One of the many movies that people who swore to know about such things insisted would be a “big one” was The Yellow Handkerchief. This very sweet and pretty movie (lost love, new love, redemption, etc) stars William Hurt, Maria Bello (who is so the Sundance girl this year), Kristen Stewart (who is just a few steps behind Amy Adams on the road to superstardom) and Eddie Redmayne (who is also seemingly in everything all of a sudden). We liked it well enough, and were blown away by the audience response to it. However, some seasoned Sundance types sniffed that they didn’t think it had a shot. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, a mysterious thing even to ourselves has been our undying love for (and, um, attraction to) Richard Jenkins, best known as the dead dad from Six Feet Under. In the film The Visitor, writer-director Tom McCarthy (who dazzled Sundance back in 2003 with The Station Agent) gives us lots and lots of Mr. Jenkins action (thank you!). The film might be a tough sell, with its somewhat unsexy plot of a widower who returns to New York City to find his apartment taken over by an illegal immigrant couple. But! The movie boasts wonderful storytelling and strong performances.
The Danish film Just Another Love Story takes the classic film noir genre and gives it a good, hard twist. In it, Jonas, a happily married crime photographer, visits a mysterious young woman whose automobile accident he may or may not have caused. The woman’s family mistake him for her boyfriend (who turns out to be not such a nice man) and things just keep getting crazier from there. Writer-director Ole Bornedal and cinematographer Dan Laustsen create stunning and often surprising visuals that you’ll remember long after the movie is over.
And … remember that movie from 19
93, Alive? It was the one that starred Ethan Hawke and told the true-life story of the Uruguayan plane filled with rugby players that crashed in the Andes in 1972. Sixteen out of the original 45 passengers managed to survive for 72 days on a subzero glacier in the most brutal conditions imaginable, and the story became notorious because (and we can’t believe Lost never went here) the survivors had to eat some of their deceased family and friends. Director Gonzalo Arijon has made the documentary Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains and goes well beyond the sensationalism of cannibalism by featuring in-depth interviews with many of the survivors. In fact, he takes them and their children and grandchildren to the same mountain they almost died on. Even with some of the movie’s flaws (long Lifetime-like dramatic reenactments), their testimony is unbelievably touching (we cried!), and their story is extraordinary.
Oh, and we can’t forget In Bruges (which almost doesn’t count, since it has a distributor and will be released Feb. 1), which kicked off the festival last Thursday night, a quirky film (a lady from Missouri on one of the shuttle buses informed me it’s very much a “British sensibility thing”) from playwright Martin McDonagh. The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two hit men hiding out in Bruges, Belgium, after a job. Who knew that what we really wanted to do was go to Bruges? Colin Farrell plays a great and grumbly anti-tourist against Mr. Gleeson’s architecture-loving sightseer. The film takes many surprising turns, including the arrival of Ralph Fiennes as a believable baddie, and Jordan Prentice as a pill-popping, bitter Hollywood dwarf. It appeared to be a hit, though as one haughty journalist sniffed, “It’s just a lot better than all of the other movies that have opened the festival.” Blarney. We expect it to do just fine.