Sundance Day 9 Recap
Alright, we're FINALLY at the end now of the festival itself, as well as my recaps for movies I saw during my time at Sundance this year! My next post will be a round-up of my top favorites from the fest. I saw a lot of varying quality this year, but luckily I got to end the festival with two really good ones with Suncoast and Hit Man, two films that are sure to make my top ten.
Doris (Nico Parker) desperately wants an average stress-free teenage existence, but life has given her quite the opposite. Doris's life seems to be in a constant state of upheaval as her brother Max is continually fighting a losing battle with brain cancer at the Suncoast Hospice. Doris has been resigned to his death for years and feels as though she's already mentally moved on since Max can't even speak or see at this point and doctors have assured her and her mother that there is no chance of recovery. She can't understand why her mother (Laura Linney) cannot move on like she has and instead choose to focus her energy on her child who still is alive. With her mother spending so much time at the hospice, Doris seizes the opportunity of having limited parental supervision to invite the popular kids to her house and have parties. With them, she can have the life she hopelessly yearns for and just enjoy her youth. But back, at the hospice she's warned by a new friend (Woody Harrelson) that she's not quite as prepared for her brother's loss as she pretends to be and that she needs to find a way to make peace before he departs.
Suncoast is a coming-of-age tale that feels familiar but in the best type of way. It's conventionally told with superb performances, both from its young star and its veteran supporting actors. The teenage shenanigans feel typical, but the fact that this carefree life she wants constantly clashes with her caretaking role gives the events so much more weight. Doris wants to be a normal kid, but she is thrust into an experience that will never give her that luxury. No matter how much she wants normalcy, she can't be just like her friends and only just have fun because her circumstances force her to be more grown-up than she is. Her wants are at odds with her reality and only cause a constant wedge between her and her mother who cannot stop caring for her son until he's gone. This dissonance is central to Suncoast and is what makes her coming-of-age story feel so unique and poignant. Suncoast hits all the right beats while never feeling cliche, and it knows just how to get the audience's waterworks going to bring it all home.
Nerdy Gary Johnson (Glen Powell) is a professor by day and moonlights in his spare time as a tech guy helping to catch attempted murderers. Usually, an undercover cop poses as a hitman to present potential clients with the opportunity of offing their desired target, while Gary and his team record the conversations as evidence to arrest. Gary's life takes a turn when he's asked to fill in and play the hitman role, and he finds that he has an unexpected new talent. Gary takes on the role indefinitely and begins tailoring his role to his new clients. But he's taken aback when he meets the beautiful Madison (Adria Arjona) asking him to kill her husband. The two have an instant chemistry, and even though it's complicated, want to see each other some more leaving Gary to juggle multiple identities and ethical quandaries.
Hit Man is incredibly entertaining and extremely funny. Glen Powell is an absolute star here playing multiple roles with ease and pitch-perfect comic timing. He's so charismatic here and his chemistry with Arjona is off the charts. She too is excellent here though she's not given quite as much to do. The ending is a bit tidy but it doesn't detract from any of the fun had before. Hit Man is without a doubt one of the highlights of this year's festival and easily Richard Linklater's best work since Boyhood.