The Sundance Film Festival is starting to come to an end, but there are still movies to see! The press got to see The Words before its official premiere as the festival’s closing night entry … did it fare better than the risible movies that have held that slot in years past, like Twelve and Son of No One?
Plot: See if you can follow this Russian nesting doll of stories: Dennis Quaid is a successful author who woos Olivia Wilde with his new book about … wannabe author Bradley Cooper, who (along with wife Zoe Saldana) literally stumbles upon an amazing, forgotten story that he passes off as his own … even though it was really written by Jeremy Irons, who penned it and lost it decades ago (when he was played by Ben Barnes).
Reaction: For a movie about the power of literature, the dialogue and situations in The Words are awfully bland; even the excerpts we get to see of the purloined manuscript are generic. Cooper and Saldana have an appealing chemistry, but every time a lick of suspense starts to flicker to life, the movie snubs it out with a cross-cut or ducks it entirely. (And the snoozy Ben Barnes flashback halts The Words dead in its tracks.)
Plot: Yesterday, January 25th, was the anniversary of the start of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, and Sundance already had a film ready to mark the event. This documentary follows a group of activist friends in Cairo who found themselves directly embroiled in the fervor that eventually overthrew Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, resulting in this eyewitness account of those momentous, troubled events.
Reaction: The events in Tahrir Square (and beyond) were documented extensively by thousands of roving mobile cameras, so ironically, the footage of the revolution itself, while certainly compelling, feels fairly typical at this point. Indeed, the most interesting moments in ½ Revolution are also the most mundane, as we see the people we’re following regrouping in their apartment at night, arguing over the future of Egypt and the revolution. It adds much-needed context and a surprising amount of pathos to this handheld portrait of a nation on the edge.
Your Sister’s Sister
Plot: Iris (Emily Blunt) is best friends with Jack (Mark Duplass), who’s grieving from the death of his brother. When Iris sends Jack to her family’s vacation home in the woods to decompress, he meets Iris’ lesbian sister Hannah (Rosemarie Dewitt) and, in a drunken stupor, sleeps with her. Making things more awkward, Iris unexpectedly shows up the next day to declare her love for Jack.
Reaction: We’ve become wary of films that try to make us laugh at Sundance, especially when big stars are involved. It can be a recipe for mediocrity. But this terrific three-person drama instantly won us over with its honest dialogue and easy humor. Blunt, Dewitt and Duplass endear you to their characters with absurdly likeable performances. It’s nothing short of delightful to watch as they navigate through their soap operatic pickle while keeping their integrity and senses of humor intact. All in a cabin fever setting. This is one of the most ironclad movies we’ve seen all week.
An Over-Simplification of Her Beauty
Plot: Utilizing documentary footage, recreations, animation, and much more, Trevor Nance’s experimental film goes back and forth over the details of a relationship, charting it as it develops from initial attraction to romantic delirium to disillusionment – tackling the roles illusion, delusion, and self-projection play in the life of a love affair.
Reaction: One of the smallest films at Sundance this year is also one of the best. A stunning meditation on the way we fret and obsess over the details of a relationship – whether it’s in its nascent stages, at its height, or has already ended – Nance’s film is a heartbreaking, mesmerizing journey through the romantic mind. At times highly structured, at times seemingly wild with stylistic abandon, it’s an intoxicating recreation of what it feels like to be in love. See it, but beware: It might rip you apart.
Sundance Day 6 Buzz Meter: David Duchovny’s Disappointing Goat Man
Sundance Day 5 Buzz Meter: Chris Rock’s Culture Clash
Sundance Day 4 Buzz Meter: John Krasinski’s Infidelities, Alison Brie’s Wedding Blues
Sundance Day 3 Buzz Meter: Richard Gere’s White Collar Crimes
Sundance Day 2 Buzz Meter: Campy Red Lights, Frustrating Simon Killer
Sundance Buzz Meter: How Did the First-Day Movies Fare?