Our continued coverage of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival continues, courtesy of our very own Mr. Fred Topel. Don't forget to check out his recaps of Days 1 and 2-4, and the rest of his coverage throughout the site. Take it away, Fredster!
Liberal Arts – 7.5 out of 10
Writer/director/star Josh Radnor’s sophomore film (after Happythankyoumoreplease) is a Sundance movie about exploring your feelings. Liberal Arts is relatable and witty. Radnor plays a professor who kind of still wants to be a student. Hey, I still have dreams that I have one more semester in college. His banter with his mentor professor (Richard Jenkins) is a tad smarter than average and fun. He also forms a relationship with a student (Elizabeth Olsen). All these relationships explore relevant themes. No one feels like a grown up. That’s true. The importance of artistic taste is an important debate. Radnor’s character takes the snobby perspective, but since he wrote Olsen’s dialogue I think he’s championing the evolved point of view. It’s a crowd pleaser and it is just plain funny with or without the themes. A grown up in a dining hall line is funny. His math calculations about the age difference are funny for being so straightforward and what we’re all thinking anyway. The legally vague vampire book they discuss is funny. A post-coital scene with Allison Janney rightfully got applause. Radnor’s character is sanctimonious but well meaning, which is also a balance good people have to strike.
The End of Love – 2 out of 10
So far this is my least favorite film of Sundance. It’s not I Melt With You bad, but it’s totally self-indulgent and meandering. Mark Webber plays himself, struggling actor Mark Webber, a single dad to Isaac (Isaac Webber). Down on his luck, he can’t pay rent and his car gets towed as he bombs auditions and overdoes it with girls. He tells someone on a first date that he loves her and wants to marry her. Now we’ve all been that desperate and vulnerable, but why are you putting your most pathetic side out there for everyone to see? That’s not working through anything. It’s just embarrassing. All of Webber’s celebrity friends play themselves and it turns out Michael Cera is The Deer Hunter. Look, I like movies about dealing with grief. This movie doesn’t deal with anything, it just perpetuates it. Get your act together and then make a movie about that, dude.
Safety Not Guaranteed – 4 out of 10
This is the big buzz title of Sundance with which I was not on board. It’s not as clever or original as it thinks it is. A journalist (Jake Johnson) and his interns (Aubrey Plaza and Karan Soni) investigate a classified ad offering time travel, safety not guaranteed. Darius (Plaza) gets to know the time traveler (Mark Duplass) and seems to fall for him despite his apparent mental problems. The role is tailor made for Plaza’s sullen and sarcastic persona, and she’s good as a weird seductress going undercover. Her abandonment issues over her mom’s death are darkly inappropriate for a comedy, and not smart enough to be dramatic. Johnson is basically switching roles with his New Girl costars and playing the douchebag, but just being a rude A-hole isn’t funny. References to Star Wars action figures do not make you clever either. And as a journalism feature, this story really sucks. No wonder print is dead: this magazine is sending their staff to write about some guy’s crazy personal ad? It’s not unwatchable but not really entertaining. The musical score ranging from whimsical to important is awful too.