The indie circuit is full of varied offerings, but you can’t deny that the Sundance Film Festival prefers a certain kind of movie: humanist dramadies about emotionally unavailable people. The slate of movies in this year’s dramatic competition is no different: Films like Brigsby Bear and Landline feel like they could have screened at Park City anytime in the last 15 years. But what’s the Sundance-iest movie of Sundance 2017? That’s what we’re here today to decide.
Here’s how we’re scoring:
Every film that features an actor trying to switch up their image (say, a dramatic actor going comedic, or a comedic actor going dramatic) earns one point.
Every film where the main character is a white person stricken with ennui earns three points.
Every film that depicts a dysfunctional family living in Brooklyn earns three points.
Every film that makes a stab toward some sort of ineffable “now-ness” earns one point.
Each film that investigates important social issues earns one point.
Every film where it isn’t clear whether the movie is a drama or a comedy earns two points.
Every film that seems like it might involve some sort of impromptu musical jam session earns five points.
Let’s run down the contenders!
Band Aid: “A couple who can’t stop fighting embark on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band.” Starring Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, Susie Essman, Hannah Simone, and Ravi Patel. Written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones.
Points: One point for Lister-Jones as a director-who’s-also-an-actor. Five points for the inevitable jam session. Three points for a white couple stricken with ennui.
Beach Rats: “An aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn struggles to escape his bleak home life and navigate questions of self-identity, as he balances his time between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend, and older men he meets online.” Starring Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, and Neal Huff. Written and directed by Eliza Hittman.
Points: One point for a dysfunctional family in Brooklyn. Three points for white main character stricken with ennui.
Brigsby Bear: “Brigsby Bear Adventures is a children’s TV show produced for an audience of one: James. When the show abruptly ends, James’s life changes forever, and he sets out to finish the story himself.” Starring Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, and Michaela Watkins. Written by Kevin Costello and Kyle Mooney. Directed by Dave McCary.
Points: Two points for two comedic actors going dramatic (Mooney, Walsh), two points for being a dramedy, and three points for a white protagonist stricken with ennui.
Burning Sands: ”Deep into a fraternity’s Hell Week, a favored pledge is torn between honoring a code of silence or standing up against the intensifying violence of underground hazing.” Starring Trevor Jackson, Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Tosin Cole, DeRon Horton, and Trevante Rhodes. Written by Christine Berg and Gerard McMurray. Directed by Gerard McMurray.
Points: The plot makes Burning Sands sound like this year’s version of Goat, which played at last year’s festival. It earns zero points for that, but does earn one point for tackling the important issue of fraternity hazing.
Crown Heights: “When Colin Warner is wrongfully convicted of murder, his best friend, Carl King, devotes his life to proving Colin’s innocence. Adapted from This American Life, this is the incredible true story of their harrowing quest for justice.” Cast: Keith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul, Bill Camp, Nestor Carbonell, Amari Cheatom. Written and directed by Matt Ruskin.
Points: One point for an early stab at “now” genre of true crime, one point for Nnamdi Asomugha attempting to transition from professional football player to professional athlete. Despite the Brooklyn-y title, it gets zero points for not featuring a dysfunctional family.
Golden Exits: “The arrival of a young foreign girl disrupts the lives and emotional balances of two Brooklyn families.” Starring Emily Browning, Adam Horovitz, Mary-Louise Parker, Lily Rabe, Jason Schwartzman, and Chloë Sevigny. Written and directed by Alex Ross Perry.
Points: Three points for one white main character stricken with ennui. Six points for two dysfunctional Brooklyn families.
The Hero: “Lee, a former Western film icon, is living a comfortable existence lending his golden voice to advertisements and smoking weed. After receiving a lifetime achievement award and unexpected news, Lee reexamines his past, while a chance meeting with a sardonic comic has him looking to the future.” Starring Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, and Katharine Ross. Directed by Brett Haley. Written by Brett Haley and Marc Basch.
