Day two of my coverage of the Sundance Film Festival
dir. Ricky D’Ambrose
Only child Jesse experiences two decades of his family through fractured, random, and specific memories. Between the business struggles of his father (Brian d’Arcy James) and the family issues of his mother (Monica Barbaro), Jesse lives through the experiences of others.
What specifics do you remember as a child? What perspective do you embrace? The film obviously represents an autobiographical look at D’Ambrose’s experiences, but it’s also the little odd memories that stick as well. There are obviously big experiences, but little pieces resonate as well. The disjointed, spastic narrative is definitely an original idea, and it’s a noble effort at trying something different and personal. Unfortunately, I can’t say I enjoyed any part of it. Overlong, despite a mere 87-minute runtime. (2.0/5.0)
When You Finish Saving the World
dir. Jesse Eisenberg
Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard) is a vlogger who performs music to his number of followers. Evelyn (Julianne Moore) is Ziggy’s mother who no longer understands the child she raised. Working at a women’s shelter, Evelyn looks to a young man (Billy Bryk) as a “replacement” son while Ziggy stumbles through his pursuit of a politically-minded classmate Lila (Alisha Boe).
Eisenberg is clearly influenced by the awkward interplay between the characters in Noah Baumbach films, but instead of intellectuals stuck in their own little world, Evelyn and Ziggy are raging narcissists who are completely oblivious to anyone who doesn’t directly help their own lives. Moore and Wolfhard do what they can, but there is nothing enjoyable about watching their narcissism.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and there are worse places to start than a Baumbach impression by Eisenberg. Hopefully, the next time will work out more successfully. (2.5/5.0)
dir. Nikyatu Jusu
Senegalese immigrant Aisha (Anna Diop) longs to bring her son to the United States. She lands a job as a nanny to the daughter of a posh Manhattan wife Amy (Michelle Monaghan) and her husband Adam (Morgan Spector). As the day to bring her son to America gets closer, supernatural elements begin to take over Aisha’s nightmares as well as her reality.
Aisha is a dynamic character and Diop doesn’t waste any opportunity to express her worries, frustrations, or exuberance at the prospects of her future. The film ratchets up the tension to unbearable levels without a clear understanding of what is happening to Aisha. It’s all about atmosphere and Jusu creates some astounding visuals to go along.
More of a horror story of experience, the film sets the right tone and delivers something unsettling in the best way. Jusu is a real filmmaking voice to keep an eye out for. (4.0/5.0)
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
dir. Sophie Hyde
Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) is a 55-year-old widow with a boring, conventional life. In order to experience some adventure, she hires sex worker Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) to fulfill her needs.
The film hits on some fascinating themes, including (but not limited to) self-esteem, body dysmorphia, sex work, social stigmas related to sex, and plenty others. More than anything, it focuses on how sad a life with unfulfilled passion looks like. Thompson is her regularly magnificent self, while Thompson is pure sexual charisma and charm. Their chemistry is electric.
Hyde and writer Katy Brand limit the action to a single setting, but it never feels like a trick. And when the sex actually starts, it is as hot as it gets. I think it’s patronizing to call actors “brave” but it is a soul and body-bearing performance from both actors. Exceptionally delightful on every front. (4.5/5.0)
Day two is in the books. I’ll be back for day three later in the week.