Sundance Film Festival Stand-Outs

 

Photo courtesy of rscrobinmx99

Sundance is the quirky younger sister of Cannes who prefers REI over YSL and Jack Kerouac over Ryan Gosling.   The magic of Sundance lies in the laid-back, winter paradise (or if you’re from LA, hell) of which it’s set, where anyone with snowshoes and $15 can watch film premiers alongside star-studded casts and crew.   While picking favorite films from the Sundance lineup can feel like picking a favorite child (difficult and yet easier than it seems), here's a synopsis of a few stand-outs.

Kill Your Darlings

Director John Krokidas creates an unforgettable narrative portraying the tumultuous relationship between Alan Ginsberg, played by Daniel Radcliffe, and Lucien Carr, played by Dane Dehaan (swoon) in Kill Your Darlings.   While I’m as much of a Gryffindor groupie as the next Millenial, Radcliffe’s performance in Kill Your Darlings completely disconnects from his Hogwarts days and redefines him as, dare I say it, a serious dramatic actor.   Radcliffe captivates the audience, portraying Ginsberg as a college freshman who is lost and looking to find a voice as a poet.   That being said, the true star of this film is Dane Dehaan whose tortured eyes haunt the audience as his character emotionally unravels.   The chemistry between Radcliffe and Dehaan is palpable as they go further down the rabbit hole experimenting with sexuality, drugs and poetry.

 

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck give incredible performances in the tragic love story, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.   During the Q&A after the showing, David Lowery describes his storytelling strategy as focused on the moments in between the big moments, which encapsulates the true magic of this film.   Lowery hones in on the humanity of each character allowing their complexities, nuances and relationships with each other take center stage.   Ben Foster shows off his versatility as he departs from his quirky depiction of William Burroughs in Kill Your Darlings to a tender and thoughtful police officer in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.   If there’s one thing I’m most excited about post-Sundance, it’s watching for Ben Foster’s future work.

 

Touchy Feely
The two takeaways from Touchy Feely are that Josh Pais is a genius and anyone going through an identity crisis should take ecstasy.   The film follows the life of an eccentric massage therapist, played by Rosemary DeWitt, who mysteriously loses her desire to heal through touch while her socially awkward brother, played by Pais, gains the gift.   Director Lynn Shelton shows how the brother and sister adapt to their new circumstances, ultimately finding resolution after they take ecstasy.   Albeit an impressive cast, DeWitt’s character and performance thereof felt contrived, which made the film feel unbalanced, especially in contrast to Pais’s hilarious and heartbreaking performance.

 

God Loves Uganda
The documentary begins by showing the effects of white American Christian missionaries traveling to Uganda to spread their religious beliefs.   The film reveals the adverse cultural reaction to these missionaries, focusing on imported homophobia that now plagues Uganda.   The film is shocking, inspiring laughter from the audience during moments of reality that are too terrifying to believe.   An evocative conversation starter, God Loves Uganda is a must-see.

Post Sundance Plans
My advice? Wait for the Sundance Film Festival Awards to be announced and the go on a viewing spree with your favorite hipster, theatre-centric friends.   I personally cannot wait to see Don Jon’s Addiction partly because I’m obsessed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and partly because I’m obsessed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (amiright?).   Happy movie-watching!