Mindy Kaling mined her past for the workplace comedy “Late Night,” which debuted at Sundance Film Festival. She says diversity on screen is a “reflection of what people want to see.” (Jan. 27).
PARK CITY, Utah – HBO’s “Leaving Neverland,” an explosive look at sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, isn’t the only movie that has had Sundance Film Festival buzzing. Here are 10 more discoveries you should know about.
1. ‘Blinded by the Light’
A joyous reminder of why we love movies. Vibrantly directed by Gurdiner Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”), “Blinded” uses the music of Bruce Springsteen as the catalyst for a British-Pakistani boy’s (Viveik Kalra) coming of age. Part romance, part father-son drama, with a loving ode to immigrants that is unexpectedly timely, it has all the ingredients of a feel-good hit. New Line thinks so, too, having bought the film for $15 million (the highest purchase price of any film at the fest).
2. ‘Late Night’
Amazon scooped up this sweet, subversive comedy for $13 million, which stars Emma Thompson as a caustic veteran late-night host fading from the spotlight and the earnest new comedy writer (Mindy Kaling) who makes her show relevant again. Kaling’s whip-smart screenwriting debut deftly tackles gender politics and workplace diversity, and Thompson has never been better.
3. ‘The Report’
Already flagged as an awards contender in the vein of “Spotlight,” this scorching political procedural (which Amazon will release later this year) tells the true story of Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), a Senate staffer who led the investigation into the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” after 9/11. Look for Annette Bening in the supporting-actress race for her nuanced, spot-on turn as Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
If you’re seeing a movie this fall, Lucas Hedges is probably in it. His three latest are “Mid90s,” “Boy Erased” and “Ben Is Back.”
4. ‘Honey Boy’
“Honey” is cinematic therapy for first-time screenwriter Shia LaBeouf, who also plays his abusive, alcoholic father in this searing, semi-autobiographical drama. Lucas Hedges and a standout Noah Jupe (“A Quiet Place”) co-star as fictionalized versions of LaBeouf as a child actor.
5. ‘Big Time Adolescence’
“Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson shows major movie-star potential in this hilarious and surprisingly perceptive high-school comedy in which he plays the much older slacker friend of a 16-year-old boy (Griffin Gluck of “American Vandal”).
6. ‘The Farewell’
Awkwafina (“Crazy Rich Asians”) shows her dramatic chops in one of the most beloved films out of the fest, which has been picked up for distribution by A24. The actress/rapper brings heartbreaking depth to Billi, a waggish out-of-work writer who travels to China to say goodbye to her ailing grandmother, who in accordance with Chinese tradition, has not been told by her loved ones that she’s dying.
7. ‘Knock Down the House’
Plenty of documentaries about controversial figures bowed at Sundance, such as Michael Jackson (“Leaving Neverland”), Harvey Weinstein (“Untouchable”) and ex-Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes (“The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley”). So it was a relief to see something as genuinely uplifting as “Knock,” which follows the scrappy congressional campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. The documentary earned Sundance’s Audience Award.
Alfre Woodard could net her first Oscar nomination in more than three decades for her remarkably restrained performance in this harrowing prison drama, about a diligent warden coming to terms with the dozen death row inmates she has executed. The film won top honors at Sundance, taking the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for drama.
9. ‘Them That Follow’
Oscar nominee Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) reminds usshe’s one of the greats, playing a deeply conflicted member of a Pentecostal snake-handling church in Appalachia. Alice Englert and Thomas Mann co-star as young lovers in a forbidden romance, which threatens to destroy their families as this slow-burn thriller explodes into unsettling body horror.
10. ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’
One of the best-reviewed movies out of the fest, this poetic, offbeat buddy film explores legacy and gentrification through the eyes of an idealistic young man (Jimmie Fails), who with the help of his best friend (Jonathan Majors) tries to reclaim a Victorian home built by his grandfather where a white family now lives.
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