As good red-blooded capitalists, we at The Playlist like nothing more than stories about people buying things for millions of dollars, and as such, the last week of January is one of our favorite times of year — it’s the time when acquisition executives descend in their hordes on Park City for the Sundance Film Festival in the hope of picking up the next indie breakout hit. Whether the films turn out to be the next “Little Miss Sunshine” or the next “Hamlet 2” won’t be seen for months, for the most part, but it’s certainly been a busier market than in recent years.
The starry comedy “My Idiot Brother” is the biggest seller so far, but a diverse list of films including “Like Crazy,” “Homework,” “Silent House,” “Marcie Martha May Marlene,” “Circumstance” and “Life In A Day” have all been bought up, and they were joined overnight by three new pictures, all of which seem to have the potential to be crossover hits.
Having dropped $6 million on “My Idiot Brother,” The Weinstein Company have now topped it, according to The Hollywood Reporter, with $8 million for “The Details,” a dark comedy marking the long-awaited return of “Mean Creek” director Jacob Estes. The film, which follows a cheating doctor in suburban Seattle, and his attempts to rid his backyard of raccoons, has an impressive cast toplined by Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks, as well as a widely acclaimed performance from Laura Linney, with Dennis Haysbert, Kerry Washington and Ray Liotta rounding out the cast.
The reviews haven’t been entirely positive so far: /Film has the most positive take, with Screen Daily and Collider both mixed/negative, but with a cast as starry as this one, it makes sense that the film’s gone for such a hefty sum. Between this and “My Idiot Brother,” as well as the success in the Oscar nominations for “The King’s Speech,” 2011 seems to mark a firm return to form for one-time Sundance silverbacks the Weinsteins, who only 18 months ago seemed at serious risk of going under.
Deadline also reports that “The Guard,” the Irish action comedy from John Michael McDonagh, the brother of “In Bruges” writer-director Martin, has sold the US and Latin American distribution rights to Sony Pictures Classics for a seven-figure sum. The dark comedy stars Brendan Gleeson, in what is by most accounts a storming performance, as a vulgar, racist Irish cop who reluctantly aids an FBI agent (Don Cheadle) in bringing down a drug ring. Again the reviews are mixed — Cinematical called it “very smart and funny,” while our indieWire colleague Eric Kohn was less convinced, although he still praised Gleeson’s performance — but the near A-list cast, which also includes Mark Strong, and the genre material should mean it’ll do well if marketed right.
Finally a more widely praised picture, the sci-fi film “Another Earth,” the fiction debut from documentarian Mike Cahill, has, according to The Wrap, also found a home, joining “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Homework” at Fox Searchlight for somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million, with the company beating out Focus Features and The Weinstein Company. The film stars former investment banker Brit Marling, who co-wrote the script, and “Lost” star William Mapother as a student released from prison after a hit-and-run accident and a grieving father who come together after a mirror version of Earth appears in the sky.
Not everyone was convinced, with Gordon and the Whale calling the film “boring,” but there are enough raves, including one from The Hollywood Reporter, to suggest that this is certainly one to watch later in the year. None of these films have release dates yet, but we imagine they’ll resurface sometime in the second half of 2011.