Another day, another roundup of the coverage and reviews coming out of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Today, three films that have caught critics’ attention: “Cyrus,” “The Company Men,” and “Please Give.”
“Think of ‘Cyrus’ as the Duplasses for the masses,” proclaims Variety’s Peter Debruge, “as the keenly observant sibs upgrade their scrappy, relationship-based formula to work with movie stars and a Fox Searchlight-size budget without sacrificing the raw, naturalistic feel of their first two features, ‘The Puffy Chair’ and ‘Baghead.'” indieWIRE’s Peter Knegt calls the film a “bizarrely hilarious, largely improvised dark comedy” that “follows John (Reilly), a down-on-his luck film editor whose life takes a significant and strange turn when he becomes romantically involved with Molly (Tomei), a woman with an unusually close bond with her 21-year old son Cyrus (Hill).” Fox Searchlight plans to release the film later this year.
Comparing “Cyrus” to their previous films, Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson writes that “It might initially seem as if ‘Cyrus’ represents a return to pure comedy, but this seemingly broad farce soon turns darker and more intriguing.”
“There’s a light, effortless quality to the film,” writes Drew McWeeny over at his HitFlix blog. “You never see any of the typical mechanics of plot. Each scene is polished, burnished by both the improvisation process during shooting and an exhaustive, precise editing schedule that they enjoyed on the film. This is a film as wise about the relationships between men and women as Albert Brooks in the ‘Modern Romance’/’Lost In America’ phase of his career. This is a grown-up movie, and yet paralyzingly funny in places. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s not shot through with the casual misanthropic horror of a ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.'”
Anne Thompson calls “Cyrus” “a bizarre, intimate, unpredictable family drama that is believable, real and often hilarious.”
“The cast alone is reason enough to see ‘The Company Men,’ the directorial debut of veteran TV producer John (‘ER’) Wells,” writes Noel Murray in the A.V. Club. “Ben Affleck stars as a corporate sales manager who loses his job after a merger and has to enter the netherworld of outplacement services, while clinging tenaciously to a life of privilege he can no longer afford. Chris Cooper plays a company lifer who sweats every round of downsizing, while Tommy Lee Jones plays a bigwig trying to fight for the soul of the business he helped start, Craig T. Nelson plays a boss more concerned with business news headlines than his employees, Maria Bello plays a ruthless HR rep, and Kevin Costner plays Affleck’s blue-collar, corporate-hating brother-in-law. Those actors—and the wonderfully moody Roger Deakins cinematography—effectively sell a Wells script that over-explains everything, and that treats the story like a set of bullet points about the perniciousness of stockholder-driven business decisions.”
“The ensemble cast full of heavyweights doing what they do best is really what drives this film and makes it worth your time because, let’s face it, we’ve lived with and in this economy for awhile now, and we really don’t need to watch fictional characters deal with the after-effects of downsizing since most of us have already been there, done that,” agrees Erik Davis.
Voice Film’s Karina Longworth: “‘The Company Men’ is the kind of Oscar-ready adult drama that movie studios used to make, and now mostly don’t. Just a few years ago, it would have been produced by a major conglomerate and released just after Thanksgiving; if it was part of this year’s Oscar race, Chris Cooper might actually give Christoph Waltz a run for his Best Supporting Actor money. But Hollywood has changed as the fortunes of the nation have, and now Sundance — the film festival that has branded itself as a showcase for ‘cinematic rebellion’ — is also the only refuge left for the kind of film that used to fit comfortably in the middle of the movie industry. It’s a new global economy after all.”
Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman calls the film “a shrewd, juicy, timely, and terrifically engrossing big-cast Sundance drama.”
“In her own quiet way, writer/director Nicole Holofcener’s films constitute a brand of comedy as easily recognizable as Judd Apatow’s,” writes IFC’s Matt Singer. “Anyone familiar with her work can recognize her films by their low-key approach to story, their female-centric ensembles and insight into the dynamics of relationships between women, and by their flair for asking uncomfortable questions of the characters and of the audience. I guess in this analogy Catherine Keener, who’s appeared in all four of her films to date, would be Holofcener’s Seth Rogen.”
In Holofcener’s latest, “Please Give,” “Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt play antique brokers waiting for their 91-year-old neighbor to die so they can buy her apartment and expand their own,” writes the A.V. Club’s Noel Murray. “In the meantime, they try to stay on cordial terms with the cantankerous old lady’s granddaughters: shy mammography tech Rebecca Hall and bronzed, bitchy spa worker Amanda Peet. The movie is short, and largely uneventful; people flirt, people bicker, people lie, people worry… I can understand why some people might find it faintly distasteful to make a movie about guilty rich folks who give themselves permission to splurge. Me, I appreciate the honesty. With Holofcener, I always do.”
The LA Times’ Betsy Sharkey: “‘Please Give’ is a lovely bit of humanity that Holofcener has given us, suffused with humor, irony, love, disappointments and tears — kind of like life.” Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir calls the film “an edgy, somber, beautifully written Manhattan fable of guilt, shame, infidelity, death and real estate.”
Editorial Assistant Andy Lauer is part of the indieWIRE team covering the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
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