Posted on Friday, January 27th, 2017 by Peter Sciretta
The /Film team of Angie Han, Ethan Anderton, and myself have returned from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Over the six days we were in Park City, we screened over 36 movies (with only one movie having been watched by all three of us). Here are 15-second capsule reviews of all the movies we saw at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
2017 Sundance Film Festival Review Round-up
Ethan: The nerdiest of film documentaries, this dives deep into the meaning, making, and cultural significance of the iconic shower scene featuring commentary from all sorts of filmmakers. I could watch a doc like this about all the various iconic scenes in movies and never be bored.
A Ghost Story
Ethan: A bold rumination on mortality, time and legacy. Slow but totally disarming. Provocative and depressing. It requires great patience but the payoff is well worth it.
An Inconvenient Sequel
Peter: If An Inconvenient Truth was an eye-opening disaster movie, then An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power is the heartbreaking post-apocalyptic follow-up. It is equal parts depressing, infuriating, inspiring and stressful. But the film isn’t without a tinge of hope. You can read my full Inconvenient Sequel review here.
Ethan: Another wake-up call for climate change deniers who keep hitting the snooze button. Al Gore‘s passion is undeniable, and he really gets worked up this time rather than trying to tell us delicately about this issue that isn’t just about saving the planet, but saving lives and helping developing nations.
Peter: A sweet heartfelt film about the psychology of a troubled relationship and the attempt to start a band to save it. My only complaint is that I wish there were more songs in this film.
Ethan: A strong directorial debut by Zoe Lister-Jones, who also turns in an outstanding lead performance alongside the charismatic Adam Pally. Some great songs and a hilarious supporting turn by Fred Armisen.
Beatriz at Dinner
Angie: I couldn’t quite get into the rhythm of Beatriz at Dinner, which mixes drama, satire, and sociopolitical commentary. But it’s hard to ignore how depressingly relevant it is. Salma Hayek plays an odd but idealistic healer who grows increasingly agitated over the course of a dinner party, with particular fury directed at a Trumpish developer played by John Lithgow.
Before I Fall
Peter: I enjoyed the second half of Before I Fall way more than the first. The premise is basically Groundhog Day meets a drama version of Mean Girls. But unlike in that teen classic, it’s hard to like any of the main characters in this movie, and the time loop beats don’t stray far from the formula we’ve seen before. The ending is mind-blowingly stupid.
Angie: Zoey Deutch is going to be a big, big star. I’ve said it before and I believe it more than ever after Before I Fall. But she probably deserved better than this tepid material. The premise seems half-baked (the ending is especially silly), with thinly drawn characters who never transcend their stereotypes and groanworthy plot beats we can see coming from a mile away.
Angie: Berlin Syndrome takes a while to build, but eventually adds up to a tense captive drama that digs deep into the uncomfortable psychological dynamic between abductor and abductee. Teresa Palmer is compelling at Clare, adeptly cycling through her character’s shifting mindsets, and Max Riemelt is frighteningly good at weaponizing his charisma. I just wish I’d seen this one under better circumstances. Read my full Berlin Syndrome review.
Peter: I saw over a dozen films at this year’s Sundance and Bitch was by far the worst. The film follows a wife who has a psychotic break and begins to believe she is a dog. The description is far more entertaining than the movie, which just has so many annoying cracks in it. Jason Ritter and Jaime King are both good in this movie, but they are not enough to save this premise.
Angie: I’ll say this: I was never bored. But I don’t know that I was ever that enthralled, either. The attention-grabbing premise — an unhappy housewife starts to think she’s a dog — turns out to be just a catalyst for an overfamiliar tale of a workaholic man who learns to value his family, and the tone veers all over the place without ever settling into anything all that interesting.
Peter: Produced by the Lonely Island crew and Phil Lord and Chris Miller, this film is hilarious, full of heart, and unlike anything you’ve ever seen. A story about the healing power of storytelling and the wonder of filmmaking.
Ethan: A wonderful movie about the power of storytelling. A truly original story with a fake children’s TV series at the center that you wish was real. This feels like the movie Kyle Mooney was born to make, full of charm, hysterical comedy, and cinematic magic. Fans of Mark Hamill‘s voice work will love what he gets to do in this movie too. Read my full Brigsby Bear review here.
Call Me By Your Name
Angie: An exquisite tale of sexual awakening and first love, Call Me By Your Name has stayed with me like a late-summer sunburn. Luca Guadagnino demonstrates once again that there are few directors as sensual as he is — you can practically smell the peach trees in the breeze and feel the sweat drying on your skin. Timothée Chalamet gives a star-is-born performance as Elio, all the way through the tremendous final shot. Read my full review of Call Me By Your Name.
Ethan: A beautiful, moving story of sexual awakening and identity. A staggering romance that proudly brings young Timothée Chalamet onto the scene in a big way, but don’t sleep on Michael Stuhlbarg‘s supporting performance either.
Ethan: I love how this movie takes typical indie tropes like returning home from the big city, break-ups, romance, alcoholism and abuse and gives them a fascinating, funny and original sci-fi twist. Anne Hathaway is fantastic and Jason Sudeikis gives one of this best performances to date.
Angie: You’ve never seen anything like Nacho Vigalondo‘s monster movie, which kept me guessing throughout. It’s part Drinking Buddies, part Smashed, part Godzilla, peppered with some smart feminist commentary. Jason Sudeikis is especially good here, pushing his “charming dick” persona to its jagged edge. Read my full review of Colossal from TIFF.
Angie: Columbus is slow and subtle, almost to a fault, but I came away feeling like I’d been given a sweet treat to savor. John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson are quietly magnificent as two strangers who strike up an unexpected friendship in an unusual town, and writer-director Kogonada gives them the time and space they need to unfold. Read my full review of Columbus.
Angie: The plot of Crown Heights is powerful — it’s based on the true tale of a young man who spends 20 years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of murder. But its execution is sorely lacking, leaving us with what feels like the Wikipedia version of the story. Its only saving grace is Lakeith Stanfield, whose lead performance is so soulful that he almost convinces you this is a good movie.
Continue reading our 2017 Sundance Film Festival reviews by clicking the link below.