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Good Morning! "Teen Girl" & Sales Notes from Sundance

Sundance is keeping me mighty occupied though I promise that more reviews are coming. Yesterday I caught Glassland (reviewed), and two gay films, one of which I loved (Tangerine - not to be confused with the Estonian picture nominated for an Oscar right now) and the other that I'm trying to parse my feelings for still (I Am Michael) but both reviews are in the queue.


Inbetween every movie I keep hearing people enthusing about The End of the Tour starring Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel (the latter winning dream reviews). If it wasn't that it was people bitching about being shut out of additional screenings added to keep up with demand for The Witch. The two of those seem to be the fest's buzziest title (thus far) so of course I didn't schedule either! It's always a crapshoot when you work out a schedule... or don't work one out early enough which tends to be my problem. There was no warning on the success of The Witch at all as it's a period piece (set before the Salem witch trials) from a first time director without any stars in the cast. Fresh voices as festival breakouts? Yes please. Sundance always hopes to be about that, actually, but quite often the buzziest titles are less unfamiliar.

My final film yesterday was one of Sundance's other hot titles, The Diary of a Teenage Girl. The film stars a very young looking 22 year old British actress named Bel Powley as a precocious 15 year old who is experimenting with and embracing her burgeoning sexuality in 1970s San Francisco. The film opens with a line that goes something like 'Today I had sex for the first time. Holy shit!' Her bohemian mother (Kristen Wiig, excellent again) is rather oblivious to her daughter's horniness and doesn't realize that her own boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard) is sleeping with Minnie. Writer/director Marielle Heller (as well as, presumably, the novelist Phoebe Gloekner who provided the source material) daringly shows Minnie initiating the sex in Lolita-esque fashion....

It's not currently in vogue to baldly state that some minors pursue their adult lovers in our outrage-friendly culture that likes an easy scapegoat. This is not to say that the film blames Minnie for the deed or the large emotional fallout of the inappropriate affair;  the depth of Monroe's expertly manipulative nature and self-absorption are gradually revealed in Skarsgard's game performance to balance things out and add texture and complexity to their illegal romance.

Two caveats: I thought the film was a touch repetitive in its last half hour, the period felt a bit like whimsical dress up rather than wholly lived in, but it was always engaging and the animation effects (Minnie is a cartoonist) were a unique fresh twist. I particularly  loved Minnie's scenes with her equally promiscuous best friend Kimmie (Madeleine Waters) and a cameo by Christopher Meloni, against type as Minnie's stuffy former step-dad. Diary will surely be heralded for its unapologetically sexual and distinctly feminine perspective on the well worn coming of age genre. Think An Education only significantly less posh and considerably hornier.  Since the nudity is mostly of the young woman variety, I suspect that the MPAA won't be too harsh. Unless they notice how much Minnie is enjoying it ("misogyny 4evah!!!" - average mpaa member) or confuse animated penises with real ones (well, I mean, it's not like they ever see real ones ("those things are scary!" -average mpaa member). Michael really loved it so I promised him the actual review duties and  I'll shut up now.

It's easy to forget in the high of a rush of new movies that most films are not there to win over critics or festivalgoers but to find a buyer so that people outside the festival may actually one day see them and also so that the indie filmmaking team might actually get paid.

Eisenberg & Segel in "The End of the Tour"

  • The Bronze (the comedy with Sebastian Stan) went for $3 million to Relativity
  • Strangerland was bought by Alchemy, which used to be Millenium Entertainment, for a little over $1 million
  • Misery Loves Comedy (a doc about comedians) went to Tribeca Films 
  • The End of the Tour went to A24 who do right by their films so that's good news.
  • The Witch will also partner up with A24 for something like $1.5 million
  • Results, starring Guy Pearce as a personal trainer, will be distributed by Magnolia 
  • Mistress America, the new Baumbach/Gerwig collaboration will be released by Fox Searchlight 
  • The D Train starring Jack Black and James Marsden (which is quite funny) will be distributed WIDE by IFC Films... perhaps they're feeling like a bigger dog post Boyhood?

If you're interested in this sort of thing /Film is keeping an ongoing list.

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Reader Comments (3)

Thanks as always, Nathaniel. Looking forward to more coverage of the fest!

January 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

The Witch sounds fantastic-

January 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Very excited for "Tangerine" - sounds niche but I'm hoping a distributor goes for it. Maybe Music Box Films is keeping an eye out since they bought "Starlet"?

January 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

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