Sometimes you don’t need a TITANIC budget to score big-time audience success — just ask the suddenly flush producers of the current indie smashes The Full Monty and Bean. This Christmas, a deluge of promising stocking-stuffer-size pics are hitting the theaters, some with more punch than their glitzier counterparts.
Leading the hard-hitting pack are Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, and Brit actor Stephen Dillane in the tough WELCOME TO SARAJEVO, based on true stories of the international press in the besieged Bosnian capital. Cannes fave MA VIE EN ROSE tracks the gender confusion of a 7-year-old boy who wants to be a girl. Small-pic staple Emma Thompson costars with mother Phyllida Law in THE WINTER GUEST, Alan Rickman’s directorial debut about self-discovery in a seaside Scottish town. Robert Duvall wrote, directed, and stars in THE APOSTLE as a preacher who rediscovers his faith on the road after leaving his wife (Farrah Fawcett). Alan Rudolph’s AFTERGLOW follows two cheating couples (Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Jonny Lee Miller) with intertwining relationships. Shot mostly with a handheld camera and without location permits, the guerrilla film BANG follows an Asian-American woman (Darling Narita) who gets a look at the other side of L.A. when she swipes a cop’s uniform. The NC-17 BENT adapts Martin Sherman’s award-winning play about Nazi persecution of homosexuals; look for Mick Jagger in drag. And Paris Film Festival prizewinner WILL IT SNOW FOR CHRISTMAS? follows the struggles of a rural French family against their tyrannical father.
For the artistically minded, Sally Potter’s autobiographical THE TANGO LESSON portrays a filmmaker struggling with love, while OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS offers a dark adaptation of Truman Capote’s Southern family portrait. Not to be confused with the cartoonish kid flick Mouse Hunt, THE MOUSE retells the lighthearted true story of legendary boxing loser Bruce Strauss. NICK AND JANE fills the near-mandatory quirky-indie-romance category by following the farcical falling in love of a New York cabbie and a business exec. The Aussie-grifters-on-a-murder-spree flick KISS OR KILL and the twentysomething Seattle love triangle SLAVES TO THE UNDERGROUND seem custom-built for hipsters. THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE (James Cromwell) tells the coming-of-age story of a young Cherokee boy, and IMAX fans in search of supersize family fare should check out THE NUTCRACKER. Rounding out the small-pic list, OFFICE KILLER should send cubicle drones into fright fits with its cautionary tale of a downsized copy editor who knocks off her coworkers for kicks. Think about that the next time you snub someone at the watercooler.