Sundance 2017 – batch 2

As a marriage starts to lose its novelty and the inevitable disagreements become more problematic for a thirtyish couple, they stumble upon the idea of reinventing their arguments as songs, and forming a rock band to perform them. This unusual marriage therapy is the basis of domestic comedy Band Aid, which features skillful performances from leads Zoe Lister-Jones (who also wrote and directed) and Adam Pally, who mix the comedy and drama well. The several songs composed for the film are entertaining and work in this context but don’t really stand on their own. This distinctive and original turning-pain-into-art story provides a unique perspective on marriage, and has some fun moments. B.


Instagram is a useful app for people who like to amass followers and enjoy the sort of admiration and praise the more enthusiastic followers bestow on every posted photo. But the dark side is that it also provides a natural means for celebrity-infatuated, problematic stalkers to pursue their obsessions. So modern cautionary tale Ingrid Goes West examines that dark side, through the eyes and iPhone of the gifted Aubrey Plaza as a disturbed young woman who travels west from Instagram’s fanland suburbs to the creepytown section of stalkerville. The story is told with a lot of comedy, in the sort of style that uniquely suits Plaza, but it eventually becomes uncomfortable as her charater’s virtual-world infatuations become real-world obsessions and become a real threat to her target. C+.


Not to be confused with the biopic of J. D. Salinger, which also premiered at Sundance 2017, fictional mystery Sydney Hall also tells the story of a young author who achieves success at a young age and then becomes reclusive in later years. The mystery is drawn out a bit, in a film that visits the characters at the ages of 18, 24, and 30, and which puzzles the audience by flashing forward and backwards in time. The time shifting detracted from some otherwise fine performances by the cast. C.


Apparently, dating apps make it easier than ever for pretty millennials who have a mutual interest in immediate boning to find each other and get on with it, without the inefficient old-school formality of a first date. Ultra-modern romance Newness is set in this world where your next iBang is just a few iPhone swipes and texts away.

After a frenetic first act where the handsome couple find each other, hook up, and do some creative humping, the film settles in to a more conventional study of the next step in their romance. Once the duo determine they have more in common than looking awesome and shagging, they want to stay together, but they still crave the novelty of new nookie and so they forge an open relationship, with rules about honesty. As the film explores the nature of modern relationships, it suggests that monogamy may not be natural for beautiful young people, but the alternative is tricky AF LOL. B.


Privileged teenage white girl angst drives smart dark comedy/thriller Thoroughbred. With an ineffectual mom and an insufferable step-dad, in a big house in a really nice part of Connecticut, a somewhat sociopathic daughter and her more sociopathic BFF pool their skills and their complementary disorders to find a surprisingly effective solution to the dad problem.

All the elements of this film are first rate, including the performances by the two young actresses, the smart dialog, and the Hitchcockian direction where the horrible things happen off screen and the viewer’s imagination fills in the grim details. It’s made more effective by a deranged musical score, and by the final performance of the late Anton Yelchin, bringing depth to his role as a lightweight wannabe thug.

As the writer director explained in the post-screening QA, this film was intended to “walk the comedy/thriller/drama tightrope”, and it succeeds in keeping its audience unbalanced, teetering and tittering. A-.


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