Sundance Recap: Part II
Musicals, sentimental journeys and a romcom farce
By Neha Aziz,
11:15AM, Fri. Jan. 31, 2014
These next films are on the more comedic and softer side of my experience at Sundance. Some, I am sure, will have soundtracks that will sell big on iTunes.
God Help the Girl: From Stuart Murdoch, founder of the Scottish band Belle & Sebastian, comes a musical set in Glasgow over a summer. Emily Browning plays Eve, a girl with self-esteem and health issues who just wants to form a band. She meets James (Olly Alexander) and Cass (Hannah Murray), and they do just that. Though the actors are talented and the pop numbers enjoyable, the story isn't developed enough to be a feature; the film plays more as different segments roughly put together. But you don't have to take my word for it: This one's coming to South by Southwest in March.
Song One: The film's synopsis may read like a Nicholas Sparks tear-jerker and at times it even feels that way, but the story goes a lot deeper than cheesy fluff. Franny (Anne Hathaway) and Henry (Ben Rosenfeld) are siblings living separate lives on different continents, and they haven't spoken in a while. An incident sends Franny rushing from Africa to be by Henry's side in New York. While he lies in a coma, she tries to awaken him by triggering his senses, usually through pancakes and music. Trying to get a better understanding of who her brother was, she goes through his belongings and discovers his song lyrics and ticket to see his favorite artist, James Forrester, played by real life musician Johnny Flynn. The ending is expected, but it doesn't matter; sometimes it's about exploration and not the outcome. The songs are exquisite as well.
Rudderless: I came into this film thinking one thing and came out thinking something entirely different. Rudderless marks the directorial debut of actor William H. Macy, and what a debut it was. Billy Crudup plays Sam, a father who deals with the pain of losing his son in a school shooting. He drowns his sorrows in alcohol and goes off the grid, trading his modern luxurious home for a houseboat and his advertising job for a gig painting houses. Rummaging through music his son made prior to the shooting, Sam deals with his depression by learning his son’s songs and playing them at a local bar. He grabs the attention of Quentin (Anton Yelchin), a young musician who finds the music exhilarating. They soon form a band, and through performing, Sam finds the best therapy possible. Though the film is laced with witty dialogue, it never detracts from the overall reflective tone.
They Came Together: This is not your standard romantic-comedy, but it does combine all the elements that you would find in one. Boy meets girl, they hate each other at first but fall in love anyway, they break up, and they make up. Even though They Came Together is a parody, most of the time, I found it unbearable to watch and too over-the-top to be funny. Even a stellar cast (Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as the couple) and a hilariously brilliant cameo by Michael Shannon wasn't enough to save it.
Listen Up Phillip: Meet Phillip (Jason Schwartzman), a novelist and a misanthrope with a god complex. The only thing working for him are his dapper suits. He is self-destructive and can't keep a relationship, romantic or otherwise. Just ask his girlfriend (played by Elisabeth Moss). The movie is an interesting portrait of a creative mind and has great parts riddled with dark humor, but director Alex Ross Perry's use of voiceover narration came to be too distracting.
Stay tuned for part three and my top five films from the festival! Also, check out the webisodes Arts + Labor produced exclusively for the Chronicle during their time in Park City.