Sundance Film Festival offers diverse, mix-reviewed films

Review: Sundance entries make audiences laugh, cry, cringe and everything in between.

It may seem as if the Sundance film festival has been around forever, when in reality it has only been around since the 1980’s. Sundance's roots go back to 1981 when Robert Redford founded the institute, a non-profit organization that seeks to provide a space for new, fresh voices in the American film industry.

Starting off with ten new filmmakers in 1981, the institute has now grown to supporting over 350 emerging artists. The first festival took place in 1985, and it has been growing ever since. The organization has grown from being solely located in Utah to having offices in Park City, Los Angeles and New York.

As Sundance institute continues to grow, independent artists will continue to produce new, groundbreaking work. This organization gives up-and-coming filmmakers the tools to share their stories where before, they may not have gotten the chance.

One of the most talked about films shown at the Sundance Film Festival this year was a documentary called Welcome to Leith, which was funded through kick starter. The film takes place in Leith, a town with a population of 24 people. It takes a disturbing turn with the introduction of a man named Craig Cobb, a white supremacist who wants to take over the town. What makes this film so disturbing is the realization that Cobb and his supporters can actually be successful.

The criticism for this movie has been overwhelmingly positive. When asked about the film, Dennis Harvey of Variety said it's “as engrossing as a fictional thriller.” Meanwhile, other reviews on the movie comment on how the most terrifying part of this film is the mere fact that it's horrifyingly real.

Another widely talked about movie that was shown at Sundance this year was The End of the Tour. The film follows an author named David Wallace, played by Jason Segel, and Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg. The two meet, form a strong relationship, and the interview is never published. The End of the Tour is based off of Lipsky’s memoir, which was published after Wallace’s suicide.

The End of the Tour is an honest, heartbreaking, and sometimes funny portrayal of an unexpected friendship brought to life by Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel’s chemistry and sincerity.

“The script is so full of acute observations that I found myself scribbling down the whole movie as I was watching," said Kyle Smith of the New York Post. 

Next up is The Witch.  Although it may not have achieved significance for its horror, Director Robert Eggers' debut feature surpassed expectations in regards to its artistic value.  

Set in the 1630s, The Witch is the story of a Christian couple with five children. After their youngest son mysteriously disappears, the family begins to face drastic changes in structure which results in more cryptic happenings. Their crops begin to fail and their goat begins to produce blood rather than milk, eventually triggering family members to turn on one another. The movie becomes murkier and more violent as the plot progresses and keeps the audience on its toes. 

The picture has been receiving mixed reviews, but positive ones in regard to the art of filmmaking. The feature succeeds in creating a sense of complete isolation on a farm that looks very handmade, as do the unaffected costumes, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

A mix between The Great Gatsby and Sex in the City, Noah Baumbach’s Mistress in America has received nothing but encouraging reviews after its Sundance debut . The smart comedy with a farce flare follows the story of two stepsisters, Tracy and Brooke, played by Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig.

When Tracy, an aspiring writer, moves to New York to study, she finds herself out of place and relies on her soon-to-be stepsister's guidance. This fast-paced comedy whirlwinds into a six-person road trip and tackles heavy themes, which are merely foreshadowed. Gerwig continues to amuse with her portrayal of such a complex character, while newcomer Kirke delivers a high-standard performance.

“This is a delicious soufflé, and one lighter than Baumbach’s last (still yet-to-come-to-theatres) comedy While We’re Young," according to The Guardian.

Futhermore, the New York Post went as far as to call Baumbach one of the wittiest writers alive. The film, a must watch for those who love the vibe of big cities, “has nothing if not great vitality and an active creative spirit,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Lastly is Mississippi Grind, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s debut feature starring Ryan Reynolds and Sienna Miller. The film, recounts the story of Gerry, a failed poker player, who joins Curtis, a reminder of his younger self, in an attempt to change his luck and solve his financial issues.

Although it may seem like the typical addiction immersion movie, the feature does not follow a comfortable timeline and may require patience, as opposed to big Hollywood blockbusters.

"While the tone is relaxed and playful, the underlying sadness comes through,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

 However, elaborate filmcraft is not the only attribute of this movie.

The Hollywood Reporter also mentioned, “the polished movie's limberness to a large degree comes from its invigorating use of flavorful blues and honkytonk tunes, including vocal, guitar and piano pieces.”

Sydney Shulman also contributed to this review.



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