Sundance 2013 – batch 4

Part not-quite dark comedy, part not-quite horror film, Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes presents a unique view of motherhood from a fascinating and warped perspective. The story centers on a young adult who is haunted by the circumstances of her own birth. She gets to know her neighbor, a young single mother with her own issues, played with a creepy form of sincerity by a version of Jessica Biel we have not seen before. Overall, oddly entertaining. B


Shot recently but with authentic low-fi black-and-white video equipment from a bygone era, Computer Chess places the viewer convincingly in 1980, when computer chess-playing programs were just starting to become viable and nerd culture was beginning to get excited about it. Following the events and participants in a fictional human vs. computer chess tournament held at a hotel, this bold film nails the atmosphere, through details such as equipment, decor, clothing, and hair style. But while the story delivers some comical hotel hijinks and some splendid awkward moments, it somehow fails to impress the way the style does. C


It Felt Like Love is the tale of an awkward young girl who is trying follow the example set by her more mature friend, with an interest in sex that is a few steps ahead of her ability to manage it. The story squanders an opportunity to celebrate youth and discovery, and instead presents a sad series of joyless, uncomfortable situations. C-


Centered on a popular high school student who enjoys his popularity in the present to the exclusion of any prospect for growth or accomplishment in his own future, The Spectacular Now teaches a time-to-grow-up moral lesson with unusual candor and humanity for a high-school movie. Especially effective are the scenes with the two leads, including one with sincerely beautiful dialog, where they point out the the good qualities in each other and make it almost believable that 2 > 1+1 . B+


Road trip film Ass Backwards had the potential to give us a fresh perspective on Romy and Michelle’s journey from a few years back. Two girlfriends decide to hit the road to revisit the beauty pageant they failed at in previous years, and maybe not lose this time because they have become awesome. There were some funny segments that were elevated by the skillful comedic fervor of the two leads, but overall it seemed to be lacking some element of script or direction. C


The deep-voiced guy who starts movie trailers with “In a world…”, and people like him, are voice-over artists, in some cases highly valued; and their weird, highly competitive little world is the setting for innovative and enjoyable comedy  In a World…. The comedically skilled ensemble includes Demetri Martin and Rob Corddry, but Writer/Director/Actress Lake Bell is the delightful main attraction, delivering lots of funny dialog in a framework with enough Hollywood-insider authenticity to make it believable. B+