Magnolia Pictures started out Sundance 2012 strong, buying doc “Queen of Versailles,” and then went on a buying spree. Early Thursday, the distributor’s genre arm Magnet Releasing picked up North American rights to the horror anthology “V/H/S” for north of $1 million.
And Saturday, Magnolia acquired three more films, scooping up North American rights to French actress-writer-director Julie Delpy’s “2 Days in New York,” her raucous follow-up to “2 Days In Paris,” starring Delpy, her father Albert and Chris Rock and produced by Christophe Mazodier. CAA made the sale. The family comedy earned mixed reviews at Sundance.
The company also acquired North American rights to Ry Russo-Young’s ensemble drama “Nobody Walks,” written by Russo-Young and Lena Dunham (“Tiny Furniture”) and starring John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby and Rosemarie DeWitt. The dramatic competition entry premiered Sunday. Magnolia will release the film in 2012 via its Ultra VOD program, followed by a theatrical release in major markets, much as it did with Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia.”
Produced by Super Crispy Entertainment’s Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling, who won last year’s Sundance Grand Jury Award for “Like Crazy,” the movie was also produced by Alicia Van Couvering and executive produced by Audrey and Zygi Wilf. “All of us at Magnolia fell in love with ‘Nobody Walks,’” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “Ry Russo-Young has taken a big step forward with this exquisitely executed film laced with humor and humanity. The cast is excellent across the board and Olivia Thirlby’s incandescent performance showcases a star in the making.”
Krasinski plays Peter, a Hollywood sound designer who’s agreed to help Martine (Thirlby) with her experimental art film as a favor to his wife (DeWitt). Martine, a beautiful and driven 23-year-old artist, comes to stay in the family’s pool house at their posh Silver Lake home, and her arrival ignites raw emotions and desires throughout the entire family.
Deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions Dori Begley and Submarine’s Josh Braun and Lawrence Kopeikin of Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein & Kohner and Elsa Ramo.
Reminiscent of 2010 Sundance breakout “The Kids Are All Right,” Ry Russo-Young’s “Nobody Walks” captures the fallout of an open-minded Los Angeles family shaken up by the arrival of a sexy outsider, only this time, it’s the outsider whose perspective takes precedence. A fine cast and co-writer Lena Dunham’s wit give such navel gazing a palatable, commercially viable shape, with Olivia Thirlby playing a New Yorker invited to stay with friends of friends in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood while she puts the finishing touches on a film project. There’s something about her that men find irresistible, and the resulting tension soon disrupts the delicate ecosystem.
Though only 85 minutes long, Nobody Walks rambles, jumping from vignette to vignette with nothing in the way of narrative drive or sparkling dialogue to justify its existence. (Case-in-point: Dylan McDermott shows up for one largely superfluous scene as DeWitt’s rocker ex, then is never seen again.) What this movie does have is some insight into the point at which flirtation shades into something more dangerous and potentially destructive. But even there—and taking into account the movie’s title, which refers to Thirlby’s habit of hoofing it in car-obsessed L.A.—the film feels like one long excuse, explaining why a self-absorbed young woman might put an entire family at risk by having an affair with a married man. It’s her fault, but it’s also not her fault, if you get what she means.
Magnolia Pictures has also acquired US rights to writer-director Craig Zobel’s true-story thriller “Compliance.” The film stirred controversy at its Sundance debut last week. Magnolia was tracking the filmmaking, having released Zobel’s Sundance 2007 rookie feature”Great World of Sound.” “Compliance is a major step forward,” said Magnolia’s Eamonn Bowles, who plans a theatrical release later this year, “an artful, remarkably acted, provocative thriller that will stir up passionate arguments and conversations with audiences.”
“Compliance” was produced by Zobel, Sophia Lin, Lisa Muskat, Tyler Davidson and Theo Sena. Synopsis below.
Based on astonishing true events, COMPLIANCE is the story of Sandra (Ann Dowd), an overworked manager at a fast food restaurant, who receives a call from a police officer accusing one of her employees, a teenage girl named Becky (Dreama Walker), of stealing from a customer. Taking the officer at his word, Sandra detains Becky, setting into motion a nightmarish scenario that quickly spirals out of control.
The deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions Dori Begley with John Sloss and Dana O’Keefe of Cinetic Media.
In taut, gripping and deeply disturbing fashion, writer-director Craig Zobel measures the depths to which rational individuals will sink to obey a self-anointed authority figure in “Compliance.” Based on a series of real-life prank calls reported at fast-food restaurants nationwide, this stealth psychological horror film is at once tough to turn away from and, by design, extremely difficult to watch as it grimly assesses the human capacity for sheeplike naivete under duress. Received at its Sundance premiere with a smattering of outraged boos, it’s a surefire conversation-starter that, with smart handling, could prove a boon to a daring distrib.
Among feature films, the phrase “Based on True Events” often brings to mind sentimental dramas or lurid tales ripped from the headlines. So outlandish and disturbing is the backstory to Craig Zobel’s sophomore feature “Compliance,” however, that it’s easy to wish that it were entirely fictional.
After immediately provoking intense feelings both positive and negative among audience members at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, “Compliance” seems destined to become a lightning rod for controversy, but its success is so great in depicting the damage that can be done through complicity and inaction that the movie’s takeaway message may eventually be confused with the technique used in order to create it.