As I touched on in my roundup of the must-see films set to screen during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, there are many titles to choose from, but in looking over the ten films I am most looking forward to seeing I realized my interest is centered around character driven narratives (both funny and dramatic) and documentaries with their roots in music (no surprise there.) Of course with a full week at the festival, I am aiming to take in as many movies as I can, but these were the ten that stayed at the top of my list as I revised (and revised) my schedule.
From actors I have had my eye on to compelling stories that grabbed my attention, keep your browsers bookmarked to FSR as I review each of these films and discover whether I was right (or wrong) with my choices here.
The phrase, “Were you raised by wolves?” sounds like it may not be too far from how Ellis Whitman (Graham Phillips) grew up with his out-there mother (Vera Famiga) and faux father figure, Goat Man (David Duchovny.) But at fifteen Ellis decides to trade laid back deserts for an uptight prep school and the question isn’t so much how will he adapt to this new environment, but why he wanted this sudden change of scenery in the first place. Phillips is accompanied by an impressive cast (including Keri Russell and Modern Family’s Ty Burrell as the parental figures on the other side of the coin), but really, you had me at Duchovny playing someone known as “Goat Man.”
Paul Dano first grabbed my attention in as the voluntarily mute brother in Little Miss Sunshine followed by an unsettling performance in There Will Be Blood, supporting roles that never quite left my mind and had me anxiously awaiting the moment he would take the reigns and lead a film. For Ellen may sound like a story we have seen before (deadbeat musician dad who is forced to grow up), but with Dano at the helm I am sure his performance as a father suddenly forced to care will be anything but what we may have seen before.
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, Celeste and Jesse Forever looks to explore what happens after you marry your high school sweetheart – and eventually decide to divorce them. Jones plays Celeste while funnyman Andy Samberg takes on his a more serious leading man role as Jesse as the two navigate the waters of not only ending a marriage, but a relationship that everyone in their lives had come to know them by. It should be interesting to see not only Samberg’s performance, but also how Jones and McCormack do as first time writers.
Eli (Jesse Eisenberg) just wants to play the piano. Unfortunately, his addict of a mother (Melissa Leo) makes that dream a difficult one to realize when her drug-addled antics continuously get in his way. When Eli decides it is time to get his mother some help, he is taken hostage by two of her drug dealers (Tracy Morgan and Isiah Whitlock.) Eisenberg has proven he is a good straight man in comedies where things begin to spin out of control (see: Zombieland) and I am looking forward to seeing him play off Leo and Morgan in this madcap adventure.
Shut Up and Play the Hits
“When you start a band, do you imagine how it will end?” The trailer for Shut Up and Play the Hits, the documentary that follows LCD Soundsystem as they prepare for their final performance, gets right to the heart of the matter: what is it like when you consciously decide to end things (rather than having them end suddenly)? Is it better to control that fate or to have it suddenly trust upon you? While I am a fan of the band, I am more interested in finding out what brought them to such a momentous decision and what happens as that decision is carried out.