Every year, when the weather gets miserably cold, the film community heads to Park City, Utah—not to go skiing, but for the Sundance Film Festival. And, every year, some of our neighbors go with them. Westchester, along with our neighbors in the Hudson Valley, are well represented in the offerings this year, even in some of the Festivals most-buzzed-about, hottest tickets. Let’s take a look at some of this year’s films.
The Film: Margin Call
The Local: Stanley Tucci, South Salem
The Details: What would a film festival be without Stanley Tucci? Tucci’s been on a roll lately, turning in excellent performances in the better-than-you’d-expect Easy A and the otherwise-not-worth-seeing Burlesque. With Margin Call, it’s clear he aims to keep that streak running. The movie is the first feature for director J.C. Chandor, who’s created a film about a hectic 36-hour period at a financial firm during 2008’s economic collapse. Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, and Demi Moore all share the screen with Tucci.
What Critics Said: “Chandor adopts an acutely focused, even-keeled stylistic approach, maintaining a low dramatic temperature yet trusting attentive viewers to hang on every word.” —Variety
The Film: Red State
The Local: Melissa Leo, Stone Ridge
The Details: Speaking of actors on a roll recently, Melissa Leo’s fingerprints are still on her Golden Globe statue, and now she’s in one of the most talked-about films at Sundance. (And a million other things, too—her IMDb page is packed.) Although, to be honest, she’s not the one they’re all talking about—director Kevin Smith is. First, the press was buzzing because the film is such a departure for him; the movie marks Smith’s first foray into horror. Then, he got even more headlines for buying his own film at the festival for the low, low price of $20. Seriously, that’s only a little more than the cost of one movie ticket. Smith plans to self-release the film and do marketing through Twitter and word-of-mouth, so let’s hope he remembers to hype how great Leo is (and co-star John Goodman, too).
What Critics Said: “A subversive little comic horror film that represents a shot across the bow at extreme fundamentalist bigots but hits a few other targets along with them, Red State is cleverly contrarian enough to get a rise out of almost any audience.” —The Hollywood Reporter
The Film: Higher Ground
The Local: Vera Farmiga, Ulster County
The Details: Not only does Up in the Air‘s Vera Farmiga star in this film, she directed it. And, being the director, she got to film it close-to-home, with locations in Kingston. The movie is a period piece, following Farmiga’s character’s childhood and her joining a fundamentalist community as a young adult in the 1960s. Now, we get to see if she’s as good behind the camera as she is in front of it.
What Critics Said: “The film is a deft, graceful and often poignant story of a woman’s quest to find her own identity and a spiritual sanctuary that will give her life hope and meaning.” —The Hollywood Reporter
Film: My Idiot Brother
Local: Paul Rudd, Rhinebeck (part-time)
The Details: We’ve seen charming Paul Rudd, we’ve seen goofy Paul Rudd—but now we get to see unshaven, pot-dealing, slacker Paul Rudd. This film has ne’er-do-well Rudd couch-surfing in the homes of his three sisters after he’s fallen on hard times. And, the cast of ladies who play against Rudd might just outshine him in the charm department, since they include Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, and Emily Mortimer. (Man, that is one attractive family photo.)
What Critics Said: “My Idiot Brother assembles a comedy dream team for a story of family and forgiveness, shows us people trying to be good, trying to be more than themselves, and has amazing comedy bits ranging from huge sight gags and ba-doomp-boomp! punchlines, to razor-sharp sentences that boomerang back after they’ve whizzed by and silent expressions that convey volumes.” —indieWIRE