Note: This is a reprint of my review of The Sessions, formerly The Surrogate, upon its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. I’ve changed the name of the film below, but left everything else remains intact. It opens on a limited basis today and is truly one of the year’s most special films.

With 2011 being a rare exception, a Sundance award winner is almost always in the thick of awards season. And while the 2012 Sundance Film Festival has yet to bestow its awards, let alone premiere all the films, I feel confident in saying Ben Lewin‘s The Sessions will likely be in the mix for awards here and possibly next year at the Oscars.

The Sessions is the true story of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a California-based journalist relegated to a gurney and iron lung because of disabling polio. At the age of 38, he’s still a virgin and, with the blessing of his priest (William H. Macy), Mark hires a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to remedy the problem.

While the story sounds kind of creepy, pathetic and depressing, The Sessions is exactly the opposite. It’s hilarious, brave and frank about both disabilities and sexuality. It’s a special film which had its world premiere this week in Park City, leading to what looks like a $6m deal for Fox Searchlight to distribute the film. Read more after the jump. Read More »

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The story of a guy trying hard to get laid for the first time has been told and told again in many an R-rated comedy, but Ben Lewin‘s The Sessions isn’t American Pie or even The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Instead, it’s a truth-based drama that’s garnering serious Oscar buzz for its star, John Hawkes. The Martha Marcy May Marlene actor plays poet Mark O’Brien, who’s confined to an iron lung thanks to a long-ago battle with polio. At 38, he decides it’s time to lose his virginity, and he enlists the help of a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to do so.

The Sessions originally debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival under the title The Surrogate, and then briefly changed its name to Six Sessions before settling on The Sessions. But whatever it’s called, it’s proving well-loved. Germain called it “truly breathtaking” and named it one of his favorites of this Sundance 2012, and other critics have been similarly enamored. Watch the first trailer after the jump.

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We can probably blame the Bruce Willis sci-fi film Surrogates for the fact that Fox Searchlight has changed the title of the John Hawkes-starring Sundance fave The Surrogate. The Willis film was pretty forgettable, but not quite forgettable enough that Searchlight wanted to go with the original title for the film about a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) hired to, er, ‘work with’ a bedridden man played by Hawkes.

The film is now called Six Sessions, and it will be released on October 26 of this year. Read More »

The Best of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival

For ten days each January, in the snowy town of Park City, Utah, the year in independent cinema is set. The 2012 Sundance Film Festival was true to that promise and provided attendees with a slew of films that are sure to be not only among the year’s best, but in the hunt for awards come Oscar time next year.

Along with Peter Sciretta, I was once again deep in the trenches of Park City –  battling bus schedules, lack of sleep, snow, slush and more – to see as many movies as possible to try and get an idea of what the rest of 2012 holds. And it’s looking good.

We all know that the next few months hold an unprecedented offering of big budget blockbusters but companies like Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, IFC, Magnolia and more all bolstered their upcoming release schedules by purchasing some of the best films of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The official awards have been handed out, but what were our favorites?

After the jump read about the best films of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Read More »

The Sundance Film Festival prepared to come to a close for 2012 tonight as the festival held its some of its last screenings and mounted an awards ceremony to celebrate the best films of this year’s festival. The biggest jury prizes went to Beasts of the Southern Wild (reviewed here) and Eugene Jarecki‘s war on drugs documentary The House I Live In.

The Surrogate (reviewed here) took an Audience Award, as did the doc Searching for Sugar Man (reviewed here) and the film Valley of Saints. The full list of awards is below. Read More »

The title The Surrogate, to me, immediately calls up impressions of a horror film or thriller, but the movie that has had John Hawkes attached is something else entirely. An emotional thriller, perhaps. The Surrogate is based on a true story and will feature the actor as “Mark O’Brien, a paraplegic polio victim who lived most of his life in an iron lung, paralyzed from the neck down.” But that’s only the setup; there’s quite a bit more to the story than that — it addresses a longing to experience one specific aspect of humanity that such a life would be removed from.

He’s now joined by Helen Hunt, playing the role alluded to in the film’s title, and Moon Bloodgood and Rhea Perlman are on board, too. Read More »

Paul Verhoeven to Direct The Surrogate

the surrogate

Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) returns stateside to develop and direct The Surrogate for 20th Century Fox. This project shouldn’t be confused with Disney’s Bruce Willis sci-fi comic book adaptation Surrogates, although I would expect that Fox might change the title to avoid confusion.

The plot can’t be any more different, more of a traditional contemporary thriller. Based on the 2004 novel by Kathryn Mackel, the story follows a couple who find out that the young college girl who they hired to carry their baby is insane.

Read More »

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