By Christopher Rosen and Jessica Derschowitz
March 17, 2017 at 03:47 PM EDT
Justina Mintz/A24

It may have been rainy and overcast for much of the opening days of the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, but there were more than a few bright spots in this year’s film offerings. From upcoming blockbusters and action-packed fare to charming indies, here are seven breakouts EW saw at the festival that movie-lovers should keep an eye out for.

‘The Disaster Artist’

South by Southwest is not often seen as an awards season launch pad, but maybe that will change with The Disaster Artist? A “work-in-progress” screening of James Franco’s film about the making of cult classic The Room scored a standing ovation at SXSW on Sunday night, and afterward Variety wondered if the movie could lead Franco to an Oscar nomination. It’s definitely too early to talk about that — this year’s Oscars are only just in the rear view mirror — but Franco’s performance as the eccentric, inscrutable Tommy Wiseau, writer, director, producer, and star of The Room, is one of the prior nominee’s best ever.

Noël Wells

Talk about a perfect homecoming. After going to college in Austin and shooting her directorial debut in the city, the SNL alumna returned to the Texas capital for the film’s world premiere. Wells’ Mr. Roosevelt (which she stars in, and also wrote the script for) follows a struggling comedian who returns to her hometown after a loved one falls ill, facing the city and people she left behind to pursue her career. The result is a warmly vivid and emotional film that’s as funny as it is heartfelt. “The comedy movies that I really love all resonate with people on a human level, and the intent at the end of the day is I hope people will connect [with this movie],” Wells told EW at the festival. “I also really hoped that they will laugh, but if people feel the heart, that was really the ultimate goal.”

‘Baby Driver’

A musically-charged, car-chase-filled action thriller might sound like head-scratcher in theory, but this is one ride you’ll definitely want to strap in for this summer. Edgar Wright’s latest, about a young getaway driver working heists for a crime boss, is a high-octane ride, with an A-list cast (Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, and Jamie Foxx) an impressive soundtrack to boot — and all the action is choreographed beat by beat to what Elgort’s character is listening to at a given moment. The movie hits theaters in August, and you’ll be listening to the music nonstop soon after. (You can see the Baby Driver trailer, which EW premiered exclusively, below.)

‘Atomic Blonde’ director David Leitch

Charlize Theron may be throwing the punches in this Cold War-era spy thriller that premiered at the festival, but the most talked about Atomic Blonde topic beyond the actress’ action prowess was Leitch’s virtuoso direction. Case in point: an extended, jaw-dropping fight sequence during which Theron’s MI6 operative takes on multiple nefarious agents in a Berlin apartment building. The scene contains no obvious cuts, Theron takes no prisoners, and you won’t be able to take your eyes off it.

‘Win It All’ star Aislinn Derbez

Famed Mexican actress Aislinn Derbez made her English-language film debut in Joe Swanberg’s latest film, a charming comedy that finds Derbez going toe-to-toe with expert improviser Jake Johnson. “She is so funny and so weird, comedically,” Johnson told EW of the actress.


Aaron Katz’s LA noir is beautifully shot in hazy blues and moody tones and features a dynamic, beguiling performance by Lola Kirke as the personal assistant to a young Hollywood starlet who gets caught up in a murder mystery. The film, which also features Zoe Kravitz as Kirke’s friend-slash-boss and John Cho as a detective investigating the crime at hand, is now one step closer to arriving in theaters — Neon picked up the U.S. distribution rights on Thursday.

‘Person to Person’ star Bene Coopersmith

Director Dustin Guy Defa’s ensemble film — which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival — is a charming, day-in-the-life look at a group of New Yorkers striving to make a connection with someone else. Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, Philip Baker Hall, and Tavi Gevinson lead the cast, but it’s Bene Coopersmith who acts as the film’s heart, soul, and moral conscious. Coopersmith, a novice actor who appeared in Defa’s earlier short of the same name, plays the most authentic Brooklyn local this side of Red Hook.