The 2023 Sundance Film Festival completed its seventh day of in-person and virtual programming yesterday on January 25th. These last couple of days offered a mix of quality, but I’d like to think that it’s been a great festival overall.
For Day 7, I watched a reasonable 4 feature films–all with heavy and prevalent stories to keep me entertained. From a film about dependency to an emotional gripping tale about body dysmorphia, Day 7 of the Sundance Film Festival proved to be a good one overall. Here’s a recap of festival highlights from my watchlist.
1. Magazine Dreams | Director: Elijah Bynum
Sundance Synopsis: Killian Maddox lives with his ailing veteran grandfather, obsessively working out between court-mandated therapy appointments and part-time shifts at a grocery store where he harbors a crush on a friendly cashier. Though Killian’s struggles to read social cues and maintain control of his volatile temper amplify his sense of disconnection amid a hostile world, nothing deters him from his fiercely protected dream of bodybuilding superstardom, not even the doctors who warn that he’s causing permanent damage to his body with his quest.
Review: There’s a moment towards the end of Magazine Dreams in which Jonathan Majors (as Killian Maddox) says “There will come a day when the entire world knows my name.”
My Dear… All I have to say is, we already do.
Jonathan Majors, you are a star, and your range is impeccable. Additionally, I have no doubt in my mind that after people see you in this role, they will recognize you as a true force to be reckoned with. To be able to depict such a wide array of heavy topics and emotions on screen as effortlessly as Majors does in this is incredibly difficult to accomplish. However, thanks to a solid script under Bynum’s rich direction, Magazine Dreams, while a tough film to get through, accentuates the gift that is Jonathan Majors’ acting ability.
2. Bad Behavior | Director: Alice Englert
Sundance Synopsis: Lucy seeks enlightenment. The former child actress makes a pilgrimage to join her guru, Elon Bello (Ben Whishaw), for a silent retreat at a beautiful mountain resort with a Tesla-crammed parking lot. However, before she shuts off her phone to the world, Lucy reaches out to her daughter, Dylan. Specifically, Lucy aims to interrupt her concentration and announce that she will be unavailable and out of range, and that she is very worried about her, and that she might extend her stay. It is co-dependent, bad behavior. When a young model/DJ/influencer at the retreat is paired up with Lucy to do a mother/daughter role-playing exercise, hellfire stokes Lucy’s bad behavior to an astonishing low.
Review: I couldn’t believe the negative buzz surrounding Alice Englert’s Bad Behaviour these past couple of days. So, I just had to check it out for myself. Unfortunately, I have to report that it’s as bad as people say. The script is terrible, the pacing is snail-like, and it’s just downright annoying. Additionally, the worst part about this film is that there are glimpses in which it appears that it may get better. However, these moments die rather quickly. Additionally, the acting feels incredibly over-the-top. So, if you’re looking for new ways to be annoyed, this may be the perfect film for you.
3. Talk to Me | Directors: Danny and Michael Philippou
Sundance Synopsis: Conjuring spirits has become the latest local party craze. And looking for a distraction on the anniversary of her mother’s death, teenage Mia (Sophie Wilde) is determined to get a piece of the otherworldly action. When her group of friends gathers for another unruly séance with the mysterious embalmed hand that promises a direct line to the spirits, they’re unprepared for the consequences of bending the rules through prolonged contact. As the boundary between worlds collapses and disturbing supernatural visions increasingly haunt Mia, she rushes to undo the horrific damage before it’s irreversible.
Review: Talk to Me is the first horror film of the festival that actually has scary components to it. The Philippou brothers’ feature also contains some interesting commentary on grief and how that may push someone to seek out the other side. Though it doesn’t explore this notion to the fullest extent, the film has some really fun moments that will creep out its viewers. Plus, the acting is incredibly convincing. Talk to Me may not be the scariest film one has ever seen. However, it’s enough to leave a lasting impression.
4. Cat Person | Director: Susanna Fogel
Sundance Synopsis: Margot, a college student working concessions at an art house theater, meets frequent filmgoer — and rather older local — Robert, on the job. Flirtation across the counter evolves into continuous texting. As the two inch toward romance, shifts between them, awkward moments, red flags, and discomforts pile up. Margot feels both attached and reticent, as her gnawing hesitations blossom into vivid daydreams where Robert realizes his most threatening potential. As her distrust and uncertainty mount, an evening, their relationship, and possibly their lives unravel.
Review: There are strong points that director Susanna Fogel wants to make through Cat Person. It’s that nice guys want to date women freely without coming off as creeps. Additionally, women want to date without feeling like they’ll be killed. Easy enough, right? Through its screenplay, Cat Person shows the extremes of dating–sometimes in a way that feels unnecessary. However, it certainly gets the message across. But, if there’s one thing that viewers will learn by the film’s end, it’s that sometimes honesty in dating is the best damn policy.