Hey everyone! Day 2 of Sundance has come and gone and I must say I am exhausted but let me tell you about the 3 films I saw today.
But first I have to give a shout out to Matt and Lousia from over at Screenzealots. We’ve been friends for quite a while on social media so it was such a delight to go to lunch with them. I love meeting up with my online community but especially fellow film critics, and in Louisa’s case a fellow female film critic who understands what challenges I sometimes face. It was great!
But let’s get back to the movies
The first of the day is the horror satire Bad Hair. This is film is directed by Justin Simien and feels a lot like both Sorry to Bother You and Get Out (I prefer it over the former). It also reminded me of Sam Raimi’s film Drag Me to Hell in the way it used gross out horror to emphasize the camp factor.
Bad Hair is a little bit tough to describe but it stars Elle Lorraine as Anna, a young insecure woman who struggles with her self confidence particularly when it comes to her hair. This is heightened by the fact she still has patches in her hair from a terrible burn she endured as a child.
After a brilliantly cast Vanessa Williams is hired at the TV studio she works for Anna decides she needs to change her image and goes and gets a weave. The problem is this weave has a mind of its own and begins attacking people around her.
Obviously the importance of relaxed vs sleek hair is something I can’t relate to but I certainly can relate to the desire to fit in at work and the pressure all women have to change our appearance to meet an ideal.
Bad Hair is not going to be for everyone but I thought it was funny, wacky, campy and scary enough to be fun. I certainly thought it was much more successful than Sorry to Bother You but that’s just me. And like I said Vanessa Williams is so good! I’d say it is definitely worth a watch just for the conversations you’ll have about it.
7 out of 10
Next up is the espionage thriller Ironbark starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It tells the true story of Greville Wynne, an Englishman who is recruited to spy on the Soviets in the year leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
There’s a lot to admire about Ironbark. To start with the entire cast is great including Rachel Brosnahan and Jessie Buckley. I also thought the script for most of the film did a good job mixing in moments of humor with more tense sequences. Towards the end it loses control of tone and becomes a more grueling experience but it’s still a film that entertains on lots of levels.
Overall this was a very engaging story that’s well told. My only problem with Ironbark is at times it became a little dry and it started to lose my interest. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it’s definitely worth checking out when it comes to a theater near you.
7 out of 10
My final film of the day, Worth, is an interesting example of having all the right ingredients but none of the magic. The film stars Michael Keaton as a real life lawyer Kenneth Fienberg who was put in charge of the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund. While this work is no doubt important I left the theater asking myself 2 questions: First, is this a story worth telling? I’m not sure. And second, if it is, than is cinema the correct format to tell it in? I don’t think so.
What I mean by this is there are a lot of things that people do which while important are not stories we need movies of. For example, Congress passing a budget is very important, vital to many people’s lives. Is the writing of said budget a story worth telling? Maybe but more often than not I would say no. And then you have to ask is the story cinematic? And I just don’t think the script in Worth justifies a cinematic journey. The main thrust of the story is helping companies to not get sued and providing people money so they don’t sue. It’s not enough umph.
So what ends up happening in Worth is you have a lot of people coming in and sharing their stories and in every case those stories are more interesting than the story we are watching of managing this fund. Keaton and team are excellent but it all left me kind of cold. I kept thinking this is a story that would make a great 60 Minutes segment but not a 2 hour feature film. The script just didn’t do it for me.
It will be easy to want to compare this to Oscar winner Spotlight but the thing that made Spotlight great is it was a commentary on the horrors that can come from group think. Even the journalists themselves realize they turned a blind eye to behaviors for the good of the group, which makes each reveal all the more devastating. There’s no large themes in Worth. Instead it’s just a lot of sad stories and jumping through legal hoops. It didn’t work for me in the end despite some impressive aspects.
4.5 out of 10