Although it just started last night, by the end of this weekend many questions about this year’s Sundance Film Festival will have been answered. There are the obvious ones, of course: Will the buyers still reeling from the financial meltdown be willing to open their wallets? Will the big names show up? Will anybody actually boycott the fest because of that whole Proposition 8 thing? But the question we’ll be looking to answer is far more important, and it goes directly to the credibility of the fest: Did fest director Geoff Gilmore really mean what he said about The Greatest in the Sundance film guide?
By necessity, the descriptions in the film guide, written by the fest’s programmers, usually consist of enthusiastically vague descriptors that don’t signify all that much: Movies have “subtly nuanced performances” (as opposed, we can only assume, to overtly nuanced performances), or “poetic execution,” or “a sense of style,” or whatever. However, for Shana Feste’s debut feature, The Greatest, a family drama starring Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon (so it wasn’t like anyone had to do a whole lot of selling), Gilmore himself just cut to the chase: “This is one of the standout works of this festival and is as fine a debut as we can present.” For a competition film, no less. In film-guide speak, that basically translates as: “Fuck you if you don’t like this movie.”
Was Gilmore serious? Maybe it was just getting late and they had already used “keenly observed performances” and “delicately textured cinematography” in other descriptions. Or maybe he’s just testing us, to see if we dare disagree with him. Or maybe — gasp — the movie might actually be great. (This, by the way, would be awesome.) Either way, Sundance finds out this weekend, when The Greatest screens.