All anyone at Sundance hopes for is the next Little Miss Sunshine. Something warm, something funny, maybe a little sad, too. But in the seven years since that movie debuted at the annual indie film festival in Park City, Utah, which ran this year from Jan. 17 to 27, nothing has even come close. That may now change with The Way, Way Back, a coming-of-age comedy starring LMS alums Steve Carell and Toni Collette, about a boy (Liam James) and his summer job at a water park. Also drawing raves: Fruitvale — starring Michael B. Jordan as a troubled young man on the last day of his life — which won the Grand Jury and Audience prizes for drama, and Blood Brother — about HIV in India — which took the honors for best documentary. As usual, EW (a Leadership Sponsor of Sundance) was at the center of the action. And our photo studio was there to document the best of the fest.
The Way, Way Back
Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash — who shared the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Descendants — Back stars Toni Collette, Rash, Steve Carell, Faxon, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Zoe Levin, Allison Janney, Liam James, and River Alexander.
A Jane Austen-obsessed woman (Keri Russell) visits a literary role-play resort in search of her own Mr. Darcy. Instead, she finds JJ Feild and Bret McKenzie). ”These lonely, sad ladies save all their money and go to this giant castle,” Russell said. ”They’re going knowing it’s all a lie and still falling in love with these guys.”
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson plays one bad mutha…literally. Her character is a drug-addicted prostitute who abuses her 14-year-old son, then abandons him for the summer. Alicia Keys coexec-produced and composed the music. ”It’s the complete opposite of my real life,” noted Hudson, who has a 3-year-old boy. ”I would rehearse around my son, and he would get afraid. Like, ‘What’s wrong with her?’ I explained to him, ‘I’m gonna go play a bad mommy — for someone else.”’
Grand Jury Prize Winner: Fruitvale
Chronicle‘s Michael B. Jordan ) plays a young guy trying to fix his life on the day it comes to an abrupt end. Based on the true story of a man gunned down by police in the Bay Area in 2009, the movie — the feature debut from director Ryan Coogler — also stars Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as his mother, Melonie Diaz as his baby’s mother, and Ahna O’Reilly as a stranger who witnesses his unhappy ending.
Don Jon’s Addiction
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writing and directing feature debut stars the actor as a Jersey womanizer and Tony Danza as his pushy old man. The two met when JGL was just 12, on 1994’s Angels in the Outfield. ”He was chasing the director around. ‘What lens is that? Why are you doing that?”’ Danza recalled. ”This is something he’s been doing since he was a kid!”
Brit Marling stars as a corporate spy who falls for the head of the group she’s been sent to infiltrate, played by Alexander Skarsgård. Think of it as Stockholm syndrome. ”And I am from Stockholm. Get it?” joked the Swedish-born Skarsgård. ”That’s hilarious.”
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
In a melancholy portrait of the Texas badlands, Casey Affleck plays an outlaw who takes the blame when his wife (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo‘s Rooney Mara) shoots and wounds a sheriff (Ben Foster). After she gives birth to their daughter while he’s in prison, Affleck escapes and goes on the run to reunite with her before the long arm of the law reaches him again.
Paul Rudd (right) and Emile Hirsch wander the Texas backcountry and repair a fire-damaged road in this dramedy about guys toughing it out. ”I found the biggest challenge of working on this was trying to stifle my alpha-male [masculinity],” Rudd joked.
The Spectacular Now
This sweet romance stars The Descendants’ Shailene Woodley as a self-possessed girl in a love triangle with Miles Teller and Brie Larson. ”She’s not a wallflower,” said Woodley. ”She chooses not to have a lot of friends.”
The acronym stands for ”adult child of divorce” — or in this case Parks and Recreation‘s Adam Scott, playing a guy who can’t shake the hyperresponsibility he took on after his parents’ childishly ugly breakup. The movie stars Amy Poehler, Jessica Alba, Clark Duke, Scott, Richard Jenkins, and Catherine O’Hara.
It’s a movie about people taking off their clothes, but Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard (with costar Adam Brody, left) said they had the most fun putting on tight disco-era duds for this 1970s saga about porn legend Linda Lovelace. ”You feel like a rock star,” Sarsgaard explained, while Seyfried added, ”With incredible amounts of camel toe.”
Kill Your Darlings
This origin story of the Beat Generation stars Daniel Radcliffe as a young, uptight pre-”Howl” Allen Ginsberg. As Radcliffe noted, ”There was a lot of parental pressure on him to not be a writer.”
Kristen Bell plays a pool worker who seduces a 16-year-old (David Lambert), and Mamie Gummer costars as her outraged friend, who works at the boy’s school. Bell, who was very pregnant at the festival, described the film as ”a kind of love story that shouldn’t be.”
Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes
Jessica Biel is a mom with an eerie resemblance to the dead mother of Kaya Scodelario in this film from writer-director Francesca Gregorini. There’s also a bizarre fake baby, which Biel brought home to show real-life husband Justin Timberlake: ”He was kinda creeped out.”