The Cinema Society Hosts Premiere of New Gus Van Sant Film Restless

Yesterday evening, we approached the Sunshine Landmark Theater only to find an average line of moviegoers edging up to the ticket booth. Did we have the right address? Was this really the venue for the premiere of Gus Van Sant‘s new film Restless? We walked upstairs, overwhelmed by smell of movie-theater butter substitute.

We did indeed have the right address and before long the theater’s upstairs area was transformed into an elegant and star-studded scene. Guests, including Matthew Settle, Cynthia Rowley, Lorenzo Martone, Usher (yeah, we thought the same thing), Russell Simmons and his new girlfriend Melissa George all appeared in fine form.

Mr. Van Sant came in early, wearing jeans and what appeared to be a tuxedo jacket. Soft-spoken and reticent as always, the director discussed his new release. We were concerned the film would be a morbid love story, the premise being a young romance between a boy, Enoch, whose parents die in a car crash and a girl, Annabel, who has terminal cancer and three months to live. “Is the movie all about death?” we inquired of Mr. Van Sant. “It’s not really. It’s about the two falling in love,” he replied flatly. We wondered how working on this film compared to some of his recent works like the highly acclaimed Milk, released in 2008. “I mean it was smaller. It was kind of contained. It was not that much cheaper, but it was just two people rather than like, you know, 25 people,” Mr. Van Sant explained.

Sophia Bush appeared next, impressively managing to pull off a pair of tight leather pants. She waxed nostalgic about her adolescent romances. “It’s so innocent and so sweet and uncomplicated when you’re a kid. It’s a really dreamy memory, and if you’re lucky it kind of sets the stage for your future relationships,” she said of young love. Asked if she went on any adventures like Annabel and Enoch, she said that her first relationship was decidedly less exciting. “It consisted of a lot of hand holding and, you know, looks across the cafeteria at camp,” Ms. Bush recalled.

A very pregnant Bryce Dallas Howard then appeared, wearing a flattering marigold gown made by Dior (which underwrote the evening along with the Cinema Society). Ms. Howard had produced the film with her father, Ron Howard. The Obserber asked her if the young romance recalled her own experiences growing up. “I was very rigid. I wouldn’t let myself date until I was 18. I was a very weird kid,” she said with laugh. “And then I met my husband when we were nineteen.” So no teenage trysts for Ms. Howard. The story did, however, remind her of the beginnings of her romance with now-husband Seth Gabel. “It’s that time where you’re still so innocent and you’re still really discovering who you are and then to kind of share that and all its awkwardness and honesty with another person is a very vulnerable but very beautiful, precious experience,” she said fondly.

We entered the theater and took one of the few remaining seats in the very front row. Craning our neck, we watched Mr. Van Sant give Ms. Howard an ill-concealed glare as she introduced the movie as a “cute little film.” Ultimately it turned out to be exactly that. Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper (yes, he is Dennis’ son) both gave stellar performances, and a movie that could have been terribly melodramatic was instead a quirky love story that proved moving but not depressing.

After the film, guests hauled over to the Electric Room. As we were walking down the service area (to avoid the dreaded Hotel) we noticed LaLa Anthony trying to trudge up the steep entrance in spike heels. Inside the small room everyone was visibly starstruck by Patti Smith, who stood off in the corner with Debra Winger daring anyone to speak to her. Michelle Monaghan appeared, looking lovely and more recognizable with her hair down (still those bangs though…).

As we were leaving we caught up with Russell Simmons and Melissa George who, although perhaps an odd pairing, were quite affectionate and clearly enjoying themselves. Did they like the movie? Ms. George claimed it was “Perfectly perfectly directed and performed.”

“It made me cry, brought the softy out in me,” Mr. Simmons admitted. “I liked it a lot; very sweet,” he added. We left the party, wishing we had been able to see Mr. Simmons dab at his tearing eyes in the dark theater.