Sundance’s dark, raunchy comedy features strippers, bathroom sex, and mounds of cocaine—and has the meanest group of girls you’ll see onscreen this year. Marlow Stern talks to ‘Bachelorette’ stars Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, and writer-director Leslye Headland about cocaine, bathroom sex—and real-life weddings.
After blowing rails upon rails of cocaine and verbally undressing everyone in her path, Kirsten Dunst’s Regan has a stern warning to douche bag Trevor (James Marsden), as he jackhammers away at her in a strip-club bathroom, in a line that pretty much sums up Bachelorette: “Don’t cum on my dress.”
Take the vanity of Charlize Theron’s Mavis in Young Adult; add a pinch of Annie’s (Kristen Wiig) petty jealousy in Bridesmaids; and top it off with the iciness of Margaret Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep, in The Iron Lady and you have the recipe for Regan—one of the nastiest characters ever put to film.
“I feel like Sharon Stone in Casino is fucking crazy, but in her craziness, she’s so put together and awesome,” Dunst told The Daily Beast. “That’s kind of the essence that I went for.”
Xanax binges, sex at a strip club, and Dunst as an ice queen you won't forget. Chris Lee on the pitch-black pre-nuptial Indie comedy premiering at Sundance.
Explosive bathtub puking? Check. Lengthy monologue about blow-job semantics? Affirmative. Copious cocaine consumption? Strip-club bathroom sex? A suicidal Xanax binge? Check. Check. Check. Such are the many and varied wonders of the pitch-black indie comedy Bachelorette, starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and James Marsden—a movie that premiered here in Park City on Monday that your rangey correspondent managed to watch in a secret ski-chalet screening Friday morning.
Jacob Hutchings / Courtesy Sundance Channel
Early on in the film, a druggy, barely hinged party girl portrayed by Lizzy Caplan characterizes one of her friend’s romantic entanglements as being “like a Jane Austen novel on crack.” That’s as apt a description as any for Bachelorette, an antic caper shot through with doses of Neil LaBute-esque cross-talking dialogue. Sight unseen, the movie has already been tarred by comparisons to last year’s breakout hit Bridesmaids for the films’ shared marital milieu and shoot-milk-out-your-nose-laughing raunch factor.
Bachelorette follows three female BFFs—Dunst, as a bulimic perfectionist with ice in her veins and a snarl of pure scorn; Fisher, as a near-suicidal yet effervescent bubblehead prom queen; and the aforementioned Caplan—as they ready for the wedding of Becky (Bridesmaids’ hilarious Rebel Wilson), the high school ne’er do well, whom the other three used to scorn as “Pig Face” behind her back.
Melissa Leo on her costar's Sundance accident.
That was the question on everyone’s mind Monday morning at the Sundance Film Festival after hearing the 30 Rock star had collapsed at the festival Sunday evening. He was in town promoting the ensemble comedy Predisposed, but ended up at the hospital. People immediately began speculating that substance abuse was to blame—a rumor that was quickly debunked by a hospital spokesman, who said no alcohol or drugs were found in his system. Two years ago, Morgan had a kidney transplant and is a diabetic. Turns out it was the altitude.
“I just got off the phone with him,” said Predisposed codirector Ron Nyswaner Monday afternoon. “He said, ‘I’m A1 Steak Sauce.’ That means he’s fine.”
Bingham Ray, a celebrated studio head who helped foster the independent-film boom, died after suffering a stroke at the Sundance Film Festival. Chris Lee reports from Utah.
Bingham Ray, a widely admired indie-film veteran and former studio head, has died, the Sundance Film Festival announced on Monday. He was 57.
Bingham Ray in 2007. (Jesse Grant, WireImage / Getty Images)
Ray had reportedly been in serious but stable condition at a Provo, Utah, hospital and was surrounded by family when he died. His daughter told The Wrap that he had suffered a mild stroke last week followed by a “more serious” stroke on Friday during the festival.
The news registered like a death in the family in Park City, with many friends expressing outpourings of genuine sadness upon hearing of Ray’s passing.
At Sundance Film Festival.
30 Rock star Tracy Morgan had just received an honor at the Sundance Film Festival’s Creative Coalition Spotlight Awards Sunday night in Park City, Utah, when he collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital. Morgan reportedly left the event after his acceptance speech and fell unconscious outside the building. A hospital spokeswoman said that no drugs or alcohol were found in Morgan’s system, and his publicist said the combination of exhaustion and altitude caused the actor to faint.
