2024 Sundance Film Festival - Day 5 Capsules | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

2024 Sundance Film Festival - Day 5 Capsules

Suncoast, Krazy House, In the Summers, And So It Begins, Super/Man, Kidnapping Inc.

Posted By and on January 23, 2024, 7:05 AM

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Suncoast *** [U.S. Dramatic]
The semi-autobiographical specificity connecting writer/director Laura Chinn’s story to real-world, highly-publicized events certainly gives writer/director a unique perspective, but it’s also the one thing that makes this otherwise lovely film feel a bit overstuffed. Set in early 2005 Clearwater, Florida, it deals with 17-year-old Doris (Nico Parker) and her mother (Laura Linney) as they move Doris’s terminally-ill, unresponsive older brother into hospice care—the same hospice, it turns out, that is housing Terri Schiavo, whose case involving end-of-life choices became a national lightning-rod for right-to-life protesters. That component is a relatively small part of the narrative, except for providing the opportunity for Doris to meet and befriend one of the protesters (Wood Harrelson), and it certainly underlines the way Chinn wants to explore the difference between ethics and grieving as abstract concepts, vs. the way we actually experience events in the moment. It’s much stronger, though, as a simple character drama, exploring Doris’s tense relationship with a mother who’s so much more focused on her dying son than her confused, lonely daughter, as well as Doris dipping her toes into having real friendships after years focused on being a co-caretaker for her brother. Parker, Linney and Harrelson are all wonderful at capturing differing manifestations of pain over loss, with Parker particularly deft at showing how easy it is for living one’s own life can inspire guilt when someone you love can’t live that life.

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Krazy House *1/2 [Midnight]
Sometimes, the catalogue description for a Sundance movie doesn’t really prepare you for what to expect—but in this case, unfortunately, it proved entirely, depressingly accurate at confirming my fears that this would be someone proving what a terrible idea it is to try to turn Too Many Cooks into a feature. If you recall the 2014 Adult Swim short by Casper Kelly, you’ll remember its unsettling mix of early-’90s sitcom aesthetics, various other genres and a curdled undercurrent of violence; that’s more or less what manifests in Dutch writer/director Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil’s movie, as Bernie Christian (Nick Frost), his wife Eva (Alicia Silverstone) and their two teen children (Gaite Jansen and Walt Klink) end up the hostages of a trio of Russian criminals. The major difference, however, is that while Too Many Cooks felt informed by a deep affection for the genre it was savaging, and the darker side of American life hidden by bubblegum entertainment, Krazy House plays like a smug outsider perspective on American ugliness, including a level of sacrilege that crosses the line between transgressive and just-plain-assholish. There are plenty of places here that offered the opportunity for real laughs beyond the skewering of sitcom tropes, but Haars and van der Kuil aim for ugly so much more often than brutally satirical. The weird stuff consequently just gets annoying in its gratuitous weirdness, resulting in one of those features built to be a “cult movie” without much concern for actually making something with a point, or even a point of view.

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And So It Begins **1/2 [Premieres]
It’s not the fault of Ramona S. Diaz that “follow the candidate” documentaries have become common at Sundance, but their prevalence does point out the ways in which this one falls a touch short. The subject is the Philippines presidential election of 2022, where progressive vice-president Leni Robredo runs in opposition to the ruling party of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as the candidate. That latter detail means Diaz needs to fold in the history of the dictatorship under Marcos Sr., and it’s certainly dispiriting to watch a historical revisionism fashioning the Marcos years as a kind of Golden Age. The challenge of combatting propaganda also ties into the ongoing story of journalist Maria Ressa—whom Diaz followed in her terrific 2020 Sundance documentary A Thousand Cuts—but the time spent on what amounts to a mini-sequel comes at the expense of really understanding who Leni Robredo is as a candidate aside from an alternative to the fascist-leaning status-quo. There’s far more time spent on the details of campaigning in the social-media age, and it’s admittedly perversely fascinating to see the focus on flash-mobs, elaborate rallies and amending songs to fit the candidate (“Let It Be” becomes “Leni Be”). The result is sporadically compelling but muddled, somehow losing sight of what the “It” in the film’s title is supposed to be.

