So, Sundance 2018 has come and gone, much like the flu that I caught while I was in Park City, and the whole damn industry is left to pick up the leftover tea leaves and try to read them. You never know what will become a big ol' hit and shock the world (what's good, Call Me By Your Name) and what might turn out to be some hot garbage that clutters up multiplex screens come August (we see you Patti Cake$). But that never stops people from trying.
There are a number of films that I’m personally bummed that I missed while I was down there. That’s normally true with any given festival, but especially so this time, given that my illness caused me to leave before I could see stuff like Sorry to Bother You or Tyrel or Hereditary or Eighth Grade (let it be known that I would have stayed longer if I could have walked across a parking lot without feeling like I was going to faint). Thankfully, all of those will be seeing some sort of major release at some point later on this year, and who knows? They might even make an appearance at this year’s IFFBoston if we’re lucky enough.
That said, I’m extraordinarily pleased with what I did manage to see at the festival this year, and I have a weird feeling that at least one of the films featured -- Lynne Ramsay’s astonishing You Were Never Really Here -- will endure its way to my top ten list at the end of the year, give or take some sort of Cannes insanity.
But there are still some small reviews to get out of the way, for some damn solid films and a few mediocre ones, from the ones with the biggest buzz to the small ones that surprised everybody with their quiet power. So that's a wrap on Sundance 2k18, but we'll be feeling the effects of this one for a while.
This true-to-life tale of a Klansman who changes his ways was another big debut by a first-time filmmaker at the festival, and boasted a great deal of buzz prior to its initial public screening simply for the talent that it had acquired. Starring Mudbound‘s Garrett Hedlund as the titular (Mike) Burden, it tells the story of Burden’s transformation from Klan-loving white supremacist shithead (and deed holder to the Redneck KKK Museum in Laurens, South Carolina) to, well, a less-racist dude who doesn’t have the deed to a fucking Klan Museum and has renounced his old ways. It’s not good, but it’s got a few interesting supporting performances that are well worth your time, and it’s competently made by director Andrew Heckler aside from a few awkward flashbacks.
Those performances I mentioned above? Well, festival fave Andrea Riseborough (who appeared in at least five movies at Sundance this year) sinks into her role as Judy, Burden’s girlfriend who begins to push the man towards the anti-racist light, and she disappears under a giant red wig and a decent Southern accent. Forrest Whittaker gives a good turn as a Baptist preacher who attempts to combat the opening of the KKK museum and takes Burden and company into his own home in an act of Christ-like decency, and Whittaker’s always solid once he’s able to be the beating heart of a film.
Hedlund isn’t great, especially when compared to his work in Mudbound, where he showcased a dynamic and fascinating range, and his monotonous performance in this film grates and grates and grates until you just want this movie to end. It’s over two hours long and never once justifies its length with any narrative interest or purpose- Burden is just a drowsy and boring drama, especially once compared to Dee Rees’ masterpiece that debuted at the festival just a year earlier.