2023 Sundance Film Festival Preview
It's time once again for the Sundance Film Festival! After two years of the festival being held completely virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sundance is FINALLY returning to Park City and I couldn't be happier. Sundance begins tomorrow night, so as per tradition, I've compiled my list of the ten movies I'm most excited to see and why they're on my radar. Read on!
10. YOU HURT MY FEELINGS
Sundance Summary: New York novelist Beth has been working for years on the follow-up to her somewhat successful memoir, sharing countless drafts with her approving, supportive husband Don. Beth’s world quickly unravels when she overhears Don admit to her brother-in-law, Mark, that actually, he doesn’t like the new book. She vents to her sister Sara that decades of a loving, committed marriage pale in comparison to this immense betrayal. Meanwhile, therapist Don faces his own professional problems as he finds himself unable to care about or even recall his unhappy patients' issues anymore… and they’ve begun to notice.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: Julia Louis-Dreyfus reunites with her Enough Said director Nicole Holofcener for another dramedy that's sure to suit her talents. I loved Enough Said and thought it was among some of Julia's best work (aside from Seinfeld of course), so I'm excited to see them take this simple premise and flesh it out with all the complexities and nuances as only Julia Louis-Dreyfus can.
9. POLITE SOCIETY
Sundance Summary: A London schoolgirl and tireless martial-artist-in-training, Ria Khan is determined to become a world-renowned stunt woman. She’s crushed when her big sister, Lena, drops out of art school, starts dating Salim — the charming, wealthy son of the prominent Shah family — and announces, after barely a month, that they plan to marry and move to Singapore! How could Lena abandon her artistic dreams to become some trophy wife? But Ria soon realizes that something isn’t right, leaving her no choice but to enlist her friends in a daring mission to kidnap Lena from her own wedding.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: This movie sounds like it has it all. The film is tagged on Sundance's site as: action, adventure, comedy AND horror. It's also described as "an Austenesque tale of two sisters (one in wedding shackles) by way of a loving, anarchic mashup of genres (action comedy, heist, martial arts, Bollywood, social horror)." That's a pretty tall order of a film. How can I not want to see if such a feat can be pulled off??
8. CAT PERSON
Sundance Summary: Margot, a college student working concessions at an art house theater, meets frequent filmgoer — and rather older local — Robert, on the job. Flirtation across the counter evolves into continuous texting. As the two inch toward romance, shifts between them, awkward moments, red flags, and discomforts pile up. Margot feels both attached and reticent, as her gnawing hesitations blossom into vivid daydreams where Robert realizes his most threatening potential. As her distrust and uncertainty mount, an evening, their relationship, and possibly their lives unravel.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: I'm super intrigued to see up and comer Emilia Jone's Sundance follow-up to the nearly universally beloved best picture winner CODA. The description here has me intrigued. Could we have another Fresh on our hands? Plus, I'm honestly in just based on the title alone.
7. SOMETIMES I THINK ABOUT DYING
Sundance Summary: Lost on the dreary Oregon coast, Fran wastes her daylight hours in the solitude of a cubicle, listening to the constant hum of officemates, occasionally daydreaming to pass the time. She is ghosting through life unable to pop her bubble of isolation. And then Robert starts up at the company. He is new to town and the dynamics of the office. He is a naturally friendly person who keeps trying to chat with Fran. Though it goes against every fiber of her being, she may have to give this guy a chance.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: Always curious to see Daisy Ridley's post-Sequel trilogy work. She showed such promise in The Force Awakens, but even with being the lead wasn't given a great deal of depth to make Rey special. This could be just the film for her talents and hopefully helps her break out of the Star Wars lead actor curse.
6. PAST LIVES
Sundance Summary: A budding childhood romance between Nora and Hae Sung, classmates at a primary school in Seoul, ends abruptly when Nora’s family emigrates to Canada. Twelve years later, Nora, now a playwriting student in New York, notices that Hae Sung’s been searching social media for her. They reconnect online, begin talking frequently, and even imagine a reunion. But another dozen years pass before they finally meet over a few fateful days during his visit to New York. Although their lives have changed dramatically, they remain bound by a wistful connection.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: This movie sounds so romantic, and I'm a huge sucker for romance & relationship films. This line on Sundance's page has me absolutely sold: "An aching, deeply romantic debut feature from playwright Celine Song (Endlings), Past Lives is a love story — indeed, several — told across three moments in time." I love this idea and only hope the execution is pulled off to meet its potential.
