Here are more recaps of this weekend’s festival premieres. Don't forget to catch up on our first Sundance Film Festival 2012 recap!
That’s What She Said – 7 out of 10
This is the movie I wanted Bridesmaids to be. This raunchy girls comedy lets the characters actually be bad and gross. Dee Dee (Anne Heche) and Bebe meet Clementine (Alia Shawkat) in a coffee shop and have a wild day talking about sex and setting up pratfall set pieces involving dildos and yeast infections. It’s really funny. Heche proves to be a brilliant physical comedienne. She brushes her teeth with a cigarette in her mouth, and then switches sides to keep smoking. She does a smoker’s voice, fakes Tourette’s to clear out subway seats and dry humps a happy dance. At this point, she could sing into a hair brush and I’d buy it. The dirty girl talk feels natural, not contrived like it does in Hollywood movies that even have female screenwriters. Also, scratching your crotch is a joke that transcends gender. It was funny when Nick Frost did it. It’s funny when Bebe does it throughout the movie. I even felt the heart that Hollywood comedies try to fake. Bebe’s really desperate for a phone call and Dee Dee’s flashbacks to a formerly loving marriage are tragic. Why only 7? Well, like any comedy, some jokes fall flat, but there’s a lot of great stuff in there. I think we should start an audience participation script for the theatrical release. We can say “That’s what she said” after every punch line.
Lay the Favorite – 6 out of 10
I heard the worst buzz about this movie so I was expecting this year’s I Melt With You, but Lay the Favorite is not bad at all. Rebecca Hall plays a ditzy stripper with an airhead voice and Bruce Willis plays a schlubby gambler who shows her the ropes in Vegas. The characters are charming and delightful. It’s not revolutionary – a girl coming into her own and a conflicted mentor – but the characters feel a little soulful. People fight and make up and regret getting angry. That’s a pretty evolved point of view for a mostly superficial story. It’s not laugh out loud but it’s worth it for Hall and Willis’s performances. Hall looks amazing in boots and shorts, ass skirts and even sweaty in a sports bra. You see Laura Prepon’s boobies for no reason at all and they are lovely (Hall does the Hollywood not quite naked stripper, but we’ll forgive her). It becomes a convoluted scheme at the end and Hall ends up summarizing the film’s theme, so it’s sloppy but totally watchable.
For Ellen – 3 out of 10
This is a typical mopey dramedy that thinks it’s deep but really isn’t exploring anything. Paul Dano plays a musician going through a divorce trying to keep his daughter. I know firsthand it is tough to get divorced. Add to that the possibility of losing your kid and having to face your responsibility in matters and that’s juicy material. The film just lingers on Dano acting lost and depressed, and he’s quite good, but it’s just an acting exercise. Then there’s the small town quirk with a goofy lawyer (Jon Heder) who lives with his mom and invites his client over for dinner. Dano's character seems like the typical musician on the road, so his situation is no surprise, nor are his verbal spats with bandmates on the phone. He actually dances out his anger in a ridiculous skinny punk rock routine. There’s one bit of juicy drama when he plays his big card against the ex (Margarita Leveiva who I think was only in one scene), but even that doesn’t get developed. The little girl is heartbreakingly adorable, and then it just ends. Because that’s life, man. You don’t get resolution. It’s real, man.
Black Rock – 7 out of 10
Katie Aselton’s midnight movie is a solid genre piece of kickass women turning into primal nature warriors. Three friends (Aselton, Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell) go on a weekend camping trip, meet some hunters, things get out of hand and they’re fighting for their lives. The most dangerous game used to be man. Now woman is an even more dangerous game. They work up to the primal part, so it’s not pure action but I like seeing women go primal. There’s some tasteful moonlit shadowy awesome nudity as Bell and Bosworth need to share their body heat. Thank you, lovely ladies. Bosworth does not partake in that part but she’s cool too. The character development is really strong too. The girls really hash out their old beefs and get in each other’s faces, and then they’re forced to deal with it and work together. Sure it’s full of hysterical caricatures (the hunters are crazy war veterans) but it’s genre. The film deals with mens’ physical strength. They can easily hold off the women so it’s not suddenly easy for a housewife to take out a soldier. It’s well shot, handheld but subtle, not jittery shakes.
Me @ The Zoo – 7 out of 10
This documentary about Chris Crocker makes you appreciate him as more than the Leave Britney Alone guy. He actually created a successful persona for himself and his role in the YouTube phenomenon gives it a good context, and shows how much has changed in that world already. I admire Crocker’s self confidence growing up in a homophobic community. He put himself out there and found kindred spirits in his online fans. Sure, the film glorifies Crocker but he reaches other kids. The hate he received is poignant too. Hey, you may not like him, but don’t call his house with racial epithets or suggest murdering him. Crocker seemed smart about playing up his persona on talk shows, and probably took it too far. He actually explains his legendary video with a reflective analysis near the end.
The Pact – 5 out of 10
Lot of bad buzz on this one – like, vicious – and it’s not great but there’s no reason to go that far. It’s a first time low budget horror movie. There’s supposed to be a contingent of fans who support that, and defend far lesser films (um, Blair Witch Project?). Annie (Caity Lotz) has to go back home when her sister disappears after their mom’s funeral. It’s a typical ghost story where the spirits lead her to clues in aggressive, scary and not really helpful ways, but she gets there. Annie gets an eccentric psychic to help her, she MacGyvers her own Ouija board on the floor and there are weird apparitions, but the scariest part is when Annie steps on some glass barefoot. I really liked Lotz so it was easy to watch her carry the plot. The third act is really strong and there are some good kills. Some atmosphere effects don’t work, like a really awkward slow motion shot, silly exposition and plenty of cheap jump scares. It’s a festival movie where you can see the attempts and acknowledge the failures, and I wouldn’t recommend it to a general audience. But it was okay.