Sundance 2023 Day 6 Recap
We've still got plenty of festival left and friends, the fatigue is starting to hit. Maybe it has something to do with watching 6 movies yesterday. Day 6 was probably the most mixed-bag day yet for me. Some bright spots like You Hurt My Feelings, and the low of the festival Bad Behaviour.
YOU HURT MY FEELINGS
Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Beth, a writer who happens to overhear her husband Don (Tobias Menzes) telling a family member what he really thinks about her latest book. Beth is betrayed and hurt, not knowing whether or not she can really trust her husband to be honest with her about anything. Meanwhile, Don seems to be having career problems of his own as he struggles with the dull monotony of his long-term profession as a therapist.
You Hurt My Feelings is a breezy slice-of-life comedy about the lies we tell each other to spare each other's feelings. Louis-Dreyfus is really good here, just as I hoped and really makes her character's hurt feel real. What I love about her and writer/director Nicole Holofcener's collaborations is that they really feel like they're stories you're told by a close friend you know just venting about their life. They're relatable and honest, with lived-in characters. You Hurt My Feelings isn't groundbreaking stuff, but this dramedy felt like a breath of fresh air among some of the heavier offerings of the festival.
THE AMAZING MAURICE
A cat, along with a rat colony have stumbled upon the ability to speak. So naturally, they use this new talent to travel around town by town to swindle people out of their money. The game changes though when precocious Malicia figures out their con and suddenly they find themselves on an adventure.
The Amazing Maurice features gorgeous animation and really great performances from Emilia Clarke, Himesh Patel, David Thewlis, and Hugh Laurie. It also has an outlandish plot and a head-scratching villain. I never found myself invested in this, but it kept my almost 3-year-old daughter's attention well for her first-ever Sundance screening! The Amazing Maurice has lots of ideas, and will certainly teach children a lot about movie tropes, but ultimately it's nothing special.
Bodybuilder Killian Maddox (Jonathan Majors) dreams of having the perfect physique and gracing the cover of fitness magazines like his idol Brad Vanderhorn. He's obsessive to a fault, and aggressive when things don't go his way. He crushes on the cashier in his neighborhood grocery store, but as with anyone he comes across in his life, he can't find a way to connect in a natural way. If Killian can't find meaning in this life, his downward spiral can only continue and destroy anyone he comes in contact with.
Magazine Dreams features one of the most incredible performances from anyone at the festival in Jonathan Majors' self-destructive turn as Killian. Kilian is terrifying and troubled all at once--a tortured, yet toxic soul. I only wish the movie around him was quite as worthy as his talents. His performance certainly elevates the film, but it's a bit overlong and repetitive. This type of character requires an unstoppable force type of storytelling ie Whiplash or Nightcrawler, and unfortunately, that type of pacing just isn't here. Far too often the film drags when it should be the type of story that you can't take your eyes away from.
Jennifer Connelly is on a quest for enlightenment in Bad Behaviour, a pointless, bumbling dramedy in writer/director and co-star Alice Englert's directorial debut. Aside from Connelly's dedicated performance here, this film is a massive misfire on nearly every other level. While there are some interesting mother-daughter scenes near the end of the film, it's too little, too late to get the audience to care. The film is bizarre, aimless, and tedious to watch.
Bad Behaviour makes a good case supporting the idea of nepotism babies getting an unfair advantage in Hollywood. It's difficult to imagine not only how this film got made, but that Jennifer Connelly agreed to star...that is until you remember that Alice Englert is the daughter of Academy Award-winning director Jane Campion. Would this wacky, insipid screenplay receive the time of day from another nameless aspiring writer? I don't think so. While I really looked forward to this film, it not only is one of the worst films of the festival this year but one of the worst I've ever seen at the festival in the many years I've attended period.
Novelist James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) find themselves in trouble during their vacation at an all-inclusive resort. After striking up an acquaintance with a fellow guest of the resort Gabi (Mia Goth), Em and James find themselves plunged into endless nightmarish situations. Yet despite how bad things get, James continually finds himself drawn to Gabi, powerless to leave, even against his own interests.
Infinity Pool's first half is compelling and fascinating. Unfortunately, the second half takes all the goodwill and potential that was set up before and throws it out the window in favor of being provocative and messy. A tighter edit might have helped the second half flow better, but unfortunately as is, it becomes a bit of a slog. Mia Goth is always fascinating to watch as usual though!
THE PERSIAN VERSION
The Persian Version is all about Iranian-American Leila, and her fraught relationship with her mother. Leila constantly has to deal with not living up to her mother's very high expectations, which makes her feel like she's never anything more than a disappointment. When something unexpected happens in Leila's life, she's determined to know the real version of her mother, the one that she's never shared with her before, so that she can understand where her mother came from and how she sees the world. The Persian Version attempts to tell both of these women's stories over several decades but perhaps bites off more than it can chew.
The Persian Version feels fresh and fun, but it is immediately clear it's trying to tackle too much. Leila breaks the fourth wall constantly, and she's a fun hostess throughout the story...but all the jumping around really lacks cohesion. When we're finally shown her mother's backstory, it is so tonally jarring from what came before that it almost completely halts the film. Also, it's a minor gripe, but the younger actress cast to match the mother looks nothing like her and really took me out of it. This story actually attempts to cover so much ground that when someone inevitably realized it needed an ending, everyone agreed upon the tidiest and most rushed option possible. There are so many questions left unanswered here, but the movie is content with a happy ending so go home.