Alas, what was supposed to be a triumphant return to Park City, Utah, has fallen by the way of Omicron: Sundance is virtual again. But that doesn’t mean that the films this year are any less worth checking out. Below, what WWD has its eyes on.
“When You Finish Saving the World”
Jesse Eisenberg makes his directorial debut with “When You Finish Saving the World,” a dramedy starring Finn Wolfhard and Julianne Moore as a high schooler and his mother. Wolfhard plays a fledgling singer-songwriter building a fan base online, and Moore the uptight mother who runs a domestic abuse shelter. The film, which was adapted by an audible project written by Eisenberg, was developed by A24 and produced by Moore, Emma Stone and “SNL” alum Dave McCary.
Since making her feature debut with “Tiny Furniture” in 2010, Lena Dunham has made a name for herself in prestige television. Now the writer-producer-director-actress is marking a return to filmmaking with the premiere of her sophomore film, “Sharp Stick.” The film stars Kristine Froseth and Jon Bernthal with a supporting cast that includes Taylour Paige, Scott Speedman and Dunham herself. The coming-of-age drama is driven by sexuality, body positivity and complicated romantic relationships — fans of Dunham’s will find the film worth the wait.
First-time feature director Mimi Cave makes her debut with a horror film about modern dating. “Normal People” breakout Daisy Edgar Jones stars with Sebastian Stan as a new couple — but this is a genre film, so the main character soon discovers that her dashing new boyfriend also possesses “unusual appetites.” If only she’d kept scrolling through the apps. “Fresh,” which was acquired last week week ahead of the festival, is slated to be released on Hulu in March.
“Am I OK?”
“Am I OK?” marks the duo directorial debut of married couple Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne. The film, produced by a team that includes Will Ferrell, stars Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno as longtime best friends whose relationship is complicated when secret romantic feelings are revealed. And potential buyers, take note: this one’s still for sale heading into the festival.
On the heels of “Nine Perfect Strangers,” Regina Hall stars in writer-director Mariama Diallo’s first feature “Master,” a thriller set at an elite New England college. The film introduces three women struggling to find their place at the university: Hall plays Gail Bishop, the new dean of students, who is called “Master,” with Broadway actress Amber Gray as literature professor Liv Beckman and newcomer Zoe Renee as freshman Jasmine Moore.
Named one of Variety’s “ten directors to watch for 2022,” Diallo uses the horror genre with “Master” to explore the terror that is racism and white supremacy. The film is set to be distributed by Amazon.
Keke Palmer is set to have a big 2022. She will star alongside Daniel Kaluuya in Jordan Peele’s latest, called “Nope,” and at Sundance she will be seen in “Alice,” a drama based on the true story of an enslaved woman named Alice. Alice is enslaved on a 19th-century plantation in rural Georgia and, after a violent encounter with the plantation’s owner, she escapes, only to find that it is actually the year 1973.
The film comes from first time feature director Krystin Ver Linden, who worked for Quentin Tarantino for seven years before venturing out on her own.
“Cha Cha Real Smooth”
The Hollywood Reporter called “Cha Cha Real Smooth” director Cooper Raiff Gen Z’s “answer to Richard Linklater and the Duplass brothers,” naming him the generation’s “buzziest director” — so safe to say his film is one to watch. The 24-year-old Occidental grad directs and stars alongside Dakota Johnson, who is also producing the film, which follows three different coming of age stories: a recent college grad (Raiff), a young mother (Johnson) and her autistic daughter (Vanessa Burghardt). Expect a bidding war.
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