PARK CITY — The Sundance Film Festival giveth, and the Sundance Film Festival taketh away…85 minutes of your evening. Those are the breaks when it comes to any major festival and, unfortunately, "I Smile Back" falls into the latter category. That may sound a tad harsh, but Adam Salky's latest is a disappointing effort that is the one film that truthfully doesn't belong in the U.S. Dramatic Competition this year.
PARK CITY — Sometimes the elements of a movie just gel together so well and you find yourself enjoying the ride so much that you instantly forgive the material for any of its inherent limitations. Case in point: John Crowley's new drama "Brooklyn," which premiered Monday night at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. After 20 minutes I'd written the not-so positive words "earnest" and "cutesy" in my notebook. Almost an hour and a half later I was so moved by what had transpired I was fighting back the tears. The picture isn't the achievement expected festival grand prize jury winner "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is, but it's a damn good movie on its own terms.
PARK CITY — The 2015 edition of the Sundance Film Festival has already brought us star-making performances from Bel Powley ("The Diary of a Teenage Girl") and Thomas Mann ("Me and Earl and the Dying Girl"). But it turns out they are not alone. It appears we have a triumvirate of breakout talent in coming-of-age flicks with the addition of "Dope's" Shameik Moore. The Atlanta native is freakin' fantastic as an Inglewood high school senior trying to stay true to himself in Rick Famuyiwa's entertaining new dramedy.
PARK CITY — A great film is often one that it transcends the cliches of its genre. The 2015 Sundance Film Festival already debuted one movie that overcame the tropes of the coming-of-age picture, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," Saturday. And on Sunday, it brought another genre-breaker to the zeitgeist with Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's powerhouse "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl."
PARK CITY — No one needs to worry about Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig experiencing a sophomore slump. After collaborating behind the camera for 2012's "Frances Ha," the duo have reunited for "Mistress America," a hilarious new comedy that premiered Saturday evening at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. And yes, for those who care, this one is in color.
PARK CITY — The Sundance Film Festival has transformed the careers of many actors over the years. Parker Posey, Mo'Nique, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jesse Eisenberg, Miles Teller, Amy Adams and Vera Farminga are just a few who had their lives changed after a phenomenal performance shook the festival faithful. Today, another name should be added to that list: Bel Powley. The 22-year-old Brit has her coming out party in Marielle Heller's directorial debut, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," which premiered Saturday at the 2015 edition of the festival.
PARK CITY — There is a moment in Rupert Goold's "True Story" that is truly captivating. After watching her husband be manipulated from afar, Jill Finkel (played marvelously by Felicity Jones), goes to meet accused murderer Christian Longo (James Franco) at the county jail where he's incarcerated. In less than five minutes Jill uses the tale of 16th century composer Carlo Gesualdo, who murdered his wife and baby in cold blood, to unmask Longo as the killer she knows he is and to make it clear his charade will only get so far as long as she's around. It's a moment that demonstrates how talented the current Oscar nominee for Best Actress is in what has been a thankless role up until his point in the film. It also underlines how frustrating a film "True Story" is that the best scene in the movie doesn't include star Jonah Hill and barely involves Franco.
PARK CITY — The concept of "The D Train," which premiered Friday at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, may sound somewhat familiar. An everyday family man who has never moved out of his hometown discovers the most popular guy in high school is now a successful actor in Hollywood. Our hero decides to go to Los Angeles to convince his idol to return for their high school reunion. If he comes back, said hero will finally be "the man" and earn some respect from his former schoolmates. Sure, it hasn't exactly been made before, but there are numerous elements in the premise you've no doubt seen over the past few decades on both the small and big screen. What makes "D Train" unique is the commitment from directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul to center the storyline around one outrageous moment and then completely ride it out to an even more jaw-dropping conclusion.
PARK CITY — Nikole Beckwith's new drama, "Stockholm, Pennsylvania," which premiered Friday at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, asks a number of questions surrounding the provocative subject matter of child abductees. How would a young woman who has spent 17 of her 23 years captive in a basement adjust to living in the real world? And, more controversially, is this a better "life" than what she was experiencing before?
PARK CITY — It's probably somewhat remarkable that in 2015 a tale of summer romance between two teenage girls feels awfully familiar. Since gay-themed indies began to increase in notoriety in the '90s, there have been many of these dramas set both stateside and overseas. Director Alanté Kavaïté has a unique and talented eye, but she can only do so much to make this compelling material beyond its aesthetic charms.