The controversial performance artist’s documentary, Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, breaks through with art-house movie lovers as well as non-“elites” at Sundance.
On paper, the documentary’s premise seems like an exercise in art-house tedium: film a woman sitting in a wooden chair, moving as little as possible, and engaging in a staring contest with other people eight to 10 hours a day for three months. And action!
Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images
But, as the subject of the movie—legendary performance artist Marina Abramović—is fond of pointing out, context is everything, and even an incredibly simple act like sitting still for a really long time can become profound, inspiring, even transcendent if you go about it the proper way. “I understood that by doing nothing, you reduce, reduce, reduce,” Abramović, 65, said, seated in a Park City hotel atrium Saturday. “All you have is your state of being. That’s what performance should be: pure energy flow.”
The documentary Marina Abramović : The Artist is Present premiered at Sundance on Friday to rapturous response, exerting strong appeal not only to the type of high culture lovers Newt Gingrich might deride as “elites” but also to people who think the hoity-toity world of performance art and its goofball intellectual antics are so much emperor’s new clothing.
Interview with star and director about creepy film.
Filmmaker Rodrigo Cortés caused a feeding frenzy among buyers when his last film, BURIED, premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The film starred Ryan Reynolds as an Iraq-based American truck driver who’s attacked, and finds himself buried alive in a coffin with only a lighter, flask, flashlight, knife, glowsticks, pencil and a mobile phone. His captor torments him via cell phone, making him perform a series of sadistic funny games in order to win his freedom.
RED LIGHTS is Cortés’ latest exploration of how far people are willing to go to satisfy their curiosity. Tom Buckley, played by Cillian Murphy, is the assistant to psychologist Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver), who specializes in debunking paranormal phenomena. When the legendary blind psychic Simon Silver, played by Robert De Niro, reemerges after thirty years in hiding, it threatens to challenge the two psychologist’s theories. The film, which also stars Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones, and Joely Richardson, made its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Aziz Ansari, not so much.
Two years ago, Microsoft’s search engine Bing occupied the basement of Cisero’s off of bustling Main Street, where it played host to the after party of the Sundance hit WAITING FOR SUPERMAN—a documentary about the failings of the U.S. public education system. In the restaurant’s cramped, caliginous basement, John Legend, the film’s co-producer, teamed up with The Roots to perform an intimate show for about one hundred-plus people. To the right of the stage, behind a VIP rope flanked by three colossal security guards, stood a bespectacled middle-aged white guy in a fleece, cradling a beer and doing the Macarena. It was Bill Gates.
“We love the spirit of independence at Sundance, encouraging up-and-coming filmmakers, and the indie nature around it,” said Bing director Lisa Gurry. “Our first year at Sundance, we had such a great reception from the Sundance community that we decided last year to make a bigger investment.”
“WHERE THE F–K IS DRAKE?”
There were a plethora of highly touted comedies boasting heavy-hitting casts that had buyers—and audiences—salivating prior to the festival, but a little indie shot in just over ten days has emerged as the dark horse candidate for funniest film of Sundance 2012.
YOUR SISTER’S SISTER comes courtesy of “mumblecore” filmmaker Lynn Shelton, whose last film, HUMPDAY, premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival en route to a Special Jury Prize and critical raves for its uproarious portrait of two best friends locked in a no-holds-barred game of macho one-upmanship that leads to them agreeing to shoot a gay porn together.
The actor made an unexpected showing at Sundance with 'This Must Be the Place,' in which he plays a Goth rocker on a hunt for vengeance. Chris Lee reports from Utah on the eccentric new role.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and the Sundance Film Festival is no exception.
Coming into 2012, the fest’s line-up appeared to be absent one of Sundance’s most reliable boilerplates from over the years: a feature drama focusing on characters undertaking a cross-country journey of self-discovery. Google “cross-country journey of self-discovery” and “Sundance” and you’ll see what I’m talking about—there are enough of these films to constitute a legitimate sub-genre. Little Miss Sunshine features a dysfunctional family going such a journey; The Motorcycle Diaries has a young Che Guevara doing it; the 2005 mumblecore comedy The Puffy Chair follows a failed indie rocker taking the drive; and the YouTube mockumentary Catfish has a trio of social media enthusiasts behind the wheel.
