Sundance 2022: Day 5 review: 'God's Country,' 'My Old School,' 'Leo Grande,' and more
Courtesy of the Sundance Institute
MEET ME IN THE BATHOOM
A snapshot into the indie rock scene in a pre and post 9/11 world, Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern’s adaptation of Lizzy Goodman’s bestselling book “Meet Me In the Bathroom” tries taking the viewer on a trip down memory lane. Documenting the rise of several popular bands at the time, including The Moldy Peaches, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Strokes, and TV on Radio, Lovelace and Southern’s documentary clearly didn’t fall into my purview and because I’m not a major fan of either of these bands, I felt an obvious disconnect with the the material, however other music docs, namely “The Sparks Brothers,” did a good job at bridging the gap with outsiders. Sadly, “Meet Me In The Bathroom” left me cold.
There’s nothing wrong with making something that’s for fans, but “Meet Me In the Bathroom” bounces around so quickly, it becomes tiresome trying to keep up with who’s talking or what band is being presented that I’m not sure the loyalists could track either. There’s no structure as it tries hastily showcasing life post 9/11 and even then it still feels thrown together. Topics like Napstar, cultural and political divides, and the shift to digitized music (I-Pod) all get brief archival footage shout-outs as if they’ll become a major jumping off point for that section of the movie only for Lovelace and Southern to immediately jump to another topic. I feel like talking to someone who attended some of these underground concerts would've been more fascinating than what was put on screen.
MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM debuted in the Midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
For too long, Thandiwe Newton never got her due to take charge and command the screen with an integral lead performance. Of course, Newton has always enlivened the screen throughout her career, but in Julian Higgen’s racially and politically charged western “God’s Country,” she finally gets something put on her capable shoulders and it makes you question why it took almost two decades for that to happen.
Based on a James Lee Burke story, Newton plays Sandra, a secluded college professor living in rural Montana grieving the death of her mother. Relocated from New Orleans, Sandra’s adjustment to the rustic lifestyle has been adamant to say the least. She lives in a town where domestic disputes and/or general problems are solved not with police, but with each other. Sandra finds this out the hard way when she confronts two trespassers (Jefferson White and Joris Jarsky) who have been parking their truck on her property and hunting. When she approaches the Sheriff about the incident, he basically gives advice in the realm of: “You’re on your own.”
Over the rest of the film, these tensions escalate to pressure cooker levels until Sandra has to essentially take matters into her own hands. It’s euphoric seeing Newtwon absolutely chew up the screen, not only as her characters contends with harassment at home, but having to battle at work for a silver of inclusivity in regards to potential students. It all might follow a predictable trajectory, but this riveting and slow-burning drama sticks with you long after the credits roll. Newton is nothing short of astounding.
GOD’S COUNTRY debuted in the Premieres Section of the Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
MY OLD SCHOOL
One of those unbelievable true stories so wild it must be true, Jono McLeod’s entertaining documentary “My Old School” captures 30-year old Brian McKenna’s crazy journey where he was able to infiltrate his high school in Glasgow and attend under the guise of a 16-year old. That’s right: A 32 year old went back to high school 16-years later and nobody, not even his teachers who were still teaching when he was actually a teeanger, noticed.
Featuring testimonials from his former classmates who were duped into thinking McKenna, who used the pseudonym Brandon Lee (after the late “Crow” actor who was tragically killed on set), was their peer. In a weird twist on the usual “Talking head” documentary technique, the real McKenna provides testimonial, however, he didn’t want his face seen and the filmmakers enlisted Alan Cumming (at one point slated to play McKenna in the movie that never happened) to give a lip synch performance.
Despite some of the material not being as shocking or as revelatory as the filmmakers think it is, “My Old School,” which also intercuts several animated sequences into the film, is an often funny, endearing look at this man’s implausible journey. It could have pushed back harder at some of the questionable things he did or the fact no charges were brought forth, still, “My Old School” gets merit for bringing this story to vivid life on screen. A must-see.
MY OLD SCHOOL debuted in the Premieres section of the Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE
One of the sweeter and more charming sex-poistive comedies of late, Sophie Hyde’s “Good Luck To You, Leo Grande” features two lovely performances from Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack, the latter solidifying himself as a prominent star to watch, playing opposite each other in close quarters for the entirety of the film's 97-minute runtime and they never disappoint.
Thompson plays retired English teacher Nancy Strokes who’s reazlied, after her husband of 30+ years passed away, she’s never had good sex or ever felt fully satisfied. Enter male escort Leo Grande, played with all the charm in the world by McCormack, contracted to fulfill Nancy’s desires. But what begins as an ordinary meet-and-greet-let's-hop-in-the-sheets rendezvous becomes several meditations on the expectations thrusted upon individuals and the inherent need to feel accepted and, well, loved. Thompson has never been this vulnerable and her glow and energy alongside McCormack’s suave Casanova presence will melt your heart.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE debuted in the Premieres Section of the Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
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All above photos courtesy of the Sundance Institute.