Last year it was the adored coming-of-age drama Call Me by Your Name, the hilarious interracial rom-com The Big Sick, and the powerful Jim Crow-era family drama Mudbound… So what will be the most talked-about movies coming out of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival? That’s tough to say, and discovery is half the fun of the indie film lover’s paradise in the mountains of Park City, Utah (the other half is attempting to remain upright on the resort town’s inevitably icy sidewalks). Here are eight entries from this year’s slate to keep an eye on as Sundance kicks into gear Thursday. — By Ethan Alter and Kevin Polowy
Jon Hamm hasn’t gotten the starring roles he deserves since Mad Men went dark (though he was great supporting in last year’s Sundance breakout Marjorie Prime and the sleeper hit Baby Driver), but this meaty Middle East thriller that recalls hit films like Munich and Argo could be just the trick. He plays a U.S. diplomat dispatched to Lebanon to negotiate a hostage situation 10 years after his wife was killed there. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) co-stars, while Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, the Bourne trilogy) writes and Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Transsiberian) directs.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Joaquin Phoenix has been MIA onscreen since 2015’s Irrational Man, but this comedic drama written and directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk) kicks off a busy year (he has three, possibly four other releases on the way). The three-time Oscar nominee plays the real-life John Callahan, who became a famous and prolific cartoonist after a car accident left him paralyzed at the age of 21. Jonah Hill (sporting an entirely new look), Rooney Mara, and Jack Black co-star.
One of the defining filmmakers of Hollywood’s much-romanticized ’70s epoch gets an overdue retrospective documentary from first-time director Amy Scott. Through archival material and new interviews with Ashby’s contemporaries, Hal tracks the director’s career from his unassuming arrival on the film industry’s doorstep to calling “action” on such influential favorites as Harold and Maude and Being There. It’s an appropriate way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ashby’s 1988 passing.
I Think We’re Alone Now
Emmy-winning Handmaid’s Tale director Reed Morano trades one dystopia for another in her eagerly anticipated sophomore feature. Instead of the theocratic Republic of Gilead, I Think We’re Alone Now unfolds in a future bereft of human life, save one survivor. Actually, make that two. Believing himself to be the last man on Earth, Del (Peter Dinklage) is surprised to discover that he suddenly has a companion in the form of Grace (Elle Fanning).
Star Wars may not exactly be Shakespeare, but Daisy Ridley has quickly established herself as one of the far, far away galaxy’s shining stars. Expect her to contribute an equally Force-ful performance to this retelling of Hamlet from doomed Ophelia’s perspective. Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George McKay, and Draco Malfoy, er, Tom Felton, round out Ophelia‘s A-list ensemble.
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Marina Zenovich explores the life and legacy of the superstar comic, who tragically took his own life in 2014. A complicated man by his own admission, Williams seemed most comfortable when entertaining a crowd of thousands in theaters or a crew of hundreds on movie sets. Laugh all over again at clips from his career-defining performances in Good Morning, Vietnam and Mrs. Doubtfire as well as rare outtakes from his Mork & Mindy days.
Sorry to Bother You
The Coup rapper Boots Riley makes his directorial debut with this intriguing sci-fi comedy that he also wrote, and the ensemble he gathered already marks … a coup. Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Get Out) stars as an Oakland telemarketer who stumbles upon the secret of success, while Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, and Danny Glover round out the cast.
At least a few Oscars contenders (Manchester by the Sea, Call Me by Your Name, Get Out) have emerged out of Park City the past couple of years, and purely on paper, Wildlife could have the most potential in that regard. It’s a period romantic drama (about a young boy witnessing the unraveling of his parents’ marriage) starring perennial awards racers Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, adapted for the screen (from Richard Ford’s book) by indie power couple Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano, and directed by Dano. As they say, watch for Wildlife.
The 2018 Sundance Film Festival runs through Jan. 28.
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