Each day at the Sundance Film Festival (January 20-30), indieWIRE is publishing a frequently updated dispatch from Park City.
Previous Days: DAY 1
9:00PM: Sundance Review | Peter Mullan Shines as Raging Alcoholic in “Tyrannosaur”: Eric Kohn is a fan of Paddy Considine’s “Tyrannosaur.” “Paddy Considine, an actor who launched his career in Shane Meadows’ “A Room For Romeo Brass,” makes an assured step behind the camera with “Tyrannosaur,” his first feature,” he writes. The discomfiting story of a middle-aged drunkard overcoming his booze-fueled woes, Considine announces his directorial vision with a morbid character piece sustained by two remarkably intense performances. Following up his acclaimed short “Dog Altogether,” Considine’s film strikes an alarming note in its very first scene and sustains that uneasiness throughout. More here.
6:30PM: Happy Sundance! or, 12 Reasons Why You Will Succeed: Entertainment attorney and occasional indieWIRE contributor Steven Beer: “Fact: There has never been a better time to make and produce independent films. In this space a year ago, I envisioned a “Renaissance Decade of Filmmaker Empowerment.” Today there are fewer boundaries preventing filmmakers from telling their stories. Similarly, there are more resources and options available to realize a project’s potential. In short, the state of the union is improving. Here is why we are encouraged about the prospects for creating, producing and distributing breakthrough independent films.” Check out his 12 reasons here.
5:20 PM: “The Ledge” Disappoints: The directorial debut of Matthew Chapman, U.S. Dramatic Competition title “The Ledge” disappointed when it debuted this afternoon at the Eccles Center in Park City. Opening with a man (Charlie Hunnam) perched on a high-rise ledge, and then going back to depict the complex set of events that lead up to it, the twisty drama features an impressive cast in Hunnam, Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson and Terrence Howard. And while the four offered decent performances (particularly Wilson), none of them could rise above a problematic and clunky script that overextends itself in trying to take on very big issues surrounding faith and religion, and their relationship to, among other things, homosexuality (Hunnam’s character has a gay roommate who for absolutely no narrative reason is briefly HIV positive). Well-intentioned to be sure, “The Ledge” sadly ends up a considerable and often condescending mess. [Peter Knegt]
4:05PM: Sundance has failed? These and other fighting words are available on today’s KPCW podcast of The Daily Buzz, hosted by The Film Society’s Lincoln Center. Today’s guests include Danny Glover, Liz Garber and James Schamus; want to guess the critic?
3:15PM: Sundance Daily Links: Day 2: Included today: Christopher Campbell at Spout offers his take on “Silent House,” Anne Thompson shares an exclusive trailer and poster from “The Nine Muses,” a Hollywood Reporter interview with rising star Elizabeth Olsen and Movieline reports on Sundance opener “Project Nim.” For full story click here.
2:30 PM: “Martha Marcy May Marlene” Goes Over Well: “Martha Marcy May Marlene” played to a wildly appreciative crowd at the Eccles this afternoon. The movie is an eerie, Dardenne brothers-like evocation of a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen, in a remarkably fragile debut) recovering from her experience in a cult led by a maniacal leader (John Hawkes, frightening as hell). During Q&A, an audience member said: “Wow. I’m still in freefall.” Director Sean Durkin studied real-life cults and responds: “Experiences like this take years to get over.” Audience member: “It’s brilliant.” The room appeared to agree. [Eric Kohn]
11:30 AM: “The Guard” Gets the Kohn Treatment: In Eric Kohn’s review of Sundance opener “The Guard,” from writer-director John Michael McDonaugh (brother of noted playwright and “In Bruges” director Martin), Kohn praised Brendan Gleeson’s lead performance, but wasn’t so ecstatic with the film itself. “Described by McDonaugh at the film’s world premiere as “a very black comedy with some sad bits,” the movie’s odd tone and rampant vulgarity makes it a tough sale,” he rounded up. “A few critics will defend its strange mix of wacky comedy and police work, but its biggest hope lies with the prospects of Gleeson’s performance generating strong word-of-mouth, which could help the movie in limited release.” For full review click here
11:00 AM: James Marsh’s “Project Nim” Reviewed: In his follow-up to his Oscar-winning “Man on Wire,” James Marsh’s latest, “Project Nim,” documents the moving saga of a monkey raised by families under the auspices of a scientific experiment. The film had its premiere last night at the Egyptian Theater and indieWIRE’s Eric Kohn was on the scene to offer up his take on the film. “Animal lovers and psychology buffs will flock to the movie based solely on curiosity about its premise, while audiences sympathetic to endangered animals may turn out in droves in much the same fashion that they did for “The Cove,”” he wrote. “With the right campaign, “Project Nim” could become a starting point for a public dialogue on animal rights.” For full review click here.
10:15 AM: Standing Ovation For Sundance Opener “Pariah”: “Black, lesbian, coming of age drama: three things you don’t say in a pitch,” said “Pariah” director/writer Dee Rees last night at the Eccles Theatre following the film’s world premiere. Rees’ feature debut is all three of these things.
Centered on a Alike, a 17-year-old girl grappling with her sexual identity in Brooklyn, “Pariah” is based on a short Rees shot as a thesis project while at New York University. The Sundance Institute came across the project and invited Rees to craft a feature from the material. Rees, an out lesbian, revealed to the crowd that “Pariah” is a semi-autobiographical tale. “I was going through my own outing process while writing the script,” she said.
Last night was a sort of homecoming for Rees who received a standing ovation once she took to the stage following the premiere, joined by her entire principal cast who looked elated to be in Park City. [Nigel M. Smith]
10:00 AM: “The Guard” Kicks Off The World Dramatic Competition: “I first came to Sundance in 1995 as a fan,” “The Guard” director John Michael McDonagh said before his film made its debut on opening night of the fest. “I came back in 2008 as a hanger-on, so it’s good to return as a filmmaker.”
McDonagh – who wrote 2003’s Heath Ledger-Naomi Watts starrer “Ned Kelly” – made his directorial debut with “The Guard,” which stars Brendan Gleeson as Gerry Boyle, an eccentric (to say the least) cop in small-town Ireland. When an international drug ring finds its ways to Boyle’s district, he’s forced to team up with an FBI agent (played by Don Cheadle) that doesn’t exactly share his way of working.
“‘The Guard’ is a very black comedy with some sad bits,” McDonagh said on stage before the film. “So hopefully there’s something in it for everybody.”
Many in the audience (which included Michael Moore) seemed to respond quite well to the film, with hysterical laughter accompanying the film’s many moments of inspired dark humor. While overall the film struggled to find its tone, it worked best as a study of Gleeson’s Gerry Boyle, a difficult character the actor pulls off exceptionally.
“I was really privileged to get the script and to be offered the part,” Gleeson said at the Q&A afterwards. “I’d have to be an idiot not to take it immediately. It’s just insanely written. It’s that kind of fine line between tragedy and comedy that you have to be careful about. It’s very easy to talk about, and very difficult to pull off, and this script did it.” [Peter Knegt]
9:30 AM: Interviews From Today’s Competition Titles: It’s a big day for competition titles at Sundance, with over a dozen films making their debuts in Park City today. indieWIRE previously published interviews with many of them:
Also check out this comprehensive guide to all of films playing at Sundance . Divided into individual programs, this guide offers (or will offer) links to reviews, interviews and criticWIRE grades from dozens of critics and bloggers heading to Park City this year. [Peter Knegt]