Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sundance: Dakota Fanning Film Slammed, Others Ripped by Critics But Bought for Big Bucks


Sundance 2013: Sad to say, I am watching from the sidelines this year as scheduling stuck me on the East Coast. But what a wild time they’re having out in Park City! Poorly reviewed films with big stars are going for a lot of money to distributors desperate for content. Highly- anticipated or hyped films with big stars are tumbling once they get to the reviewers.

This morning, bad news for “Very Good Girls,” the first film directed by screenwriter Naomi Foner, who’s also the mother of the Gyllenhaals and mother in law of Peter Sarsgaard. Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter slammed the Dakota Fanning-Elizabeth Olsen outing. Variety predicted a straight to video sale. What a shame. Still, the way things are going, the film’s star power may outweigh the critics when distributors come knocking. Content is king in 2013.

Elsewhere, sex is selling even if it’s not getting good reviews. Relativity paid $4 million and promised to put up $25 million to promote and release Joseph Gordon Levitt’s “Don Jon’s Addiction.” JGL directed and wrote it, and Scarlett Johansson co-stars. Julianne Moore got the only good reviews. Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter hated it like I’ve rarely seen (maybe since I reviewed “Towelhead” a few years ago). JGL, very buff, plays a goomba from Jersey who sits in front of his computer and masturbates to porn. There are — apparently– close ups of used tissues. A musical, it’s not. This is supposed to be the rougher version of “Shame” from last year. Did we want that? We’ll see.

Sony Pictures Classics picked by “Kill Your Darlings” in which “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe–who already was naked in “The Elephant Man” on Broadway–now has a lot of gay sex, very graphically. (All that Quidditch with brooms obviously has had some kind of effect.) Drum roll. The p.r. for “Kill Your Darlings” keeps sending out a message that the story of this movie is unknown. Bull. Lucien Carr’s murder of David Kammerer is pretty well known among those who know anything about Kerouac, Burroughs, et al and the Beat Generation. But it’s a hook. Will “Kill” take off and be a hit? What will they say at Hogwarts? SPC also went big time for “Austenland.”

There do seem to be some promising films coming out of Sundance:

Fox Searchlight is gambling $10 million on Steve Carell in “The Way, Way Back” being this year’s “Little Miss Sunshine.”

The Weinstein Company picked up at least three films through its Radius branch, including a music documentary about back up singers that I really really want to see called “Twenty Feet from Stardom.” They also paid $3 million for “Lovelace” about “Deep Throat” star Linda Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried of “Les Miz” fame right now. The main Weinstein Company also put up $4 million for the highly praised “Fruitvale,” which sounds like it might be something for their Oscar campaign next fall–although don’t forget, “August: Osage County” with Meryl Streep is already their big 2014 entry for gold.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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