Points: Three points for casting Sam Elliott as a cowboy stricken with ennui.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore: ”When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves, alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals.” Starring Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye. Written and directed by Macon Blair.
Points: Three points for a white woman suffering from ennui. Two points for being unclear whether it’s a drama or a comedy.
Ingrid Goes West: “A young woman becomes obsessed with an Instagram lifestyle blogger and moves to Los Angeles to try and befriend her in real life.” Starring Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, and Billy Magnussen. Written by Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith. Directed by Matt Spicer.
Points: Three points for the white person stricken with ennui. Two points since it’s not clear whether the movie is a drama or a comedy. One point because Instagram stalking is very “now.” Five points for the sneaking suspicion there will be some sort of jam session captured on selfie.
Landline: “Two sisters come of age in ’90s New York when they discover their dad’s affair — and it turns out he’s not the only cheater in the family. Everyone still smokes inside, no one has a cell phone and the Jacobs finally connect through lying, cheating and hibachi.” Starring Jenny Slate, John Turturro, Edie Falco, Abby Quinn, Jay Duplass, and Finn Wittrock. Written by Elisabeth Holm and Gillian Robespierre. Directed by Gillian Robespierre.
Points: Three points for a dysfunctional family living in Brooklyn (or near it, at least). Three points for white main characters stricken with ennui.
Novitiate: “In the early 1960s, during the Vatican II era, a young woman training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, sexuality and the changing church.” Starring Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo, Julianne Nicholson, Dianna Agron, Morgan Saylor. Written and directed by Maggie Betts.
Points: Three points for a white protagonist stricken with ennui. One point for tackling the important social issues of religion and sexuality.
Patti Cake$: “Straight out of Jersey comes Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, an aspiring rapper fighting through a world of strip malls and strip clubs on an unlikely quest for glory.” Starring Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty. Written and directed by Geremy Jasper.
Points: Five points for the inevitable music scene. Another point for the white-rapper thing, which feels “now.”
Roxanne Roxanne: “The most feared battle emcee in early-’80s NYC was a fierce teenager from the Queensbridge projects with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At age 14, hustling the streets to provide for her family, Roxanne Shanté was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend.” Starring Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips, Shenell Edmonds. Written and directed by Michael Larnell.
Points: The real-life Roxanne was super fly, so five points for music scenes that will hopefully live up to her legend. One point for investigating the important social issue of children being their family’s main breadwinner.
To the Bone: “In a last-ditch effort to battle her severe anorexia, 20-year-old Ellen enters a group recovery home. With the help of an unconventional doctor, Ellen and the other residents go on a sometimes-funny, sometimes-harrowing journey that leads to the ultimate question — is life worth living?” Starring Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp, Liana Liberato. Written and directed by Marti Noxin.
Points: Three points for a white protagonist suffering from ennui. Two points for unapologetically being a dramedy. One point for discussing the important social issue of eating disorders..
Walking Out: “A father and son struggle to connect on any level until a brutal encounter with a predator in the heart of the wilderness leaves them both seriously injured. If they are to survive, the boy must carry his father to safety.” Starring Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Bill Pullman, Alex Neustaedter, Lily Gladstone. Written and directed by Alex and Andrew Smith.
Points: One point for Matt Bomer trying to butch up his image. One point for tackling the important social issue of wilderness safety.
The Yellow Birds: “Two young men enlist in the army and are deployed to fight in the Gulf War. After an unthinkable tragedy, the surviving soldier struggles to balance his promise of silence with the truth and a mourning mother’s search for peace.” Starring Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Patric, Toni Collette, and Jennifer Aniston. Written by David Lowery. Directed by Alexandre Moors.
Points: One point for Aniston trying to switch up her image. One point for tackling the important issue of supporting our veterans.
With 11 points, the winner is Ingrid Goes West. Come on — we all need a little lifestyle blogging in our life, especially in the depths of a Park City winter.