by Aaron Peck
I put my stomach troubles behind me on Day 4. I felt like a new man, but I couldn't help but think about poor pregnant Kristen Bell who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, today would go smoother than the last.
I started the day off at Starbucks. It's the only place near the bus stop where a hot drink can be purchased. It's the same Starbucks where just a few days ago, I spotted Montel Williams buying lattes for his small entourage. Not all celebrity encounters are created equal. They can't all be sightings of Daniel Radcliffe taking pictures with dozens of squealing teenage girls – most of which were taller than him. No, sometimes it's just a lowly talk show host/infomercial guru buying coffee.
After getting a drink I went back to wait at the bus stop. I checked my phone, the temperature, according to a handy app, was around -2 – degrees. It's weeks like this that are frustrating when going to a winter film festival. Years past Sundance has been blanketed in snow and cold weather, but this year is an anomaly. A huge snowstorm hit Utah right before the festival kicked off. Since then it's been nothing but sunny skies and warmer than usual weather. Except the mornings and evenings are still crackling with ice-cold air. This presents a dilemma. Do I wear thermals to counteract the cold? Or do I tough it out so I'm not sweating when the temp rises substantially throughout the day? I don't know why I always choose the first choice seeing that it's so cold in the mornings that the wind rips right through however many layers I've put on. Then the afternoon rolls around and I’m cooking to death inside my layered protection against the cold. It's a no-win situation.
The first movie of the day was Michael Winterbottom's ('The Killer Inside Me') 'The Look of Love,' which could quite possibly be the worst movie up here. Even with more naked flesh than anyone could care to quantify, 'The Look of Love,' a story about British pornographer Paul Raymond, is utterly boring in every respect. Steve Coogan tries to save it with a few Coogan-y facial expressions and line deliveries, but the movie is dead on arrival. So, I guess it makes sense that IFC picked it up.
After the movie's Q&A with Winterbottom and actress Tamsin Egerton (both pictured above), I made my way back to the theater where the press screenings take place. The tent is starting to reek of exhaustion and Clif Bars. Press and industry people are waddling down the lines in a daze. What was once enthusiasm for a brand new collection of films has turned into "Just another job," kind of vibe.
The movie I see next is called 'Concussion.' It's a movie about a lesbian housewife who is frustrated with her increasingly loveless partnership so she looks for lovin' from hookers on Craigslist. Then she moves on to higher class escorts. And finally she becomes an escort herself.
I was surprised at how much I liked 'Concussion.' It's erotic without being vulgar. TV mainstay Robin Weigert ('Sons of Anarchy') gives a terrific, sexy performance as Abby. These are the kind of movies that make Sundance worth it.
Outside it was becoming dusk. The air was getting colder again and would soon blast through my layers and chill me to the bone. That didn't matter though because I was excited that I'd finally been able to procure a ticket to see a public screening of 'The Spectacular Now.'
A bus ride later I was standing in line waiting to see my most anticipated movie of the festival. Josh Radnor clomped by in the theater lobby looking rather glum. I debated briefly asking for a photograph with him, mostly because my wife loves him, but my shyness prevailed yet again. At the head of the line was an older man – late sixties – who was greeted by the filmmakers when they came walking through the doors. They insisted he didn't have to stand in line, but he did all the same.
'The Spectacular Now' was everything I thought it was going to be. It was honest and candid. A beautifully real assessment of high school life and the real dangers of young alcoholism. The reason I was anticipating this movie so much was because I had read Tim Tharp's novel before the festival began. While I enjoyed the characters he'd created and the arcs that they go through, I was struck with the hankering suspicion that this was an old guy writing dialogue for teenagers.
Then the Q&A came and the same guy from the front of the line walked up with James Pondsolt, the director. Pondsolt introduced him as Tim Tharp (pictured above) and I nodded to myself. I knew it! Fortunately the script, which was penned by the team behind '(500) Days of Summer' ironed out the gimmicky dialogue from the book. They made it sound much more natural coming from the mouths of Shaliene Woodley and Miles Teller. Both great leads. It was the perfect way to end the night.