DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Sundance 2014 - Day Three Wrap Up

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sundance 2014 - Day Three Wrap Up

Skeleton Twins (dir. Craig Johnson)

This high wattage comedy asserts Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as a contemporary classic comic duo. The spark of comic timing from the classic SNL material is evident. May/Nichols might not be the right comparison but their careers have no sign of slowing down. Wiig and Hader as depressed adults both of whom stunted emotionally and who come together in their home town to mutually reconcile their demons might sound like conciuosly casting against type but director Johnson effectively moves the story between brooding drama involving suicide attempts and broad improv comedy and uproarious set pieces. Adding up the ample doses of 80's nostalgia, hilarious comic set pieces and the multi-pronged plotting Johnson packs a lot fit into its brisk 90min running time, but by hitting all the structural beats in their right places more than smoothes over any loose ends. 

Low Down (dir. Jeff Preiss)

The dramatized story of talent jazz pianist Joe Albany and his struggle with heroin from the viewpoint of her strong but impressionable daughter consciously avoid narrative, melodrama and really any kind of traditional story in favour of an organic and evolving slice of life of the 1970's LA jazz scene. The flavour is intoxicating and the vagabond jazz lifestyle is vivid and colourful. Jeff Weiss's command of the medium with this first feature is in full force and reminds us of Derek Cianfrance's uncompmising integrity in Blue Valentine few years ago. All actors bring the best performances of their lives including John Hawkes who looks like a maestro behind the piano, Elle Fanning who carries the entire film and Oscar-worthy Glenn Close as Joe's strong-willed mother. Brief but fun bits from Tim Daly, Flea, and Peter Dinklage provide weighty anchors throughout the freeform unconventional narrative. This is a special film and the announcement of a   possibly a new American cine-master.

Appropriate Behavior (dir. Desiree Akhavan)

As writer/director/star Desiree Akhavan's unique comic voice shines through what on paper might have read like disjointed romcom/coming of age film. But there's something so interesting to watch in Ms. Akhavan. Self deprecating, dead pan humour and her bold matter of fact descriptions of lesbian sex, straight sex and her Persian heritage make for a unique highly personal and engaging take on the New York relationship comedy. 

I Origins (dir Mike Cahill)

Cahill's followup to Another Earth finds him again in the realm of existential scifi romance. This time Cahill reaches even further for a grandiose conceptual epic spanning years and the globe in search of the riddle of life. The secret is in the eyes, as Cahill's tracks the research of Michael Pitt and Brit Marling's characters as eye specialists trying find the evolutional missing link of our eye patterns. Cahill's jargon heavy dialogue and themes of global random connectiveness and destiny resembles Shane Carruth's cryptic Upstream Color from last year. Cahill is less cryptic and runs into trouble when his concepts get too big and cumbersome on the plotting. While cracks show it holds together leading up to the film's big finale, something we kind of expected after Another Earth.

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