Sunday, 4 June 2017

Sundance London: Get out of there

The fifth Sundance Film Festival: London wraps up tonight at Picturehouse Central. It's been a terrific collection of films this year - a varied selection of American indies made by gifted filmmakers. Repeat cast members included Lakeith Stanfield (Crown Heights and The Incredible Jessica James) and David Warshofsky (Beatriz at Dinner and Wilson). And the surprise film Patti Cake$ is likely to end up in my top 10 movies of the year. Full reviews will appear on the site as the films open, but here are some final blurbs...

A Ghost Story
dir-scr David Lowery; with Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara 17/US ***.
A quirky oddity of a movie that's more than a little indulgent, this spiritual odyssey explores issues of life, death and time with a poetic sensibility, almost as if Terrence Malick made an extended Saturday Night Live sketch. It's so absurd that it feels like it should be funny, but the tone is strikingly somber, even morose. And while it's too mannered to be emotionally involving, it's impossible to look away.

dir Craig Johnson; with Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern 17/US ***
A jarringly offbeat tone keeps the audience on its toes for this scruffy comedy, which is essentially a celebration of a hyperactive, hopelessly optimistic curmudgeon. Based on screenwriter Daniel Clowes' graphic novel, there's nothing very realistic about this character, but the script is brittly funny, with hints of real insight under the goofy surface.

The Incredible Jessica James
dir-scr James C Strouse; with Jessica Williams, Chris O'Dowd 17/US ****
With a perceptive script and a wonderfully nuanced lead performance from Jessica Williams, this comedy has a lot of very honest things to say about the difficult choices we make relating to both relationships and careers. But while the film has moments of pointed intensity, nothing is ever laid on thickly. Instead, writer-director James Strouse keeps the audience laughing at the witty dialog and surprising characters all the way through.

Patti Cake$
dir-scr Geremy Jasper; with Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett 17/US *****
A loud blast of fresh air, this crowd-pleasing comedy-drama is impossible to watch without generating a huge smile and probably a few tears. It's a forward-thinking story of frustration and ambition that almost anyone in the audience can identify with, and it's populated with an eclectic bunch of messy, loveable characters. If you have the ability to find beauty in even the most unlikely places, it's pure bliss.

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