Sundance: More retreads than recharging

Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:18am EST
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By Kirk Honeycutt

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - The trouble with SundanceTwentyTen is its marketing slogans.

Organizers splashed bumper-sticker slogans over every screen, program and signpost: "This Is the Renewed Rebellion." "This Is the Recharged Fight Against the Establishment of the Expected." "This Is Rebirth of the Battle for Brave New Ideas."

Did anyone check with the filmmakers? At nearly every turn, they went for the expected. Brave new ideas were nowhere to be seen. Indie filmmakers today are largely not in the rebellious mood. They either mimic Hollywood or the indie films that have scored big here in the past.

Families, divorces, weddings, teen angst, middle-age malaise, middle-class guilt and female friendships -- these remain the focus of filmmakers who lack the resources to take us to Pandora or wow us with visual magic.

Sundance crowds lined up for tired warhorses such as the coming-of-age movie. You could get it Texas style ("Skateland") or New Zealand-flavored ("Boy"). At least the latter came with a Maori cast of nonprofessional kids in a remote setting.

And so it went: wedding comedies ("The Romantics"), Manhattan comic melodrama ("HappyThankYouMorePlease," "Please Give"), immigrants in America ("The Imperialists Are Still Alive!") and teens gone wild ("Welcome to the Rileys," "The Runaways").

Qualitywise, these films ran the gamut from good to so-so, but nobody was smashing any molds.

The quality has been pretty high in Sundance, just mislabeled. Those grungy, credit card-financed, 16mm films from the festival's early days are long gone. Indie filmmakers today are mostly making lower-budget versions of Hollywood movies.   Continued...

<p>Actress Katie Holmes arrives for the premiere of "The Romantics" during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 27, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>