By Roger Friedman, ,
Published May 18, 2015
I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see Sir Ben Kingsley make out on screen with Mary-Kate Olsen, one-half of the "Full House" twins, but it’s happened and there’s no undoing it.
The scene in question takes place in a phone booth in New York City in 1994 in writer-director Jonathan Levine’s excellent film, "The Wackness." The film wowed audiences on the first full day of the Sundance Film Festival on Friday.
I know — it’s a strange title, and nothing could be weirder than this pair hooking up, but Olsen is actually very ingratiating in a small role. And Kingsley gives an Oscar-caliber performance similar in some ways to his "Sexy Beast" work. Whichever studio wins the rights to "The Wackness" will have that going for them, too.
"The Wackness" can be described as Levine’s version of "The Squid and the Whale" but more accessible. You could also think of it as the Upper East Side edition of "American Beauty."
Either way, the film — which also stars Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby, Famke Janssen, Talia Balsam and rapper Method Man — is simply one of those completely original, refreshing coming-of-age stories that you can’t get out of your head. It also reminded me of "Igby Goes Down" and "Rodger Dodger."
And Peck, from cable TV’s "Drake and Josh," is a hoot as drug-dealing high school senior Luke Shapiro. Look for "The Wackness" to become something of a cult film when it finally hits theaters later this year.
Amy Adams has already had a big hit this season in "Enchanted" and earned an Oscar nomination for "Junebug."
But when "Sunshine Cleaning" — directed by Christine Jeffs and written by Megan Holley —comes to screens next fall, Adams is going to move up several notches on the movie star chain.
Friday night’s screening of this much-anticipated comedy/drama — which costars Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin — was the hot ticket in town. The Racquet Club was packed with distributors seeing the movie for the first time.
And they were not disappointed. "Sunshine Cleaning" has the potential to be the next "Juno" or "Little Miss Sunshine." It’s that good. Not only is Adams super as a young single mother who starts a business cleaning up crime scenes, but Blunt — as her sister — is also simply sublime. The pair really seem like sisters, and Arkin is perfectly cast — reprising his Oscar-winning work from "Little Miss Sunshine" — as their eccentric father.
"Sunshine Cleaning" is beautifully crafted, too. Jeffs and Holley present that rare thing, a fully rounded-out film that hits all the right notes. More importantly, it has a very smart third act that crosses all its T’s and dots all its I’s as it comes in for a landing. There’s also a terrific supporting cast with Clifton Collins Jr., Mary Lynn Rajskub, Steve Zahn and child star Jason Spevak, who almost steals the entire movie.
I’ve said before that Adams was fast becoming our generation’s Julie Andrews. With "Sunshine" she’s also moving into Nicole Kidman/Julia Roberts territory as well, playing sexy, irreverent and sarcastic against her girl-next-door looks.
So now the heat is on. By the time you read this, several film companies will have outbid each other on both "Sunshine" and "Wackness." And that’s not all. Check back with me Saturday afternoon for updates and more reviews. This Sundance festival is already proving to be one of the best in many, many years.