addicted teacher, does he stand a chance against the marketing machines of News Corp (especially since he isn’t willing to whore himself out to the press with a bizillon interviews)?

For instance, last weekend, I saw a film at prime Brooklyn arthouse BAM Rose Cinemas and one of the first things I noticed upon entry was that the entire staff were wearing bright yellow T-shirts with a slogan associated with “Little Miss Sunshine.” “Why are you all wearing those T-shirts?” I asked. “They were given out free on Friday when the movie opened,” replied a ticket-taker. “You want one?”

And what of the other movies also playing in the theater? While “Half Nelson” is not showing at BAM (not yet, at least), will the staff all wear “Half Nelson” T-shirts when it does? What about the other movies that were playing there last weekend? How come the staff didn’t wear T-shirts for Jean Renoir’s “Boudu Saved from Drowning.”

The battle to stay on art-house screens is tougher than ever (at BAM, for instance, that little indie called “World Trade Center” is taking up a valuable screen) and terrific American films are not finding the time or space to find their audience. This isn’t new news, but when I think of other strong films (not even foreign-language ones) such as “Keane” and “Forty Shades of Blue,” which virtually no one saw in theaters, I agonize over the state of specialized distribution and the way studios have skillfully orchestrated a major shift in the tastes of art-house audiences.

This Article is related to: Uncategorized


Josh Boelter

Personally, I plan to see both movies, provided they both come to Ann Arbor or Detroit. I haven’t looked to see if Half Nelson is coming here (Sunshine is here this weekend) but I suspect it will. But Sunshine will be available in a lot of places where Nelson won’t.


The screenings of Four Eyed Monsters & The Puffy Chair I went to were well attended.
And this year we see in theaters: I Am A Sex Addict, Mutual Appreciation, Four Eyed, Puffy, LOL, Head Trauma, Chain & several other real indies – certainly not at the Hollywood level of availability that Sunshine is being rolled out at, but it looks like this is a pretty good year for indies in theaters.

I am sure Half Nelson will appeal to a lot of people who like that kind of flick – drama, teacher’s story, dude from a better off background meets poor kids (but w/ a twist – he’s on drugs) & the indie film press is certainly 100% behind it, but Nelson is not likely to have as wide an appeal as Sunshine ’cause Sunshine is a pretty neat comedy, a feel good movie for a lot of people. A better flick to compare Nelson with/to determine its relative success or failure may be an indie drama that tells a similar story.

– Sujewa

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *