Credit: Alpha Dog cast: Jeff Vespa/

Sunday evening I opened my eyes to Dakota Fanning’s ratty little grin and was relieved. I had fallen asleep on the flight back from Park City and awoke to find that the in-flight movie was Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story. I couldn’t possibly imagine a more concrete sign that Sundance was finally over. The 737 cabin was crammed with bleary-eyed film fest survivors, their mud-snow-spattered jeans and ruined Ugg boots the major souvenirs of multiple hikes up and down Main Street. Industry talk was surprisingly mum on the return to Gotham. The passengers were no longer debating every little detail of every little movie. Mostly, they seemed tired — happy it was over.

And they weren’t the only ones. Early that morning, at a diner high on Main, a waiter asked a sluggish coworker if everything was okay. She smiled reassuringly and replied “Today is the last day of Sundance. I couldn’t ask for anything more.” So, yeah, 10 days of moviegoing — or in the case of Utah residents, 10 days of bending over backwards for moviegoers in order bolster the local economy — can take its toll. But before we get too cynical, consider these brief but optimistic scenes of Sundance blossoming:

During the closing night screening of Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dogon Friday night, I was seated directly in front of 17-year-old costarAnton Yelchin (center, with Justin Timberlake and Cassavetes) and his doting mother. The Russian-born child actor hasbeen in several films, but this one has the potential to be huge. It’sTimberlake’s acting debut, first of all. Secondly, it’s good,and with a handful of young, attractive faces from Timberlake to EmileHirsch to Dominique Swain, Alpha Dog may launch a whole newpost-hip-hop Brat Pack.

addCredit(“Alpha Dog cast: Jeff Vespa/”)

Dressed kid-cool in a blazer and canvas Chuck Taylors, Yelchin chattedexcitedly, interrupting himself only to snap at his mother forobsessively rubbing his cold hands. During the scene where hischaracter is lured into a heated pool — and subsequently a steamythreesome — with two nubile flirts, I couldn’t help but try to cranemy neck around and get Mom’s reaction. I asked her about it later atthe Alpha Dog party as she allowed Yelchin to partake inchampagne with his older costars. She said that during the filming shewas just worried that the water in the pool might be cold. Yelchin gota little drunk at the closing night celebration, triumphantly wagginghis shaggy pseudo-hipster Afro as the Strokes and Young MC blasted outof the speakers. I asked him how it all felt. He slurred, “Prettyf—ing awesome.”

Sundance may finally be over, but for this kid, the party was just beginning.