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PARK CITY - James Pondsolt burst onto the scene a year ago with break-out Sundance hit "Smashed." The film was acquired a few months later by Sony Pictures Classics and was released during awards season, where Mary Elizabeth Winstead's performance turned a few heads but never managed to get any real traction.
He's back this year with one of the most buzzed films of the festival, "The Spectacular Now," starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, with Winstead, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson and Jennifer Jason Leigh filling out the cast. But he won't be waiting quite as long to find a home this time around, as upstart distributor A24 has announced its acquisition of the title.
Collectively quoted in the press release, the company states, "We fell in love with this film the minute that we watched it and we know the rest of the country will embrace this timeless love story. James has directed a wonderful film that depicts young love with complete authenticity and has two young stars giving incredible performances with Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley."
The young company jumped into the game last year by nabbing Sally Potter's "Ginger & Rosa" and named former 42 West publicist Nicolette Aizenberg as head of publicity. This is a nice next step toward building a 2013 slate (the company picked up Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" last week and Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" out of Toronto). And who knows? Maybe they can push this one to some awards season success.
"In consecutive years, Ponsoldt has now showcased a confident ability to balance humor with emotional pain," HitFix's Dan Fienberg wrote in his review of "The Spectacular Now" Saturday, "which happens to also be a specialty of screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who broke out here a couple years back with '(500) Days of Summer.' That combination of amusement and anguish, of genre formula and freshness will leave some people scratching their heads, but it's equally likely to strike an uncomfortable [in a good way], honest chord."
No release date has been announced. "The Spectacular Now" is part of the US Dramatic Competition slate here at Sundance so we may yet here more about it out of Park City.
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