The snow is falling here again, and the Sundance Film Festival is still plowing through the town of Park City. I’ve been to 21 films so far and the main theme that I’ve noticed is the overwhelming presence of strong female leads and women directors. One of the hottest films here is Beasts of the Southern Wild, a truly original film that takes place in the swamps of Louisiana, and stars a six year old girl named Quvanzhand Wallis.
Melanie Lynskey gives a beautifully nuanced performance in Hello I Must be Going, a film about a 35 yr old woman who was an affair with a 19 yr old boy. Aubrey Plaza, of Parks and Rec fame, is fantastic as the dry humored magazine intern in the wonderful Safety Not Guaranteed, a clever romantic comedy/time travel film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a powerful rendition of a struggling alcoholic stumbling through recovery in Smashed. Anne Heche is outrageous in the over the top comedy That’s What She Said, a buddy film about breaking up, friendship, and love, also starring Alia Shawkat and Marcia DeBonis. There are no male speaking parts in the film. Sundance darling Ry Russo Young directs the refreshing Nobody Walks with the beautiful Olivia Thirlby in the lead role as Martine. And another Sundance veteran, Lynn Shelton takes screenwriting and directing credit for the film Your Sister’s Sister, a simple story of love and confusion with great performances by Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt. Jamie Travis directs For a Good Time Call… starring Ari Graynor and Lauren Anne Miller, which is about 2 women who start a phone sex line business. Besides the fact that this is a silly comedy, there was a discussion regarding whether or not this is a misogynistic depiction of women making money selling sex or if the story portrays two women creating a successful business on their own and developing a close friendship along the way. After all, it is only phone sex and the men come across as perverts, but you can decide. Both of the films from the Midnight section that I saw had incredibly powerful lead roles by women. AnnaLynne McCord, known as a pretty blond from Beverly Hills 90210, completely transforms into a disturbed pimple faced teen named Pauline in the magnificently creepy Excision. Her psychosexual fantasies and obsession with surgery can only end in a bloody mess. Tracy Lords is excellent as the overly strict mother. Black Rock is a film about 3 women going for a reunion on a remote island: What could possibly go wrong? This taut, satisfying thriller is directed and stars Katie Aselton, with Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell as her buddies.
The two documentaries I saw were also about strong women. About Face is an interesting look at the modeling business of the 70’s and 80’s. Through a series of interviews with many of the greatest supermodels of the era, including Issabella Rossilini and Jerry Hall, the idea of beauty, ethnicity, aging and sexism in the fashion industry are all discussed. Marina Abramovic: The Artist Present is such a great film, you will leave the theatre convinced that she is the most important artist of the last 50 years. And the list goes on and on. I’m off the see Compliance, the most controversial film of the festival. It’s supposed to be difficult to watch, I will let you know how it goes.- Michael Lavine
Photos by Michael Lavine