Spiritual redemption, electric cars, a horse trainer, an ambitious turtle, a late-night talk show host, and a sexy French romance are all showcased in independent films in this week's column.
New Distribution Deals
One Fall, a drama about spiritual redemption, will drop in theaters this August, according to indieWIRE. Marcus Dean Fuller wrote and directed; he also stars as a man in the Midwest who somehow survives a 200-foot fall, only to discover he can heal people. A spiritual crisis arises when he begins using the gift in his hometown, but only for those who pay him. It's due for limited release in New York, Los Angeles and "select regional markets," which are yet to be announced.
Also from indieWIRE comes word that Revenge of the Electric Car will get a theatrical release this fall. Chris Paine directed; it's a follow-up to his documentary Who Killed the Electric Car, which identified the culprits, corporate and otherwise, behind the death of a fully-functional niche market. With the passage of years, and the rise of new hybrid vehicles, it seems a good time to revisit the topic, and that's what Paine has done, gaining unique access to Nissan, GM and Tesla "as they race to be the first and the best." The release will come via a partnership between WestMidWest Productions and Area 23a. You can request a screening of Revenge of the Electric Car in your city by visiting the official site.
Indie Box Office
While Page One: Inside The New York Times ate up column inches with reviews, interviews, and commentary, it was bested at the box office by a horse. To be more specific, a man who talks to horses. Buck, a documentary profile of horse trainer Buck Brannaman, averaged $16,887 in limited release (4 theaters), which is a triumph for horses over newspapers.
Actually, Page One was right behind Buck, earning $14,456 at the two New York locations where it opened, and just ahead of Jig, the Irish dancing documentary, which averaged $14,086 at five theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago. Another doc, Battle for Brooklyn, scored $11,141 at one theater in, appropriately enough, Brooklyn, so it was a very good weekend for documentaries. (All earnings are estimated, as reported by Box Office Mojo.)
The biggest and widest release of an indie film last weekend was for the teen romantic comedy The Art of Getting By, which -- let us be kind -- underperformed. (Some might call it a bomb.) Opening in 610 theaters nationwide to lukewarm, at best, critical reception, the film averaged $1,113 per location. Perhaps if it was sold as the shallow glamour pic that it is, it would have fared better in the marketplace. But masquerading as clever or funny or insightful? No chance.
Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris made what is probably its final expansion, adding 94 theaters for a total of 1,038, and grossed an average of $4,706; in five weeks of release, it's totaled $21.4 million in box office receipts, a very solid performance indeed.
Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life is still rolling out, more than doubling its theater count to 114, and keeps doing healthy business, averaging $10,210 per location. Its total take so far is $3.9 million. Next week it's due to expand wide, against the likes of Michael Bay's new Transformers movie and Larry Crowne, Tom Hanks' new comedy with Julia Roberts, so we'll see if America is ready for a long, meditative family drama over the long, lazy 4th of July weekend.
Opening This Weekend
A subtle, unassuming drama, A Better Life revolves around a Mexican family facing a crisis. Carlos is a hard-working gardener in Los Angeles; his 14-year-old son Luis is hearing the siren song of the gang lifestyle. Carlos has the opportunity to buy a truck, which could mean a better life for both of them, but will life get in the way? Directed by Chris Weitz (About a Boy), A Better Life is genuine and moving, with dialogue in both English and Spanish, which makes it a tough sell. Summit Entertainment, the distribution outfit behind Twilight and The Beaver, is sending out A Better Life into four theaters this weekend.
The documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop has a much higher profile, benefiting from the late night host's likable comic personality. Plus, you know, it's supposed to be funny. The film got a very favorable response when it played at South by Southwest in March, and most reviews since then have been positive. It opens this weekend in 25 theaters.
Nature lovers should have a field day with Turtle: The Incredibly Journey, which follows a loggerhead turtle "as she follows in the path of her ancestors on one of the most extraordinary journeys in the natural world." More specifically, the turtle rides the Gulf Stream from Florida, up toward the Artic, and around the entire North Atlantic to Africa and then, eventually, back to the beach where she was born in Florida. It's a 25-year journey, condensed into 81 minutes. Miranda Richardson narrates.
Buck and Page One: Inside The New York Times are both expanding this weekend, still in limited release.
Trailer of the Week
Whereas The Art of Getting By failed to engage as a romantic comedy, The Names of Love (which we premiered the US poster for) stands a much better chance of doing so. True, I haven't seen the latter, which opens this weekend in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, courtesy of Music Box Films, but I'm confident that it will have a great deal of wit and romance. Why?
First, it's French and, let's face it, they're way ahead of us Americans when it comes to these kind of things.
Second, it stars Sara Forestier (a lovely, lovely woman) as a "young, extroverted liberal, [who] lives by the old hippie slogan: 'Make love, not war' to convert right-wing men to her left-wing political causes by sleeping with them." That premise, taken directly from the official description, is genius.
Third, the film promises to include "satirical riffs on such hot-button sociopolitical issues as Arab-Jewish relations, anti-Semitism, immigration, and racial and cultural identity." Even if it fails, we're hoping you have something to talk about after the movie, other than just "What do you want to eat?"
Fourth, it's rated R for "sexual content including graphic nudity, and some language," so it's got that going for it.
Fifth, watch the trailer, which we've embedded below.