Piers Marchant at Sundance, Day Two

January 20, 2018

Sundance 2018: Day 2


Number of Films: 3
Best Movie of the Day: American Animals

Rust: A Brazilian film about the perils of teen social media, and the ways in which we can only suppress our guilt for so long, Aly Muritiba’s film begins promisingly, with bubbly Tati (Tifanny Dopke) and angsty Renet (Giovanni de Lorenzi) meeting one night at a school field trip and beginning the spark of romance. But when Tati loses her phone that evening, it sets in motion an all too familiar series of horrific events, when a sex video she took with her ex-boyfriend suddenly emerges amongst her guffawing schoolmates. Desperate to find how the video was leaked, she confronts Renet, who denies any involvement, which leaves Tati with nowhere to go and no good solution. The second part, which focuses on Renet, spending a long weekend at a rustic beach house with his family, attempts to show us the lengths the kid will go to in order to avoid the guilt of what he did. The thing is, his character never makes much sense – it seems a bit of a stretch for a suffering artistic soul to pull the absolute most bro-iest of moves for no particular good reason – and despite Muritibia’s attempts to make him seem sympathetic, it’s hard to feel anything other than cool disdain for him.

American Animals: Whereas it’s true the true-crime format has largely been spent over the last few years, Bart Layton’s factual film about a quartet of young men who convince themselves to pull off a ridiculous heist attempt of rare books from a small Kentucky college, plays with the conventions of the genre in thoroughly winning ways. The four lads – played as young men by Barry Keoghan, Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, and Jared Abrahamson; and as rueful adults by the actual original foursome, in deliberate single-camera interviews – base their scheme largely off of viewing heist movies and TV shows, and the results are predictably horrific, but Layton isn’t particularly interested in building up the suspense of the outcome, we know almost from the start that the plan was a disaster. What is fascinating is watching the tension between the kids formulating this nonsense plan and the adults having had to live with their choices and regretting the hell out of them. Smartly shot, and well-cast, the film bubbles with comic energy but laces the laughs with real pain and regret.

Juliet, Naked: While it’s true I can’t hold the adaptations of his films against him, I’m really starting to wonder whether or not I could stand reading Nick Hornsby’s novels based on what I’ve seen on the screen. This film, from Jesse Peretz, crosses over from barely watchable to positively cloying and never finds its way back again. Rose Byrne plays Annie, a sweet, responsible woman living with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), her boyfriend of 15 years, who obsessively details and speculates on the career of his favorite musician, Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), a burgeoning star in the ‘90s, who vanished shortly after the release of his first album. For reasons I can’t bear to get into, Annie begins an unlikely email correspondence with Crowe, who contacts her shortly after she publishes a negative review of his work on her boyfriend’s fawning site, which eventually develops into a possible romance. Naturally, Crowe is an irresponsible yet lovable sort of cad, who has multiple children from several different mothers, and naturally, his youngest child is a six-year-old angel with rock star hair and the type of impossibly wonderful disposition that only someone who had no actual experience of children might have conjured up.

Tomorrow: I kick things of with Gus Van Sant’s hotly anticipated Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot; move over to Christina Choe’s intriguing sounding Nancy; switch gears with Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade; and close out with Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, and her welcome return to Sundance.

Into the frigid climes and rarefied thin air of the spectacular Utah Mountains, I’ve arrived in order to document some of the sense and senselessness of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Over the next week, armed with little more than a heavy parka and a bevy of blank reporter’s notebooks, I’ll endeavor to watch as many movies as I can and report my findings.

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