Sundance 2010 Preview: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Here’s where the Sundance faithful really sit up and pay attention. They might even turn their cellphones off in the screening room. It’s where Steven Soderbergh first came to prominence, where Kevin Smith transcended his obesity and where Quentin Tarantino revived the fortunes of Stealer’s Wheel. Can we expect similar breakouts this year? Well, the most common theme are misfits coming together and falling apart. So that’ll be Joseph Gordon-Levitt at rock bottom and a bereaved teenager, James Gandolfini trying to make Kristen Stewart the daughter he never had, and a librarian and a film projectionist heading out to Greed country. If most of these movies are playing it cool in scrutinizing togetherness, though, they boast some red-hot talent. Read on ..

Click here to read our U.S. Documentary Competition Preview
Click here to read our International Documentary Competition Preview
Click here to read our International Dramatic Competition Preview

Blue Valentine

Who’s in it? Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
What happens? On the verge of splitting, a couple head to a theme hotel to spice up their marriage. The film cuts between the present and a past courtship, when the pair were filled with hope about the future.
Why we like it: Ryan Gosling earned our undying devotion with Half Nelson. Michelle Williams came into her own last year with Wendy & Lucy. Let’s see some fireworks!


Who’s in it? Andrew Dickler, Ben York Jones, Marguerite Moreau
I said, who’s in it? Well, you’re only going to know Dickler if you carefully scrutinize the Borat credits for the editing department. That’s what makes Sundance so AWESOME! Independent film, baby!
So what happens? When his estranged brother becomes obsessed with finding his fifth grade sweetheart, Sam Nussbaum (Dickler) agrees to ditch his upcoming wedding and tag along. The fractitious road trip allows everybody’s favorite d-bag meme to be explored in detail.
Why we like it: Because after watching all those Iraqi War documentaries, we’re going to need a few mumblecore-style titters.


Who’s in it? Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Devin Brochu.
Oh, that (500) Days of Summer guy. Don’t get your Queen is Dead LP out just yet. He plays a 20-something dropout nihilist. Judging from the pictures, that handshake might be a little greasy.
Bring on the bombs, then. Well, try not to get too excited. Hesher befriends a teenager who is grieving his late mother.
I think I see where this is going. The healing process begins. Director Spencer Susser’s short I Love Sarah Jane was loved in some parts. But anything that features Natalie Portman and Gordon-Levitt with his shirt off can’t be that bad.

Holy Rollers

Who’s in it? Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Danny A. Abeckaser
What happens? Eisenberg is the Orthodox Jew who turns into an international Ecstasy peddler. Call it Mordecai, Full of Grace.
Come on now, who doesn’t like watching Orthodox Jews torn between two worlds? Well, they haven’t booked their tickets to Park City, that’s for sure.


Who’s in it? James Franco, David Strathairn, Jon Hamm
What happens? Franco is the young Allen Ginsburg, whose incendiary poem Howl defined the beat generation. The work changes the U.S. literary scene forever, but draws the censorious attention of the courts in 1957.
Is there anything James Franco can’t do? Play a straight guy? We kid, of course. He should be in safe hands. Director Rob Epstein made the Oscar-winning documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet with co-director Jeffrey Friedman.


Who’s in it? Gaynor Howe, Michael Piccirilli, Frank Hoyt Taylor
This sounds like another Sundance-y film. Sundance at its finest, chum. It’s the story of a lonely librarian who hooks up with a film projectionist and heads to Death Valley on the expected voyage of self-discovery.
Couldn’t get more twee if the soundtrack was provided by Sarah Records. Geeks need love, too. And aren’t you showing your age a bit there?

Welcome to the Rileys

Who’s in it? Kristen Stewart, James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo
TWILIGHT! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Calm down, please. Tony Soprano is nobody’s idea of a humpy vampire.
EEEEEEEEEEEEE! Well, even though you haven’t asked, Gandolfini is a father still devastated by the death of his young daughter. Stewart plays the equally damaged stray that he takes in during a business trip down New Orleans.
EEEE – wait, there’s no vampires? Sorry! Cineastes might be interested that this is the third film from director Jake Scott, whose dad Ridley produced along with uncle Tony.

Sympathy for Delicious

Who’s in it? Christopher Thornton, Juliette Lewis and Mark Ruffalo, who also directs.
Bit of a vanity project then. Tisk! Leave it to an actor directing his first feature to pick a humdinger of a story. Thornton plays a DJ named “The Stain” “Delicious” who, after being paralyzed in an accident, discovers he has the ability to heal Skid Row’s sick.
I’ll file it next to Nicolas Cage’s Sonny. Ah, go back to your Kristen Stewart Web site.

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6 Responses to “Sundance 2010 Preview: U.S. Dramatic Competition”

  1. jaepeters Says:

    In Sympathy for Delicious, Thornton is not The Stain, he’s Delicious, the DJ. The Stain is a singer in the band. Also not a vanity project. Thornton is actually paralyzed. I’m looking forward to this. Sonny, indeed!

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