We survived the end of the world!
At least that’s how it felt last night, when lashing snow and freezing winds made it seem like The Day After Tomorrow was happening for real here in Park City, Utah.
Severe storm warnings didn’t stop us attending the Sundance London party, though, where the booze was flowing freely, and Robert Redford and Eddie Izzard both popped their heads around the door.
Day 4, and the sun’s back at full force, clearly apologising for yesterday’s utter misery. Today’s morning screenings consisted of financial thriller Arbitrage and father-son drama The End Of Love.
The former starred Richard Gere as a hedge fund magnate who’s been a very naughty boy – he’s diddling a younger woman (despite being married to Susan Sarandon), and has racked up a massive load of debt. Things only get worse in the wake of a terrible accident.
Though the script - by first-time writer/director Nicholas Jarecki - packs in some white-hot wit, Arbitrage is often scattershot in its approach, failing to fully explore many of its potential plot threads.
Gere also struggles to bring the requisite bite to his ruthless magnate, mostly resorting to shouting that quickly grows tiresome.
The End Of Love fared better. Written and directed by and starring Mark Webber (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), it’s a moving drama about the relationship between a struggling actor and his two-year-old son in the aftermath of the loss of their wife/mother.
Heavily improvised and blurring the line between fiction and reality (the kid is played by Webber’s real-life son while Amanda Seyfried and Michael Cera appear as themselves), it’s a raw, unfussy film about grief that had TF pretending there was something in our eye for most of the bus ride to the next venue.
Keeping things in the family was For Ellen, a much-hyped festival entrant that had Paul Dano ‘doing a Hesher’ (i.e. painting his nails black and getting tattooed-up) as a rock star fighting for custody of his young daughter.
Predictably slow and ponderous considering director So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain) was at the helm, Dano is nonetheless mighty impressive, while John Heder briefly offers dry comic relief. But Ellen’s crippling pace means it struggles to retain your attention throughout, even if its images are mesmerising.
At the other end of the spectrum was Wrong, the latest film from Rubber filmmaker Quentin Dupieux. It’s far more assured – and funnier (see the wicked ‘poo memory’ scene) – than that killer-tyre oddfest. That said, Wrong’s quirky sensibilities proved too much for some; a fair few sceptics left the screening early.
In a day packed wall to wall with screenings, we capped things off with prison drama Middle Of Nowhere. The sophomore feature of director/writer Ava DuVernay, Emayatzy E. Corinealdi plays Ruby, who resolves to stand by her man when he’s dropped in the clink.
Polished but predictable, DuVemay’s film isn’t sure if it wants to be a romantic drama or a soul sister to Erin Brockovich, which makes for a muddled, sporadically sparky viewing.
Not a fantastic day for movies, then, but that’s the best thing about Sundance – there’s always tomorrow…