Connect with us

Entertainment

All the movies we saw at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival

Published

on

It is both the best thing and the worst thing about Sundance that it’s hard to know, in any given year, exactly what to expect. Big-name stars show off unexpected depths; unknown talents get big seemingly overnight; oddball trends start to take shape.

It’s only when you look back that the patterns and lessons emerge. And while it’s worth acknowledging that Sundance is so big, no two attendees will have exactly the same experience, there were a few themes that kept coming up again and again during my time there. 

Here are five conversations I couldn’t stop having – along with a comprehensive list of all our reviews from the fest.

1. Asian-American cinema is thriving right now

The Farewell was one of several movies by Asian filmmakers, starring Asian leads.

The Farewell was one of several movies by Asian filmmakers, starring Asian leads.

Image: Sundance Institute

If 2018 was the year Asian-American cinema broke through, Sundance 2019 offers hope that it’s still going strong. Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, starring Awkwafina, was one of the best-loved films among the critics I spoke to at the fest, and Nisha Ganatra and Mindy Kaling’s Late Night was one of the priciest purchases at the fest (a sign that Amazon Studios expects it to do really, really well).

I’ve also heard promising things about Minhal Baig’s Hala and Justin Chon’s Ms. Purple, although unfortunately I had time for neither. And if we can look across the pond for a second, Blinded by the Light, from Bend It Like Beckham helmer Gurinder Chadha, was another crowdpleaser to pick up a big deal. Maybe in 2019, Asian leads won’t be the rarity in Western cinema that they have been up to this point.

2. Pete Davidson is ready to move past comic relief

Pete Davidson and Colson Baker (a.k.a. Machine Gun Kelly) at the world premiere of Big Time Adolescence.

Pete Davidson and Colson Baker (a.k.a. Machine Gun Kelly) at the world premiere of Big Time Adolescence.

Image: Jemal Countess / Sundance Institute

The guy best known for SNL and BDE delivered a genuinely poignant performance in Big Time Adolescence, without losing his dirtbag appeal. And he wasn’t the only comedy star to prove his dramatic chops with a buzzy Sundance premiere. Awkwafina blew me away in the aforementioned The Farewell, and Jillian Bell has been raking in the praise for Brittany Runs a Marathon

3. Adam Driver continues to be one of the best actors of his generation

You wouldn't know it from this photo, but this is one of Adam Driver's most riveting performances yet.

You wouldn’t know it from this photo, but this is one of Adam Driver’s most riveting performances yet.

Image: Sundance Institute

Despite the bland title, The Report is riveting stuff – and much of the credit goes to Adam Driver, a rare actor who can make even staring at screens and spouting exposition look interesting. While we’re loath to start making Oscar predictions for 2020 this early in 2019… well, let’s just say we wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of talk about Driver come fall.

Other standout performances from this year’s slate included Ashton Sanders, whose graceful, almost dance-like performance makes Native Son, and Noah Jupe, who carries Honey Boy on his shoulders with the confidence of a much older actor. On the flip side, Zac Efron’s turn as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked never quite stopped feeling like a stunt. Oh well. They can’t all be winners.

4. The era of Weinstein at Sundance is over

Director Ursula Macfarlane and actress Rosanna Arquette were among those representing Untouchable, about the crimes of Harvey Weinstein.

Director Ursula Macfarlane and actress Rosanna Arquette were among those representing Untouchable, about the crimes of Harvey Weinstein.

Image: Jemal Countess / SUndance Institute

There was a time when Harvey Weinstein was a fixture at Sundance, but in 2019 it was the searing documentary about him making the waves. And it wasn’t the only project this year to take on famous abusers: The Jordan Peele-produced Lorena reassessed the Bobbitt case, while Leaving Neverland dug into allegations against Michael Jackson. 

5. There is always going to be a place for uplifting crowdpleasers

Fighting With My Family was this year's "secret" screening.

Fighting With My Family was this year’s “secret” screening.

Image: Sundance Institute

For all the heavy subject matter on this year’s Sundance slate, there were also plenty of cheery, uplifting titles too. Blinded By the Light reportedly got a huge and enthusiastic reception, and Late Night and Fighting With My Family also seemed to play well with big crowds. Meanwhile, the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doc Knock Down the House pulled off the trick of tackling serious real-world subject matter and leaving the audience with tears and fist-pumps of inspiration.

Read all of Mashable’s Sundance 2019 reviews below

Velvet Buzzsaw is the Sundance movie you can see right now.

Velvet Buzzsaw is the Sundance movie you can see right now.

Image: Claudette Barius/Netflix

Late Night: Think Devil Wears Prada, but for comedy, starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile: The one where Zac Efron is Ted Bundy.

Untouchable: Harvey Weinsteins’s victims (re)tell their stories in upsetting new doc.

The Report: Adam Driver has never been better, and that’s really saying something.

Fighting With My Family: WWE dramedy is formulaic but charming.

Wounds: Ever wanted to watch Armie Hammer suffer?

Big Time Adolescence: Pete Davidson plays a Pete Davidson type. 

Honey Boy: Shia LaBeouf’s rough childhood, as told and performed by Shia LaBeouf.

Knock Down the House: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other outsider pols shake up DC.

The Farewell: Awkwafina’s family drama is one of the best films of this young year.

Velvet Buzzsaw: Jake Gyllenhaal and Dan Gilroy will make you laugh-scream.

Uploads%252fvideo uploaders%252fdistribution thumb%252fimage%252f90084%252f47b31934 5b6f 4cbd 8991 77f105ad4de1.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=cmhaojlxfwvi0uhvg2xljce9hrg=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Continue Reading
Advertisement Find your dream job

Trending