Sundance 2014: The Movies

The movies are the heart of the Sundance Film Festival, which draws in thousands of people from around the world, each January in Park City, Utah. Out of thousands of films submitted, only 118 were selected to play at Sundance, and of those, not every film will even get picked up and shown across the country or even the world! Out of these 118, I saw 9. In reality, it’s a small chunk, but fortunately, most of the ones I saw were also the more anticipated ones of the Festival. Take a look below at the movie highlights at this year’s festival.

The Double
“Simon James is a ghost. Friends, family, and coworkers meet his every action with complete indifference. He grimly goes through the motions, hoping for recognition that never comes. All of this changes when James Simon arrives. Physically, James and Simon are dead ringers. Yet in temperament, James is everything Simon is not: personable, spontaneous, assertive, and desirable. When James begins to take over Simon’s life, he is forced to act.”

Photo credit: Sundance

The Double was the first film I saw at the Festival and with Jesse Eisenberg as the star, I was thinking it’d be pretty good. However, the dark comedy coupled with the overall strangeness of the movie didn’t sit well with me and I found myself checking my watch to see if we were nearing the end. You were unable to tell exactly what time period the film was set in and several things didn’t seem to add up. This would’ve been a really great one to have a Q&A for but unfortunately, the director wasn’t an early riser and didn’t show. From my understanding, the film has only been picked up for distribution thus far in England (the director is from London).

“Content to remain in a permanent adolescence, 28-year-old Megan clings to her job as a sign flipper for her father’s accounting company as her high school friends get married and advance their careers. When her high school boyfriend proposes unexpectedly, Megan panics and forgoes attending a professional-development retreat to hide, at least temporarily, at the home of her new 16-year-old friend, Annika, and her attractive, single dad.”

Photo credit: Sundance

Starring Keira Knightly, Chloë Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell, this movie was pretty great! Being in my 20s, I can relate to not wanting to grow up (not anywhere in the ballpark of Keira’s character though) and I think this is one that a lot of people will be able to find relatable plot points to. This film also didn’t seem as movie-ish as most Hollywood films do nowadays – it seemed a lot closer to reality which was refreshing. Keep an eye out on this one because it’ll be hitting theaters in May of this year!

Infinitely Polar Bear
“The year is 1978, and the Stuart family is struggling to hold it together. Cameron, a bipolar father, has had a nervous breakdown that leaves him unemployable, and Maggie, a hardworking mother, can’t quite make ends meet. Despite Cameron’s aristocratic pedigree and the couple’s top-notch education, they’re broke. When Maggie decides to accept ascholarship to pursue her MBA in New York, she must leave her daughters, Faith and Amelia, in Boston with their now-somewhat-convalesced father. So begins an untamed, unpredictable, 18-month experiment as eccentric, exuberant Cameron takes over primary parenting of his precocious, sensitive little girls.”

Photo credit: Sundance
I’m a big fan of Mark Ruffalo and his movie was one that I was really hopeful to see. Luckily, I made the wait list cut and was able to watch his brilliant performance in Infinitely Polar Bear along with Zoe Saldana and the two best child actors there ever were (one actually being the director/writer’s daughter)! Tackling the tough topic of bipolar disorder, Maya Forbes (director/writer) wrote the movie based on her father and shared personal stories close to her heart with us, the audience. This one was also picked up, so stay tuned for updates on a release date!

A Most Wanted Man
“Anton Corbijn’s adaptation of John Le Carre’s psychological novel follows German spy Gunther Bachmann as he tracks down Issa, a suspicious Chechen-Russian immigrant on the run in Hamburg. Pressured by his German and American colleagues to capture and interrogate his suspect as a Muslim terrorist, Bachmann instead asks for more time to carefully track Issa’s movements and his relationship with his German immigration lawyer, Annabel Richter. Using his secret contacts and keen skill, Bachmann uncovers a connection between a world-renowned Muslim philanthropist and a terrorist group and devises a plan to use Issa and Annabel in a brilliant ploy to expose the scheme.”

Photo credit: Sundance

It’s a bit heartbreaking to look back on this movie now (RIP, Phillip), but Phillip Seymour Hoffman delivered an incredible performance as usual in this film, playing a German spy. Alongside him, cue Rachel McAdams, whose German accent was absolutely terrible, but nonetheless, the movie was great. I wasn’t crazy about the ending and a few of the ways the plot went in the middle of the film, but overall, it’s definitely one to watch. No release date is set at the moment, but this will be hitting theaters at some point in the next year.

The Babadook
““Do you want to die?!” seven-year-old Samuel asks his stressed-out single mother, Amelia. She wonders if his question is a threat or a warning. After dealing with Samuel’s frantic tantrums his entire life, Amelia suspects that her son has begun directing his violent misbehavior toward her. However, after a dark and foreboding children’s book called Mister Babadook mysteriously appears on Samuel’s bookshelf, Amelia must decide if her son is truly deranged, or if there really is a bogeyman lurking in their darkened halls at night.”

