Experience Sundance 2012: The Wall, Fried Chicken, and Goodbyes

By  · Published on January 28th, 2012

No matter how much fun a festival is, there inevitably comes a time when a festival-goer reaches a wall, a point where exhaustion and stress and bad food and frustrations all settle in and refuse to budge. I met my wall this morning, my alarm blaring away at 7:15AM as I lay slack-jawed and stunned in bed. Morning. More. More things. I did the only thing I could do. I got up.

The first stop of this bleak morning? The coffee bar at Sundance HQ! Take me away, iced non-fat mocha! The second stop? The press office at Sundance HQ! Where I embarrassed myself by asking for a ticket to tomorrow night’s Closing Night Party. I was gently told that I had completely misread the email about tickets, and that they were not available until tomorrow morning. Slack-jawed again. I think that I just walked away without saying a damn thing to the helpful volunteer that helped me. From there, I stumbled over to Eccles to see Hello I Must Be Going with James Rocchi. The film was really an unexpected delight – a formulaic indie flick about lives redirected that’s elevated by strong performances and a lot of humor that’s rooted in truth. I was revived!

Until I had to haul my ass to a shuttle, anxious to make my next screening all the way at the Egyptian on Main St. After a huff-and-puff run up the hill (thanks to both the high altitude and the incline, even I was a tad winded), I found a seriously great seat at the lovely, old school Egyptian Theatre. I celebrated my doing total violence against a bag of potato chips and a Diet Coke. Violence. And why the puffing, huffing, and chip-murdering? To see Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights, one of my most anticipated films of the festival. A gorgeous visual feast, it’s a sumptuous and sensual film, just heaven on the eyes. Emotionally, though, it’s a toughie – for the sole reason that the characters of Cathy and Heathcliff are awful, selfish, wretched people. Their love story is one of destruction of all kinds, and Arnold rendered it in a way that is true to its source material.

After Wuthering? Fried chicken back at HQ! I spotted this lunch special back on Saturday and have been waiting for it ever since. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy. It was heart-clogging and delicious. Four out of six at our table (myself, Allison, Dan Mecca, Katey Rich, Jordan Hoffman, and Matt Patches) got it, and no one left with an empty belly.

After stuffing ourselves silly, Jordan and I made the run over to Eccles to check out Smashed. Jordan Raup and Germain Lussier claimed some amazing seats for us in the theater’s front section and I settled in for a tale of love gone awry by way of alcoholism. The film benefits immensely from the lead performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, but it’s otherwise a bit slim. Clocking in at age 85 minutes, it shouldn’t surprise that a fade to black, followed by a swift jump forward in time rounds out the film’s abbreviated final third.

After all that? Well, I think there was a shuttle and I think I laid down for a bit and then it was back on a shuttle and then there was a breakfast sandwich and then suddenly I was seated at the Marc for my next film.

The Queen of Versailles is, hands down, the best documentary I’ve seen at the festival. The film comes from Lauren Greenfield, director of Sundance doc Thin, and it chronicles the (controversial words coming) rags-to-riches-to-rags story of David and Jackie Siegel. The Florida couple is famous for building America’s biggest single family residence, a veritable palace based on Versailles. David is one of the world’s biggest time share owners and developers in the world, and the film starts off documenting their wild lifestyle, until it takes a turn in the aftermath of 2008’s market collapse. It’s hilarious and wacky and infuriating and a hell of a watch. Review to come.

As it was the last night of Sundance for a number of our friends, we decided to celebrate one last hurrah together. A trek up Main St. to a condo for an “end of Sundance” party, boxes of beer in hand, and well, I’ll leave it at that.

Tomorrow: Picking up party tickets, 2 Days In New York, moving hotels, West of Memphis, and the Closing Night Party.

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Snuggle up with the rest of our Sundance 2012 coverage

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