Every January, Park City, Utah, turns into Hollywood-on-skis as nearly 200 independent films screen during the 11-day festival. Here's a look at highlights.
BIGGEST WINNER That would have to be Little Miss Sunshine
, an irresistible comedy about a family's hilarious misadventures while on a road trip. The movie was scooped up for a reported $10 million by Fox Searchlight, which intends to have it in multiplexes this summer.
THE GOOD GIRL RETURNS Jennifer Aniston
, last at Sundance in 2002 with an acclaimed turn in The Good Girl
, had the paparazzi on high alert (see page 66) when she returned as a star of the festival's opener, Friends with Money
. A sharply observed comedy, it's about a housecleaner (Aniston) with rich pals (Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand and Joan Cusack). Recalling her TV Friends
days, Aniston blends in seamlessly with a virtuosic comic ensemble. Money opens in April.
HE'S IN SYNC Singer Justin Timberlake
turns in a surprisingly solid performance in Alpha Dog
, a hyperkinetic crime drama based on a true story about a kidnapping. He plays a privileged kid who enjoys acting like a gangsta until, one day, the acting turns all too real. Dog, which also stars Emile Hirsch, Bruce Willis
and Sharon Stone, heads into theaters this spring.
HERE'S TO THE LADIES Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ashley Judd and Robin Tunney give compelling performances in a trio of films featuring women main characters—meaty roles all too rare in major studio movies. Gyllenhaal plays a former drug addict struggling to restart her life after prison in Sherrybaby. Judd is a good-time girl whose one-night stands and drinking cover up a powerful hurt in Come Early Morning
. And Tunney is a photographer coping with a rape in Open Window
. All three films were hoping to land distribution deals at the festival.
BAD MANNERS A quick way to judge a film's success at Sundance? Measure how long before oh-so-busy-and-important viewers whip out their BlackBerrys to check e-mail. The longer they restrain themselves, the better the movie.
For more on Sundance, see page 52.