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Weinstein grabs ''Grace''

In the first feature buy at this year’s Sundance, the Weinstein brothers’ $4 million bid lands them ”Grace Is Gone,” a drama starring John Cusack

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Sundance Film Festival, Grace Is Gone, ...
Esandro Nivola, Gracie Bdenarczyk, James C. Strouse and John Cusack: Fred Hayes/WireImage.com

It’s tough to say how Robert Redford might be feeling four days into this year’s Sundance Film Festival. As EW.com reported on Friday, Redford used the opening press conference to assert that the festival was intended to be a showcase for risk-taking independent film and not simply a ”market” for buyers to sniff out the most commercial projects. Just one look at the festival program bears out that intention, with quite a few films that due either to their subject matter, presentation, or both, could be deemed tough sells. But that hasn’t stopped distributors from dipping into their wallets, however — albeit cautiously.

The Weinstein Company got the ball rolling when, in a late-night/early-morning session following the Saturday premiere of Plum Picture’s Grace Is Gone, the outfit purchased the picture for just over $4 million. The film stars John Cusack as a father who devises a circuitous plan to tell his two daughters that their mother has died in Iraq.

On Sunday, Magnolia Pictures confirmed their six-figure purchase of the documentary Crazy Love, an examination of a violently dysfunctional romance. Variety reports that later in the day The Weinstein Company linked up with Lionsgate to acquire Teeth, a vaguely Carrie-esque teen thriller about the creepy/kinky phenomenon known as ”vagina dentata.”

Also on Sunday, two unusually challenging films bowed: JJ Lask’s On The Road With Judas, based on his novel, and screenwriter John August’s directorial debut TheNines. While both films tell relatable stories of love and loss, they also utilize very complicated, non-linear structures that could baffle some mainstream audiences. Not only were stars Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy present at The Nines‘ 9:30 premiere, but so were representatives from distributors Picturehouse, Warner Independent, and the ubiquitous Weinstein Company — all undoubtedly trying to decide what exactly fits under the umbrella of commercial.

The Nines received an enthusiastic audience response, but no deals for the film had been struck as of Monday morning. When reached for comment at the premiere party on Sunday evening, August was less concerned with getting embroiled in a mythical Sundance bidding war than with connecting with a company that would understand exactly how to get this unique film to its proper audience. ”I just want the film to be in the world,” he said.