I'm leaving today, and sadly, that means I had limited time to see all the non-press, non-industry friends who started arriving in town for the Festival on Sunday and Monday. Last night, after a late screening, I went downtown to meet up with a few people in town for Into the Noise, and then managed to catch up with Joshua Overbay, whom I interviewed earlier this year for CT after the release of his wonderful film As It Is In Heaven. I didn't get to see my friends from the Windrider Forum, unfortunately, and I've been getting texts all day from other friends who come to Sundance because they care about faith and they care about movies—something that's becoming an increasing area of interest here, so much so that on Thursday afternoon the Festival is hosting its first panel discussion on the subject.
But I did get up early to see Don Verdean. The reviews are embargoed till tomorrow night, but I do plan to properly review the movie. What I can say is that the writing/directing team is Jared and Jerusha Hess—you know them best as the people who made Napoleon Dynamite. More on that later. (The film will be distributed by Lionsgate.)
The other film of the day was Joe Swanberg's Digging for Fire. Swanberg is a prolific low-budget filmmaker whose last two films were Happy Christmas and Drinking Buddies (the latter of which was one of my favorite films in 2013)—and, by the way, if you're interested in filmmaking, you should read this interview with him about the financial realities.
Compared to Drinking Buddies, at least, Digging for Fire tips more into the edgy side of things, for some viewers (a little nudity, some drug use)—and I say that mostly because a lot of readers have told me they enjoyed Drinking Buddies. But they tread a lot of similar territory. Where Drinking Buddies looked at the tricky uncertain areas in relationships between mostly single people, Digging for Fire is interested in marriage, and especially in the fiveish-years-in point in marriage. The couple at the center, Tim and Lee, have a three-year-old son (played to unbearably adorable effect by Swanberg's own son) and are house-sitting. Over one weekend apart, they have experiences in which they're forced to think about their marriage, their lives, and where they are headed. It ends sweetly, but in the middle there's a few scares (and some shady conduct). Oh and also, Tim found some bones in the backyard and decides to dig and figure out what's out there.
It's kind of a light film, but it's getting at something pretty important a lot of the time. Swanberg's camera seems to drift in a way that made me think of Robert Altman, where it sort of slides gracefully along the horizontal and then bounces off the sides—and in fact, I wondered a bit if he was trying for something Altman-inspired with such a large ensemble cast and loose plotting. Nearly every actor I can think of is in this movie: Jake Johnson (who co-wrote the movie with Swanberg), Rosemarie Dewitt, Sam Elliott, Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Chris Messina, Melanie Lynskey, Mike Birbiglia, Ron Livingston, Orlando Bloom . . . I've missed some. (The film is seeking a distributor.)
Over the past few years, the royalty of mumblecore have all graduated to more accessible movies—Joe and Kris Swanberg, Jay and Mark Duplass, even Andrew Bujalski—and they rule Sundance; all of these people have at least one film at this year's Festival. But I think what I'm happy to see is that they've moved what used to be a fairly immature, youthful look at relationships into something a little more mature, but have mostly stayed committed to being as real as possible, using a lot of their standard techniques (improvisation, especially) in order to make movies that just feel a bit different than your typical scripted feature.
Anyhow: that film concluded my Sundance, because I need to get home to my own husband. It's been a good time, a Festival full of (weirdly enough) films that very honestly and mostly generously grappled with, interestingly enough, religious questions. There are several I didn't see that I'm told did the same—Z for Zechariah, Going Clear—and I'll be writing more on that soon.
Goodbye for now, Park City!
(You can follow me on Twitter, too—at @alissamarie.)