Sundance 2011 Diary – Day Two

Sundance 2011 Diary – Day Two

Jan 23, 2011

People who live in Los Angeles, as a general rule, know better than to bother celebrities when we civilians see them on the street. That's tourist behavior. Still, when Angelenos get together, they love to compare notes on "sightings," whether it was, say, Laurence Fishburne shopping for CDs or Tori Spelling coming out of the gym.

My first Sundance sighting was the kind that would qualify as a sighting only within the confines of Sundance – director Tom McCarthy (The Visitor, The Station Agent), who's here to screen his new film Win Win. My embarrassing and non-indie confession? I recognized him only because he also played the husband of John Cusack's ex-wife in 2012.

Much of the film reaction so far has been mixed or muted. People seem to like the monkey doc Project Nim without going bananas (sorry) for it. I've heard the horror flick Silent House praised as terrifying and dismissed as gimmicky, and one friend vehemently disliked The Ledge – starring Charlie Hunnam, Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, and Terrence Howard – saying it was overwrought and underacted.

indieWIRE's Anne Thompson reports that there's a fierce bidding war afoot for Margin Call, a financial thriller about the 2008 market collapse. (Its all-star cast no doubt helps, although Sundances past have seen lots of big-name vehicles get sunk by a so-so script, which is apparently not the case here.) And the one movie everyone seems to be digging so far is the one I saw last night – the thriller Martha Marcy May Marlene, about a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the famous twins and also the star of Silent House) who runs away from a cult compound but finds her former life harder to shake than she imagined.

MMMM features uniformly terrific performances (the film also stars Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, and Brady Corbet), spot-on cinematography, a mounting sense of dread, and an ending that would make Roman Polanski smile. With her two-fer, Olsen is already being touted as this Sundance's "it girl," but her devastating turn as Martha/Marcy May pegs her as an actress about whom you'll be hearing a lot in the coming months.

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