“Little Miss Sunshine,” an indie movie about a dysfunctional family, has been bought at the Sundance film festival for between $10 million and $12 million to FOX.
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear, “Sunshine” follows the antics of a family that treks across the country so their daughter can have a chance at a beauty pageant title.
It's not often that Sundance, which has its share of celebrities every year, fields a famous rock star and his movie-producer wife. But this year Sting and Trudie Styler have arrived with many of their children, plus friends, for the premiere of "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints."
The movie opened yesterday morning. But by the end of the day, the whole village was going ga-ga over "Sunshine." People who saw it last night said "Sunshine" was one of the funniest comedies they’d ever seen and that the film would be sold for the highest amount in Sundance history.
That hyperbole could be trouble, though. In past years such a rush to hype on films like "Happy, Texas" and "Double Whammy" turned out to be sour notes later on. This reporter will see 'Sunshine' this morning and report back on it later today. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Paramount Pictures pounces on "Sunshine" before the day is out. They sent two teams in just for the day to see the film. Other studios with deep pockets are interested too, including FOX, Warner Bros., New Line, and Universal's Picturehouse.
In the meantime, the hit of the day, I think, was 'Saints,' Dito Montiel's autobiographical look at growing up on the mean streets of New York in the mid 1980s. There was a lot of discussion about this film after the initial screening, but this much is certain: Chazz Palminteri gives the performance of his career and will almost certainly be an award getter next winter. There are also strong performances by Dianne Wiest, Robert Downey, Jr., Shia Labeouf, and newcomer Channing Tatum .
A very New York movie, told in the style of Spike Lee and a little like the Brazilian film "City of God," Saints is edited to maximize the storytelling of Montiel's book, upon which the movie is based. My guess is 'Saints' is going to sell nicely and become quite the cult hit among teens and young adults. It’s like watching a combination of "The Outsiders," "Sleepers," and "Kids." It's all there, the violence, sex, and pathos of a rough childhood. Seeing Montiel at the screening and Q&A session, you can already tell he'll be a fun player in the movie's release. You can’t tell if anything he says is true, and it doesn’t matter.
'Saints' almost wasn’t financed and made. Styler said yesterday that after working over the script for a long time, the money fell through on Montiel’s birthday. Enter Sting and his pal, Boston philanthropist Bobby Sager, who put up the needed funds. Everyone should be glad they did. 'Saints' is the kind of work Sundance is famous for, and proud of.
The film festival, as we feared, has been overrun by the extraneous corporate types and swag-fests. The streets are choked with traffic, making the schedules very sketchy. It's harder and harder to get to screenings, what with huge crowds and backed up lines of cars everywhere—and everyone rubber-necking.
Last night, The Weinstein Company unveiled its next big hit, "Lucky Number Slevin," followed by the hit party of the night at the Village Ski Lift/W Hotels' installation. Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson and Lucy Liu were the attractions there. Earlier the whole crowd had a private dinner at the Prime Steak House.
Further up Main Street, Café Terigo hosted a smaller gathering for a film called "Open Window" starring Robin Tunney, Elliot Gould and Cybill Shepherd. In between, Sony Pictures Classics was busy toasting “Friends with Money,” although there was no sign of star Jennifer Aniston. Instead we settled for co-star Simon McBurney.
Elsewhere along Main Street, huge crowds braved the freezing cold and waited sometimes ten deep to be admitted to various horrific-looking events. But tonight comes the real deal, Entertainment Weekly kicks out the jams for the festival’s official-unofficial A-list soiree. Sunday night comes a smaller but just as jam-packed Premiere Magazine party, followed by Rob Thomas performing somewhere for Amazon.com.
And you thought this was a film festival? Stay tuned, because even more movies debut today, and there are always rare gems hidden in the mix.