It’s still below freezing out here, but the premieres are heating up. Today is one of the most packed days out here in Park City. And, no, we never thought we’d be talking about Anita Hill and Steve Coogan in the same sentence, but that’s what happens at Sundance. Hill is the subject of Academy Award-winner Frida Mock’s latest documentary. Coogan, on the other hand, finally got to complete his passion project…about England’s answer to Hugh Hefner. Read on for more of today’s most anticipated premieres.
Right from the get-go, you can tell that Michael Winterbottom’s 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE — airing this weekend and all month long on Sundance Channel — is no ordinary biopic. It begins with Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) addressing the camera as he narrates his life. Wilson was a British TV personality who was so taken with the emerging punk and post-punk scene in the 1970s and ’80s that he founded Factory Records, a Manchester-based label that brought the world such notorious bands as the Happy Mondays, Joy Division and New Order. This playful, inventive retelling of his tale intercuts between some of his TV stunts and the key moments of his career, all as he continues to speak directly to us; part of the film’s charm is that Coogan was himself a Wilson-like character at the time. (Already popular among Brits, he enjoyed a tremendous career surge after this role.)
Going to the movies should never, ever be stressful (unless, of course, you’re planning on seeing the latest Lars von Trier flick). You want to see something new and relevant so that you can talk it up with your know-it-all friends. But you don’t want to sit through the one film that everyone thought would be great but… isn’t. So here is our formula, simplifying the should-you-see-it conundrum:
5 new releases x 2 critical samplings = what you should go see.
Simple enough, right? This week we have a Stockholm drug runner, an Indian maiden-in-waiting, feuding New York sisters, a doomed royal court and an immaculate rock ‘n’ roll conception.
The new Michael Winterbottom film, starring beloved duo Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden, is at times hilarious and often insightful, if not a little slap-dash. Meaning? Well, it’s been put together quickly and simply with a disarmingly straightforward premise: Two actor frenemies named Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden (basically playing slightly ridiculous versions of themselves) go on the road in Northern England for a promotional food tour. Hilarity ensues. But is that hilarity a product of a series of escalating mishaps otherwise known as plot? No. There is no plot. There is a series of locations, a series of over-the-top gourmet meals featuring the likes of duck fat lollipops, a series of Coogan one-night stands, and a series of very funny conversations.
Last year a show aired on British television called “The Trip,” starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, who survey the haute cuisine scene of Northern England. The six episode series ran a combined total of 180 minutes, footage that was then edited down to 107 minutes for the theatrical release of THE TRIP, making the story available to a worldwide audience not as intimately familiar with Coogan and Brydon as British viewers are – something Coogan attributes to the fact that he doesn’t work with directors, he works with auteurs. Of course, this is according to the Coogan playing the fictionalized, exaggerated version of himself, the unrepentant egomaniac audiences loved in TRISTRAM SHANDY, a shtick made popular stateside by Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and in the UK by Ricky Gervais in “Extras.” How true to self Coogan and Brydon’s performances really are is up for debate, but I hardly think it matters. We get as much pleasure from watching their quips and comebacks and theatrical indulgences as they evidently get in making them.
After Casey Affleck’s thoughtful portrayal of quiet killer Robert Ford in 2007′s THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES, I expected something of equally silent-yet-deadly proportions in director Michael Winterbottom’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME. Certainly Affleck, who plays West Texas sheriff’s deputy Lou Ford, is both silent and deadly, but the film fails to capture the same subtle psychological changes that make JESSE JAMES such a silent powerhouse.