Silver Linings Playbook is a heartfelt drama based on the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. The screenplay was adapted by David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter), who also directed the film. Bradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano, a man recently released from a mental health institution. As he assimilates into a regular routine on the outside, he moves back in with his parents, Pat Solitano, Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores Solitano (Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom, The Five Year Engagement).
I had the pleasure of seeing writer and director Ava DuVernay speak at the Film Independent Directors Series this past year. When asked how and why she got into filmmaking, her answers were, perhaps, a bit unconventional. DuVernay spent many years working in niche film distribution. She realized that not enough of the kinds of films she wanted to see were actually being made. So, she decided to do something about it. Now, a few years later, DuVernay has successfully written and directed her second feature film, Middle of Nowhere, a character-driven drama centered on an all-black cast. The film won the “Best Director” award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
The story of this movie begins in reality. Years ago, a man placed an ad in a real newspaper looking for “someone to go back in time with” him. He went on to write, “This is not a joke . . . Must bring your own weapons. Safety Not Guaranteed. I’ve only done this once before.” Screenwriter Derek Connelly obtained the rights to this infamous ad, and it is now the basis of the surprisingly touching and completely entertaining film, Safety Not Guaranteed.
One of a handful of romantic dramedies that premiered at Sundance 2012 is Save the Date. IFC acquired distribution rights for a possible release in LA and NYC this year. Despite a low IMDb rating, this romantic film has received positive, as well as negative, reviews. Deciphering why that is has led me to conclude that Save the Date is one of those middle-of-the-road movies, almost quite funny and charming, but something holds it back from really making an impression.
On August 3rd, Sony Pictures Classics released Celeste and Jesse Forever to limited audiences in LA and NYC. The film, directed by Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind), follows the lives of two amicable exes, and soon-to-be divorcees, Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg). After six years of marriage, Celeste, a marketing executive who studies trends, separated from sweet but career-stunted Jesse, a struggling artist. Although they have ended the marriage, they still get along as best friends do, and they spend an inordinate amount of time together. It seems the couple is unwilling to let go of their bond.
Lay the Favorite, based on a memoir written by Beth Raymer, begins with Raymer (played by Rebecca Hall, The Town, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) moving on from her career as a stripper in a small Florida town. She packs up her belongings, including her dog, and heads to Las Vegas where she dreams of a bigger, brighter life as a cocktail waitress. Once in Las Vegas, she mixes company with Dink (Bruce Willis) a seasoned bookie with a hard-nosed, yet charming, personality. He would place a bet on anything, and he has a hunch that Raymer has more to offer than just her good looks. He offers her a job in his bookie business, and Dink quickly realizes that Raymer is a whiz with numbers and has a gifted memory.
Every once in a while, a film pulls away from every comfortable storytelling convention viewers have come to know and expect. Somehow, the story moves like poetry through its world and its events, creating its own rules; as a result, the story becomes more than a film. It becomes a feeling that has the ability to profoundly affect each viewer in its own way. Somehow, that film makes more sense than any tightly-written movie that premiered with it at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. For this year, that film is Beasts of the Southern Wild.
This film tells the story of Majo, a young, aspiring hip-hop artist, played by Gina Rodriguez, who raps under the stage name Filly Brown. When the film opens she is performing regularly at a local radio station where she delivers her rhymes on socio-economic and feminist issues. At first glance, she is a passionate performance poet within the male-dominated Latino hip-hop community.
Indie studio Entertainment One (eOne) picked up Sundance World Dramatic Competition film Wish You Were Here for a probable theatrical release of Fall 2012.
The Australian film follows four friends as they let loose on a vacation in Southeast Asia. Breathtaking sequences shot by cinematographer Jules O’Loughlin and edited by Jason Ballantine expose the culture, the marketplaces, the raves, and the high-octane happiness that the tourists indulge in. The tragedy and mystery of this dramatic thriller is that by the end of the trip, only three of the four friends return home.
Melanie Lynskey, perhaps best known for her roles in Heavenly Creatures, Ever After, and Two and a Half Men, finally takes center stage in this character-driven indie film. Hello I Must Be Going tells the story of Amy, a recently divorced thirty-something, who has found herself disconnected from the artistic young woman she once was, as well as from the buttoned-up lawyer’s wife she became before her divorce. Amy moves into her parents’ house without direction or drive, but when she meets a much younger family friend, her passion reignites in an unexpected, or perhaps quite expected, way. Hello I Must Be Going is a simplistic film that surprises with its sharp wit and charm as it tells the all-too-familiar story of starting over when life takes an unexpected turn.