5. RUN RABBIT RUN
Sundance Summary: Fertility doctor Sarah begins her beloved daughter Mia’s seventh birthday expecting nothing amiss. But as an ominous wind swirls in, Sarah’s carefully controlled world begins to alter. Mia begins behaving oddly and a rabbit appears outside their front door — a mysterious birthday gift that delights Mia but seems to deeply disconcert Sarah. As days pass, Mia becomes increasingly not herself, demanding to see Sarah’s long-estranged, hospitalized mother (the grandmother she’s never met before) and fraying Sarah’s nerves as the child’s bizarre tantrums begin to point her toward Sarah’s own dark history. As a ghost from her past re-enters Sarah’s life, she struggles to cling to her distant young daughter.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: Sundance's horror section is ALWAYS on my radar. This has the potential to be more elevated horror, and some of my favorite Sundance horror movies from the last few years have been the ones to not only try to scare us, but to explore the traumas that haunt us too.
Sundance Summary: Rose is a pathologist who prefers working with corpses over social interaction. She also has an obsession — the reanimation of the dead. Celie is a maternity nurse who has built her life around her bouncy, chatterbox 6-year-old daughter, Lila. One unfortunate day, their worlds crash into each other. The two women and young girl embark on a dark path of no return where they will be forced to confront how far they are willing to go to protect what they hold most dear.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: Could this be The Babadook version of Re-Animator? I sure hope so. Or Pet Semetary? Either way it has all the classic ingredients for a fun horror romp and I pray it delivers. We've had kind of a drought in knockout Sundance horror the last few years and could really use something fantastic.
3. THE POD GENERATION
Sundance Summary: A New York couple, Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) live in a not-so-distant future where technology provides ever-more convenient living. A rising tech company executive, Rachel lands a coveted spot at the Womb Center, which offers couples a convenient (and shareable) maternity by way of detachable artificial wombs, or pods. But Alvy, a botanist with an affection for nature, prefers a natural pregnancy. And yet, as Rachel’s AI therapist puts it, why is that “natural”? So begins the tech-paved path to parenthood.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: I absolutely love this concept and the fact that it's already been given an award, not to mention it's one of the opening night films speaks to the fact that Sundance really believes in this film. Sometimes an opening night film is CODA and Whiplash. Sometimes it's When You Finish Saving the World. Excited to see Emilia Clarke in this role and think this could be great. It wouldn't be Sundance without some weird "not-so-distant future" sci-fi film right?
2. INFINITY POOL
Sundance Summary: James and Em Foster take off to an all-inclusive beach getaway in the fictional state of Li Tolqa to help jump-start his writer’s block. Their lazy days are spent relegated to their pricey resort, isolated from the surrounding land. Gabby introduces herself and her partner, Al, as she’s a fan of James’ last novel, and they would like to spend some time together with the Fosters. The couples plan a secret daytrip outside the compound that ends in a fatal accident with James to blame. For a hefty price, there are loopholes to aid foreign travelers convicted of crimes there, which is how James is first introduced to a perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: I'm excited to see Brandon Cronenberg's follow-up to the visceral Possessor. Plus Mia Goth is the horror queen "it girl" and I just love Alexander Skarsgård. The Sundance promo image is so great at piquing interest, and I'm doing my best to resist watching the trailer so I can have my traditional Sundance experience.
1. FLORA & SON
Sundance Summary: Flora, a young mother living in Dublin, lost touch with aspiration long ago. She juggles a sustenance-necessitated child care job and a fraught co-parenting arrangement with her unkind ex as she tries to raise her son, Max. Flora and Max’s brash rapport is both hilarious and revealing of their struggle to understand each other — she searches for autonomy and self-love masquerading as selfishness, while his longing for independence and self-expression manifests as delinquency. When the two connect over a twice-discarded used guitar, the uniting power of music brings them closer than what simple proximity can provide.
WHY I WANT TO SEE IT: This film was added last minute to the line-up and I couldn't have been more excited when I saw its addition. Sing Street is one of my favorite Sundance films EVER and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is always a personal favorite. I cannot wait to see this collaboration between John Carney and JGL and I hope it lives up to my self imposed hype.
Well that does it! Keep an eye on the blog throughout the next week for continued coverage and reviews of everything I get the chance to see! Happy Sundancing!