I spent my Christmas break anxiously anticipating the Sundance Film Festival, one of the largest film festivals in the world that I was supposed to be attending during J-term.
Some of my favorite actors and directors were said to be making appearances, and the trip started to get closer and closer until it didn’t — a collection of COVID-19 cases required the event to go virtual.
While I was certainly bummed, simply seeing some of these works on my own TV screen as well as listening to the Q&As that the directors and actors participated in was enough to ease some of my disappointment.
I watched three of the premiering Sundance films from home with my dog, those being:
“When You Finish Saving the World” (2022)
This was the film I was eagerly anticipating the most.
If you’ve ever spoken to me, you know my favorite movie is “The Social Network.” This is a fact I must share within the first half hour of meeting someone; otherwise I feel as though I have failed Jesse Eisenberg, the film’s star, and quite possibly my favorite actor of all time. I’ve taken it upon myself to serve as a prophet for “The Social Network.”
But after seeing this film, maybe I have an additional movie to share with those who need to experience Eisenberg’s genius.
“When You Finish Saving the World” is Eisenberg’s directorial debut. We've seen a lot of actors attempt to start directing, but their first go at it hasn’t always hit the mark. With this film, it’s a stunning accomplishment that provides heart and passion to those who watch.
Evelyn and Ziggy, played by Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard respectively, portray a mother and son duo who just can’t seem to get along. Both are too wrapped up in their separate lives to consider the other.
The main message is to simply care for and love those around you, especially those in your own home. Eisenberg recognizes the complexities of familial relationships and treats them with care, giving the entire movie a feeling of gentleness.
To top it all off, the score of this film is beyond beautiful. Employing Emile Mosseri, the same composer who worked on the film “Minari,” the instrumentals provide each silent scene with a resonance that could not be accomplished otherwise.
Overall, I give this film 4.5 stars. The beginning and the end could have been a bit smoother, but otherwise, this film is a triumph for a debut.
My only other qualm is that I couldn’t see Eisenberg in person at Sundance.
“Cha Cha Real Smooth” (2022)
This film, directed by Cooper Raiff — a fabulous young writer, actor and director — serves as further evidence that in all his artistic endeavors, Raiff never misses.
Raiff’s genius writing captures the world around him with such raw authenticity that I feel as though I am intruding when I watch his films.
“Cha Cha Real Smooth” follows Andrew, a young graduate fresh out of college with no direction. The future is cloudy, and the only thing our protagonist thinks would be worthwhile is to save up enough money to follow his ex-girlfriend to Barcelona.
Sharing a room with his younger brother, Andrew begins helping out at his brother’s classmates' bar mitzvahs, getting the kids on their feet and excited about the event. While the job seems odd, Andrew befriends a single mom and her daughter, and starts to imagine a future beyond the one he had created for himself based on his past relationships.
Raiff’s movies seem to have kindness sewn into every scene. The characters radiate with love, and I think they truly inspire those who watch them.
I hope Raiff never stops making movies. I will forever and always give him five stars on every film he puts out.
If you expected this film to be meaningful and heart-wrenching like the previous two, think again.
I went into this film completely blind — fully believing it was a romantic comedy. I saw Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan were the lead actors and immediately bought a ticket.
I turned on the premiere for this film expecting a beautiful love story that would make me laugh and maybe make me cry. The first 15 minutes had me believing maybe this was the case.
But boy, was I wrong.
In just the next minute, the fantasy was over.
The next hour and a half was full of escape plans and Stockholm syndrome — it was a whirlwind, to say the least.
As crazy as it sounds, this movie was incredibly fun to watch. Stan absolutely knocked his performance out of the park, and Edgar-Jones was stunningly believable. Every part of this movie is insane without being too horrific. It’s a balanced dark comedy that is certified fresh.
Films I'll review next month:
“The Fallout” (Jan. 27)
“The Worst Person in the World” (Feb. 4)
“Uncharted” (Feb. 18)