AMCi: The Sundance Diaries - Day Four

By Alicia Malone January 27, 2015

Day four began with a valiant attempt to open my eyelids. It was no easy task, days of not much sleep and a lot of movie watching had made them heavy. I swear I heard them grumbling at me when I forced them open.

But I'm so glad they complied, because our first film of the day was an absolute gem. 'Sleeping With Other People' is a rom-com written and directed by Leslye Headland ('Bachelorette') who described the film in her intro as "When Harry Met Sally for a-holes."

And that sums it up perfectly. Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis play two former college lovers who reconnect years later and decide to just be friends. Yes, it's a standard rom-com theme, the age old question of, "can men and women be friends?" But Leslye's sharp writing and the great comedic cast makes it feel fresh and modern.

There's joke after joke after joke, afterwards my stomach hurt from all the laughing. I adored Sudeikis' character, this charming womanizer who you want to hate but can't, and he has fantastic chemistry with Brie, who gives the crude humor a kind of elegance. There's plenty of truths about relationships to be found in the script, as well as the right dash of escapism, so all rom-com lovers (me!) can enjoy it. A huge standout is Jason Mantzoukas, who takes the 'funny best friend' role to new heights. I'm guessing many of his lines were improvised, and he is so damn hilarious.

With one comedy under our belts, we raced out to see another, 'D-Train', starring Jack Black and James Marsden. Just before the screening, the film was picked up for distribution by IFC Films, so we had high hopes. Black plays Dan, a lovable loser who is the head of his alumni's reunion team and determined to convince the most popular guy from school, Oliver (James Marsden) to attend. Things turn creepy when Dan takes a trip to LA to see Oliver, they have a night out on the town and... let's just say Dan starts to have some complex feelings for him.

The tone is quite dark, and melancholic at times. There are a few laughs, but ultimately you just end up feeling sad for Dan, and more than a little uncomfortable. Jack Black is so good at toeing the line between sweet and INSANE. Overall, I liked what the filmmakers Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul we're going for, but it certainly isn't a film I'll go back to watch again.

My third film for the day was 'Partisan', the first feature from Aussie director Ariel Kleiman. Appropriate, given it's Australia Day today! 'Partisan' is an interesting movie, a slow-burn about a commune leader (Vincent Cassel) who is raising a group of trained assassin kids, living with them and their mothers. It's a great existence for him, until one of the kids, Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel) starts to question everything. Jeremy is the stand-out of the film, a brilliant young actor to watch, but unfortunately the film is so slow, it's hard to keep your interest. I think it would be a wonderful short film instead of a feature.

Here's an example of how crazy you get at film festivals. After missing out on a few screenings because they were too well attended, I showed up for the much-buzzed about 'Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief' 1.5 hours early. And I was still towards the end of the line! Luckily, we made it in, and after hearing mixed things about this doc, I had lower expectations.

But I really enjoyed it. Alex Gibney is a great documentary filmmaker ('Taxi To The Dark Side', 'The Armstrong Lie') and he chooses compelling subjects. I had barely any knowledge about the inner workings of the "religion", so I found it fascinating. Alex interviews eight former members, most of which were high up in the organization (and director Paul Haggis) who detail everything they went through. They talk about the physical and emotional abuse, the IRS lawsuits, the celebrity involvement, and having to disassociate from their families. It's quite sad to hear the stories, and you begin to understand how they got so deeply entrenched, making it tough to get out.

Day four is done and what I'm most surprised about, is how my body is still able to function on the sheet amount of popcorn I've consumed. More tomorrow!

Which movies sound most interesting to you? Let us know in the comments below!

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