Sundance 2010 Saturday in the snow: yes, it keeps snowing. There are fewer good parties this year and one Sundance insider admits that this year “the festival was done on a shoestring.”
Things are definitely a little different thanks to the economy, but maybe that’s good. It’s a pared-down Sundance, which main sponsors Entertainment Weekly, HP, Honda and the Sundance Channel are thanked at every screening.
At the same time, an anonymous donor has given maybe the ugliest modern sculptures of all time to the Eccles School for its new lobby and the parking lot. Eccles is also boasting a new roof, ceiling and massive skylight. Only a few regulars have noticed all this, and there’s a lot of chuckling.
But Sundance is about movies. On Saturday afternoon, we got to see James Gandolfini continue his whacking of Tony Soprano in a fine new drama called “Welcome to the Rileys” (see THR film critic Kirk Honeycutt’s review). Gandolfini and Melissa Leo turn in superb performances as a couple who’ve lost their 15-year-old daughter. Kristen Stewart, she of “Twilight” fame, is also very good as a teen prostitute whom the couple befriends. Stewart was not’terribly articulate at the’Q&A following the’screening, but at least she’s not worried’about bits of dropped blood. The film is directed by Jake Scott, son of Ridley, nephew of Tony, and’he shows that he’s inherited the family gene.
There were other debuts today, too. Fox Searchlight showed “Cyrus,” a comedy starring Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill that could be its 2010 one-off hit in the manner of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Juno.” To say “Cyrus” is offbeat is an understatement. It’s sort of a twist on “Oedipus” with Hill the unlikely son of Tomei. It works, believe or not. And Reilly is sensational.
The big question mark of the day wasn’t answered until late in the evening, when Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman showed his “Jack Goes Boating.” Hoffman’starred in’this play off Broadway last year. Now he shows a real flair for directing, putting himself into the movie along with the amazing Amy Ryan, Daphne Rubin Vega, and John Ortiz. This was the big news of the day, as Michael Moore, Adrien Brody and Chris Cooper (who’s great in the Ben Affleck-Tommy Lee Jones film “The Company Men“) came to pay respects. Overture has “Jack”‘; hopefully they’ll give it a nice fall release with an awards push.
At the “Jack Goes Boating” Q&A someone asked Amy Ryan about her character. “Maybe she’s just a weirdo,” Amy observed of her odd character. It’s a line that could describe most characters in Sundance movies–we learn a lot about weirdos. But as Ryan told me later: “It describes all of us, doesn’t it?”