by John Lopez, published on January 21, 2013 - 10:38 am|
The movie gods smiled on us coastal transplants Saturday as a clear, sun-kissed day kept the temperatures a respectable shiver away from abominable. It actually made it bearable to catch up with friends outside while you waited to get into a film. And really, that's the signature phenomena Sundance offers Hollywood, the chance to network. Sure, "lunch" is the iconic social glue of a Socially Darwinian town, but in the email age actually catching up with someone face to face, looking away from your Kindle/iPad to walk and talk somewhere, is pretty hard. So hard, in fact, you have to fly 1000 miles to do it. But of course you need to grist for the conversational mill and that's what Sundance provides -- instant gossip. Even those not busy wheeling and dealing can flaunt what movies' they've seen/failed to see, and what celebrities/power players they saw/pretended to see doing bizarre, otherworldly things, like riding an elevator, or waiting in the aisles for a seat to open up.
But at the heart of it all: movies, some of which I actually managed to see. Right off the plane, I rushed to Touchy Feely, Sundance darling Lynne Shelton's follow up to Your Sister's Sister, which stirred buzz at 2012's festival. Unfortunately, those high expectations may be dashed by the film's super subdued energy. It's a movie about small crises, and stilted emotions. Rosemarie DeWitt plays a masseuse who suddenly develops a fear of skin, which is pretty much just a displaced reaction to her boyfriend (Scoot McNairy) asking her to move in. Meanwhile, her anal-retentive dentist brother (Josh Pais) has his failing practice revived when he develops the mysterious ability to heal temporomandibular joint disorder -- a plot twist which necessitated Wikipedia surfing on my part. Also, Ellen Page is there as DeWitt's sister, mostly to give that wounded puppy look more recognizably employed in the service of Diablo Cody's witticisms or Christopher Nolan's mind-blowing. First, the good: Josh Pais's brother is the surprise of the movie. He's the kind of wet-blanket character so often used as a throwaway joke in most mainstream movies. Here, Shelton pushes us past his bland, timid personality; and Pais' performance engaged me so much that by the end I wanted his story to continue. DeWitt's lead character, while ostensibly "the fun one," actually lost my interest. The problem may be that her life seems well-balanced, so her crisis felt more like a mole-hill than a mountain. She isn't the same knotty mass of neuroses, hesitation and vulnerability as her brother, and thus less engaging. That said, the film has moments of insight, humor and engagement. And the after party thrown by Chase Sapphire was fun, too, if only because I saw Josh Radnor and Michael Cera looking lost while searching for lamb chops.