But this year, a cursory scan through the festival line-up revealed no such cross-country journey of self-discovery movie—a seemingly glaring oversight for any Sundance. Enter Sean Penn’s extreme oddball dramedy This Must Be the Place.
It was by all accounts a momentous occasion. Harvey Weinstein loitered in the hallway. Seth Rogen politely acknowledged some overzealous fans with his trademark chuckle. Shailene Woodley, with a gaggle of girlfriends in tow, waited patiently out in the cold to be let inside. The stars were aligned for the world premiere of CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER on Friday evening at the Sundance Film Festival’s 1,270-seat Eccles Theater.
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (THE VICIOUS KIND, Sundance ’09), the film follows Celeste (Rashida Jones, who co-wrote the screenplay), a branding exec, and Jesse (Andy Samberg), an unemployed artist who, after a life-long friendship and six years of marriage, decide to split and see other people. Both parties, however, struggle to close the book on their storied past and start new, separate chapters in life.
Bingham Ray, a celebrated former studio head who helped foster the independent-film boom, suffered a stroke at the Sundance Film Festival, and is getting "very good care," according to his daughter.
Bingham Ray, a widely admired indie-film veteran and former studio head, suffered a stroke at the Sundance Film Festival this week and on Saturday was reported to be convalescing at a hospital in Provo, Utah. Ray's daughter told The Wrap that he had a mild stroke earlier in the week and then suffered a "more serious" stroke on Friday morning. Ray's daughter said he is getting "very good care."
The news registered with the strength of a bombshell in Park City, with many friends and confidants expressing horror upon hearing of Ray's medical condition.
The movie stalwart was named executive director of the San Francisco Film Society in October and from many years of attending the festival has become a cherished figure at Sundance. Ray famously cofounded October Films in 1991, a seminal indie distributor that released a number of acclaimed and Oscar-nominated movies including Secrets & Lies, Celebration, Breaking the Waves, and Lost Highway.
Having begun his career in moviedom as a projectionist for New York's Bleecker Street Theater in 1981, Ray went on to become president of United Artists and worked at Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. More recently, he worked as a consultant to Snag Pictures, a digital distribution company, and as an adjunct professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
Sundance founder Robert Redford loves this year's documentaries, but the fictional entries are just as fresh from the headlines.
Sundance founder/eminence gris Robert Redford recently voiced the opinion that several hard-edged documentaries screening at the festival (such as Chasing Ice and Detropia) “represent what’s going on in our country.”
Courtesy Sundance Institute
But other movies with strong echoes of present day reality—films that were similarly born out of news headlines—can be found outside Sundance’s non-fiction entries. Exhibit A: the brutish dramatic thriller Simon Killer that premiered Friday in Park City to enthusiastic crowd response. The movie owes its genesis to a high-profile subject of interest who’s been in the news in recent days: a suspected international serial killer who preys on young women.
Directed by Antonio Campos (who came to Sundance last year as producer of Martha Marcy May Marlene), Simon Killer follows disaffected recent college grad Simon (portrayed by Brady Corbet) as he drifts around Paris, attempting to lick his wounds after an acrimonious break-up with a longtime girlfriend. Simon is a lost soul, a man-child operating in wounded bird-mode with a barely-there grasp of French, when he shacks up with Victoria, a hooker with a proverbial heart of gold. And from there, the film takes a nose dive into neo-noir with Simon going sucked into a vortex of blackmail and deceit that both physically and emotionally batters the women around him.
Movie acquisition agents aren’t playing around this year: two of Sundance’s buzziest documentaries bought on the festival’s second day.
Heading into this year’s Sundance, movie pundits had a field day debating just how hot and heavy—or tepid and disappointing—the bidding would be at the festival, independent filmdom’s foremost North American marketplace. While 2011’s fest provided one of the most frenzied acquisition spectacles in a decade (with most of the wheeling and dealing taking place during the event’s initial Sunday-to-Wednesday logjam), not everyone arrived in Park City, Utah, optimistic of a repeat performance.
But on Friday, two of 2012’s buzziest documentaries had their North American distribution rights scooped up in an early indication that studio acquisitions agents aren’t playing around this year.
Sony Pictures Classics struck first blood, buying North American rights to Searching for Sugar Man, Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul’s directorial debut. Following the rise, seeming demise, and reemergence of an obscure but influential Mexican-American folk singer named Rodriguez, the movie premiered Thursday to tears, cheers, and a standing ovation from festival attendees.