Film, Film Review, Sundance

Sundance Film Festival 2023: Final Dispatch

Family dramas, big and small, close out this year's festival



Jennifer Connelly appears in Bad Behaviour by Alice Englert, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Bad Behaviour dir. Alice Englert

The first directorial effort of Jane Campion’s daughter (if she didn’t want me to refer to her as such, she shouldn’t have made herself the co-lead or had Jane cameo) is a strangely bisected film with a strong, funny performance from Jennifer Connelly. The satire of the spoiled, rich, young, and famous falls flat, but Connelly does great work as a former child star spiraling out at a fancy yoga retreat headed by Ben Whishaw (who is barely in this film). The film’s back half, featuring mother and daughter reconnecting, is stronger than the retreat, but still struggles to fully come together. (C)

You Hurt My Feelings' Review: Julia Louis-Dreyfus Shines - Variety

You Hurt My Feelings dir. Nicole Holofcener

A new film from Holofcener is always something to celebrate, and Feelings is no exception. Reuniting with her Enough Said star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Holofcener weaves another funny and bitter tale of upper-class anxiety. One moment of eavesdropping knocks a marriage out of balance, sending shockwaves through a family. Not enough to cause anything horrible, but just enough to make everything extremely awkward, as is the Holofcener way. Louis-Dreyfus is, of course, great, but the whole cast, including Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Owen Teague, and Jeannie Berlin, has fantastic chemistry. Happy to see that The Land of Steady Habits was just a weird misstep in a sterling filmography. (A-)

Fairyland' Review: Moving Memoir of Daughter and Queer Father Hits the Screen With Emotional Heft

Fairyland dir. Andrew Durham

After a phenomenal opening act featuring a child’s observation of a queer 1970s San Fran lifestyle, Fairyland grinds to a halt with a frustratingly limited performance by Emilia Jones. Scoot McNairy is of course great as a grieving and slutty gay father, but he’s stuck with a brick wall for a daughter. I suppose I’ll give the original memoirist props for not sugarcoating how difficult she was leading up to her father’s death from AIDS, but it was particularly frustrating to watch after the charm of the first twenty minutes. With somewhat obtrusive cameos from Adam Lambert and Geena Davis, the film’s weaknesses become harder to ignore as it goes on. Maria Bakalova does manage to give a cartoonish role some real pathos near the climax. (C)

Scrapper' Review: A Pastel-Colored Slice of British Life - Variety

Scrapper dir. Charlotte Regan

A young girl used to fending for herself has met her match: her crass and immature father, played by Harris Dickinson. With an alternatingly menacing and doofy performance from Dickinson, Charlotte Regan’s debut manages to surprise a bit even in the well-worn genre of parent/kid relationship dramas. The editing is sparky and fun, action often interrupted by talking heads of our protagonist’s teachers and schoolyard friends. Georgie might have a good thing going but she craves structure, something Jason probably can’t provide. The melancholy cuts through the preciousness when it needs to, and often. I’m looking forward to what Regan puts together next. (B)

A Little Prayer

A Little Prayer dir. Angus MacLachalan

What can a good man do when he realizes he hasn’t raised one? Perpetual class act David Stratharin leads this quiet family drama from the writer of Junebug. While Prayer cannot reach the heights of that film (what can, really), the performances of the whole cast anchor a story of meddling, betrayal, and what it means to keep a family together. It’s a gentle film with tiny moments that can knock you over. Jane Levy soars. (B)


Passages dir. Ira Sachs

Sachs decided to be mean this time. With the gorgeously shot Passages, Sachs turns his lens on Tomas (Franz Rogowski), a narcissistic director who decides to sleep with a woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos) on a whim. Much to the chagrin of his husband Martin (Ben Whishaw), Tomas believes this one night stand could be so much more and dives deeper into his relationship with Agathe. Jealous insults fly, homes are exchanged, dinners are made dreadfully awkward. It’s a classic European marriage drama with Sachs’ acrid sensibilities. Rogowski makes this obnoxious man extremely compelling to watch, smooth and sensual enough that you believe his lovers would come back to him despite his many flaws. (A-)

Shorts Shout-outs

Margie Soudek’s Salt and Pepper Shakers
Weapons and Their Names
The Flying Sailor

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