Photo credit: Sundance
This was one of the films I was most excited to see – I LOVE scary movies! I thought The Babadook was very well done and with an interesting spin on the “monster” that always appears in these types of films. I’m also wondering if the Babadook book is anywhere in real life because as creepy as it is, I’d love to have one on my bookshelf! Both the main actors did a phenomenal job and I can’t wait to hear what others think of it once released later this year.

Happy Christmas
“It’s almost Christmas, and Jenny just broke up with her boyfriend. Without a real plan, she moves into her brother, Jeff, and sister-in-law, Kelly’s, spacious bachelor-pad basement in Chicago. As she reconnects with old friends and attempts to put her life back together, she continues to self-sabotage by repeatedly getting drunk and high. Kelly becomes fed up with Jenny’s immature behavior but soon realizes that she, too, feels stuck. As Christmas draws near, Jenny and Kelly realize that they can offer each other the solace and support they’ve both been craving.”

Photo credit: Sundance

We trekked into Salt Lake City to see Happy Christmas and were really excited to see two of our favorites, Lena Dunham and Anna Kendrick star in this movie, along with Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, and director/writer, Joe Swanberg. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this movie other than 1- it taking place at Christmastime and 2 – some of my favorites starring. I also enjoyed the fact (which I learned after watching the movie), that basically the entire thing was ad-libbed! This movie didn’t fully meet my expectations (too many loose ends left) but I did enjoy it overall. Also picked up,  Happy Christmas will be distributed this year or next.

White Bird in a Blizzard
“It’s 1988. On the surface, Kat’s home life seems perfect. A normal, college-bound teenager, she listens to Depeche Mode, hangs out with her tragically hip pals, and is critical of her parents. She’s also having her first romance with, literally, the boy next door and is starting to feel comfortable in her own skin—all under the watchful eye of her glamorous, but disturbed, homemaker mother. When her mother mysteriously vanishes, Kat and her father suppress their emotions and try to resume their lives. Years later, Kat’s subconscious is consumed by images of her mother, whose peculiar disappearance she can’t fully comprehend.”

Photo credit: Sundance

I didn’t know too much about this film going in, other than the fact that Shailene Woodley starred. I was pleasantly surprised to find that White Bird in a Blizzard was set in the 80s and that Christopher Meloni also starred! This was one of my favorites at the Festival, especially with an unexpected twist (I usually figure every plot point out in a movie at the beginning). No word on whether or not it’s been picked up yet, but I hope it will be!

Cold in July
“How can a split-second decision change your life? While investigating noises in his house one balmy Texas night in 1989, Richard Dane puts a bullet in the brain of low-life burglar Freddy Russell. Although he’s hailed as a small-town hero, Dane soon finds himself fearing for his family’s safety when Freddy’s ex-con father, Ben, rolls into town, hell-bent on revenge.”

Photo credit: Sundance

DEXTER IS BACK. Well, kind of. Michael C. Hall stars in this action/thriller and rocks the classic 80s mullet. Another of my favorites of the Festival, character transformation (from beginning to end) was huge in this. I was constantly on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next in the novel-turned-movie. This is one I highly recommend you see when it hits theaters later this year – SO GOOD.

The One I Love
“Ethan and Sophie are a married couple on the brink of separation. At the urging of their therapist, they escape to a beautiful vacation house for a weekend getaway in an attempt to salvage what’s left of their relationship. What starts off as a relaxing and tranquil retreat soon spirals into a dizzyingly bizarre experience that forces the couple to reflect upon the complexities of their troubled partnership. Over the course of a few days, Ethan and Sophie work diligently to rediscover their better selves and embrace the unexpected as everything they once thought was real becomes more and more surreal.”

Photo credit: Sundance
I’m so excited that this movie got picked up! It’s probably one that I’d buy the DVD of. The storyline is pretty unusual, but also something that anyone in a relationship could definitely appreciate. Filled with lots of laughable (and also confusing moments), this movie definitely makes you second guess yourself. The chemistry between Elizabeth Moss and Mark Duplass was awesome and I really can’t wait to see this again once it hits theaters! Well done, Charlie McDowell!

Of course these are only a handful of the movies shown at Sundance and there were plenty others that received a lot of buzz that were also picked up that I can’t wait to see – Whiplash, Wish I Was Here, Skeleton Twins and I Origins. But I must say, they were all pretty awesome. Makes me wonder what will happen with the thousands of other movies that weren’t selected!

Did you attend Sundance? Which films were your favorite? If you didn’t, which are you most looking forward to?