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Sundance 2022 Day 1 Recap

Sundance day 1 is in the books and I already got to see three of the movies I was looking forward to the most. Not a bad way to start the festival! Here are my thoughts on what I had the pleasure to see yesterday. Keep checking back every day for more!


WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD

Jesse Eisenberg makes his directorial debut with When You Finish Saving the World, a film as awkward and oddball as he is in many of his performances. Finn Wolfhard plays Ziggy, a high schooler who is convinced his musical talent is going to make him rich and famous. In his free time, Ziggy has built up quite a following as a live stream musician, making money from generous viewers' contributions. Julianne Moore plays his uptight social worker mother Evelyn, who, just can't help but be a buzzkill at every moment. Evelyn and Ziggy are at that point during many mother/teenage son relationships where they are constantly butting heads with each other and they just can't connect. Ziggy is crushing hard on one of his fellow classmates (Alisha Boe) who is passionate in her political opinions and desires to be an activist. Ziggy is desperate to impress her (with very cringeworthy results), but finds he is intellectually unable to engage with her on important societal issues. Evelyn, meanwhile, is more interested in overstepping her bounds by mothering a boy at her shelter whom she sees great potential in. He's polite and intelligent, plus he seems to actually listen to her, unlike Ziggy. Both storylines give the viewer incredible discomfort and are honestly hard to watch. The film's humor makes it a pretty breezy watch, but there isn't a ton of depth or focus beyond that. More buildup was needed for the ending to pack the punch it intends and a lot is left unresolved. The movie's humor carries it through though and helps to make the cringy moments more bearable. I suspect that this movie would work a lot better playing to an audience. But what the film really has going for it is the dedication of Wolfhard and Moore. Here they are both playing incredibly unlikable characters, but they play them so perfectly. Their performances are key to the film and it wouldn't work on any level without them. RATING: 6/10



EMERGENCY

Emergency follows roommates Sean (RJ Cyler), Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins), and Carlos (Sebastian Chacon), who one night come home to discover a young white girl drunk and passed out in their living room. If they were white men, they could call 911 and be given the benefit of the doubt regarding their innocence, but being minorities, they find the optics of the situation really endangering. They decide instead to drop her off at the hospital, but getting there without any problems will be more difficult than they can imagine--especially with the girl's sister trying to find her. Emergency tiptoes a very impressive balance of using moments of levity to lighten up an incredibly tense and life-threateningly serious circumstance. The characters here feel like lived-in, authentically real people--not the caricatures they could easily be in less capable hands. We are really put in their shoes and feel the danger they feel in this situation. The film does a good job of presenting a bad situation that continually snowballs until it feels completely unsustainable. It's a simple premise that director Carey Williams gets a lot of mileage out of, and again does a great job of always making the situation worse. The tension is definitely palpable, but the characters and their likability and camaraderie keep you truly invested. While I feel like it suffers from having one too many endings, that's pretty much my only complaint as it truly is a great film overall. RATING: 8.5/10



FRESH

Fresh is every woman's worst nightmare. Fed up with the world of online dating, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) finds it too good to be true when she meets the handsome and personable Steve (Sebastian Stan). After inviting her on a spur-of-the-moment romantic weekend getaway, she soon learns the hard lesson that if something appears to be too good to be true it usually is. It's hard to really get into the specifics of Fresh without spoiling it, and I myself am so glad I knew as little as possible going in. I'm really curious to see how this film will be marketed and if there's any way to preserve its mysteries without giving it all away. The performances here are really good. Sebastian Stan, in particular, has never been better. Daisy Edgar-Jones is also solid as a girl trying desperately to wake up from a bad dream and dig deep within herself to survive. My only complaint really is that I wish the ending wasn't quite so tidy as the tension could have been dialed up a little bit more in the climax. A bigger picture of the entire story is hinted at but not explored fully, which is unfortunate because it would have been interesting to dive deeper into Steve's world. Still, this one gets a lot of points from me because of how truly shocking it was, as well as the commentary it makes on everything women have to endure due to their objectification by men. RATING: 7.5/10

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