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In the Summers *** [U.S. Dramatic]
There is a kind of Sundance movie which you can identify as “a kind of Sundance movie,” but which nevertheless can work extremely well if properly executed. Writer/director Alessandra Lacorazza spans approximately 15 years in covering four individual visits from California to Las Cruces, New Mexico by sisters Violeta and Eva to visit their father, Vicente (René Pérez Joglar). Multiple actors play Violeta and Eva for those individual segments, and it can be a challenge for a filmmaker to maintain a consistency of tone and performances in such a structure built on episodic storytelling. But Lacorazza finds great young performers to touch on the various phases of these characters, including Violeta’s growing self-awareness about sexual and gender identity, and Eva’s shifting feelings about her father. Anchoring it all is Pérez Joglar, whose Vicente is a unique mix of obvious intelligence—he moonlights as a physics tutor—who too slowly comes to understand what it means to be a parent. It’s a quiet, deliberately paced drama, with Lacorazza employing simple touchstones as a director like the state of the pool at Vicente’s house, and the filmmaker isn’t interested in trafficking in big confrontations. There’s more patience on display in conveying how dysfunctional familial relationships can shift over time, as people try to untangle the hurt they’ve experienced from the memories of love and caring.

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Kidnapping Inc. **1/2 [Midnight]
There’s an understandably dark undercurrent to co-writer/director Bruno Mourral’s crime farce as the filmmaker connects the story to the socio-political mess in the country where it’s set, but it does make it harder to embrace as crazy entertainment. The focus is on two hired guns—Doc (Jasmuel Andri) and Zoe (Rolapthon Mercure)—for a Haitian criminal enterprise who are charged with taking care of the kidnapped son of a presidential candidate (Ashley Laraque), and end up doing a pretty terrible job of it. The ensuing crime-gone-wrong chaos feels lifted straight out of a Coen brothers movie, including the involvement of a pregnant woman and her henpecked husband, the abductee’s unfaithful wife, her greedy lover and a ruthless biker assassin sent to clean up Doc and Zoe’s mess. Yet for all the chase sequences and over-the-top situations, Kidnapping Inc. also wants to emphasize the way it all ties into government corruption and the way Haiti seems to be on the verge of collapse; one major subplot involves the aforementioned pregnant woman desperately trying to get to Florida so her child won’t be born in Haiti. And that’s leaving aside a half-hearted attempt to humanize Doc by making it clear that he plans for this to be his last criminal job. Some of the situations are outrageous and well-staged enough to hold interest, but from the strident music to the bleak coda, there’s always a sense that this place is screwed-up enough that you should feel slightly guilty for laughing.

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Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story **** [Premieres]
This intimate documentary by Ian Bonhôte & Peter Ettedgui serves not simply as a chronicle of the life and career of Superman actor Christopher Reeve, but as a testament to human endurance that transcends the confines of a typical biographical film. Incorporating home-movie scenes, it provides an unfiltered lens into Reeve’s family life and their struggles after the spinal injury that left him paralyzed. The rawness of these scenes underscores the reality of living with a disability, a perspective often overlooked in mainstream media. Reeve’s voice is heard throughout the film, and in one captivating moment, he notes how different life is from his wheelchair, going from being a participant to an observer. Reeve became an unwavering advocate for people with disabilities after his paralysis, and the film highlights his activism, showcasing his dedication to changing societal attitudes toward disability. Through his story, it becomes evident that strength is not just physical, but also a matter of spirit. And that spirit continues with his three children, who continue doing the work of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. As a result, Super/Man is not just about what was lost due to Reeve’s paralysis, but also about the insight gained. It prompts viewers to re-evaluate their understanding of heroism, illustrating that heroes exist not just on the big screen but in real life, facing adversity with courage and resilience. (Aimee L. Cook)
Scott Renshaw

Scott Renshaw

Bio:
Scott Renshaw has been a City Weekly staff member since 1999, including assuming the role of primary film critic in 2001 and Arts & Entertainment Editor in 2003. Scott has covered the Sundance Film Festival for 25 years, and provided coverage of local arts including theater, pop-culture conventions, comedy, literature,... more

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