The caveat, as always, is this is a list of movies that were my favorite of what I actually saw at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023, up to the point that I’m writing this. In fact, I’m still going to be watching movies after I turn this in, so by the time you’re reading this, I may not even agree with this list any longer. Though, if that happens, I’ll probably come back to update this list. Maybe. Anyway, enough with all this, here are the best movies I saw during the 2023 version of the Sundance Film Festival:
Rotting in the Sun
Strangely, not a lot of people are talking about this one or, as far as I can tell, even saw it. To be fair, director Sebastián Silva’s latest entry is kind of hard to explain without giving key plot points away. So just reading a synopsis, it doesn’t sound too particularly interesting. Sebastián Silva plays himself and he’s sad. He’s spending time at the beach to try to rejuvenate himself when he meets influencer Jordan Firstman, who Silva finds annoying. Firstman wants to do a project together, Silva has little interest until a pitch meeting when the studio executives are really into that idea. Anyway, something really drastic and sudden happens about halfway through this movie that came as a legitimate shock and completely changes what this movie even is and who the main characters are. Put it this way, there have been a few people I’ve told about this movie and the only time they sounded interested in seeing it was after I told them exactly what happens in the scenes I just sort of described. That’s kind of the problem this movie will have, saying the actual plot of this movie also kind of spoils it.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
I wrote a whole thing about this here so I won’t rehash the whole thing. But what makes this great is how Fox announces up front that a movie just about his life with Parkinson’s Disease would be “boring” and, instead, we get this rip-roaring ride of what it was like to be the busiest and hottest actor on the planet.
Raine Allen-Miller’s Rye Lane is so hopelessly sweet and charming it’s impossible to resist. Dom (David Jonsson) has just gone through a breakup when he meets Yas (Vivian Oparah) and the two set out on a whimsical, day-long adventure through the streets of London. It’s a movie that is so filled with life and love and wears its heart on its sleeve. Most of the plot is dedicated to retrieving Yas’s copy of A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory from her ex’s apartment, but he’s changed the locks. So off on an adventure to find someone who would have a new spare key they go. It’s one of those days that could never be planned, yet remember forever. I really hope people get a chance to see this one.
Here’s another one I already wrote a whole thing about. It’s a throwback movie to something that feels like an early-90s sexy thriller, only with a lot to say about gender dynamics at the workplace. The problem is, being a throwback to a ’90s movie, well, they don’t play those movies in theaters anymore. So it’s not a surprise Netflix picked this one up.
This movie reminded me a lot of Meatballs, only with theater kids. There’s a rival camp for rich kids and there’s a charming, goofy guy in charge who deep down really wants to help these kids. (It’s weird that Ivan Reitman’s Meatballs kind of has a reputation of being a teen sex comedy and, having rewatched it recently, it’s not that at all.) Though, unlike Meatballs, Theater Camp is filmed mockumentary-style. The head of the camp, Joan (Amy Sedaris), suffers a seizure and is now in the hospital and is in a coma. Her dimwitted son who knows nothing about theater is put in charge as the camp counselors Amos (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) decide to stage an original production dedicated to Joan’s life and they only have a few weeks to prepare. All the while, the bank is trying to foreclose the camp and the “rich kid” cap wants to buy their land. Anyway, this is by far the funniest movie I saw at Sundance.
You Hurt My Feelings
Nicole Holofcener’s You Hurt My Feelings reunites the director with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in what is a really good premise for a movie: what happens when an author finds out her husband secretly doesn’t like her new book? All along, Don (Tobias Menzies) has been supportive, but one day Beth accidentally overhears a private conversation when he reveals his true feelings about the new book. (Beth’s agent isn’t a fan either, so she’s having trouble getting it published so she has to know it’s maybe not her best work.) Is this a betrayal? These are the things Beth now has to figure out in the movie that truly captures the insecurities of anyone who types out words for a living, then have them judged by anyone who wants to have an opinion.
I watched this one on a late recommendation and I’m really glad I did. (Also, thank you, 84-minute running time.) Georgie (Lola Campbell) is a 12-year-old girl who recently lost her mother, but lives alone, telling adults she has an uncle staying with her, but the truth is she is caring for herself and doing an okay job at it. Okay, sure, she has to steal a bike now and then for money, but she has to do what she has to do. One day, a nitwit named Jason (Harris Dickinson) shows up at her door, a man who she hasn’t seen in so long she doesn’t realize it’s her own father. Neither seem particularly thrilled with the idea of being together, but over the course of the film the two begin a bond as we gradually find out why Jason is even there in the first place. This is a nice movie.
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The Best Movies We Saw At Sundance
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