Sundance's No. 1 Entry Shot in 14 Days

Sundance | Andie MacDowell and Secretary | French for Beginners | Party Time  

Sundance's No. 1 Entry Shot in 14 Days

Gary Winick's Tadpole is the talk of this year's Sundance Film Festival. Made for peanuts and shot on digital video over 14 days, the film sold to Miramax this week for $5 million.

I finally got to see Tadpole yesterday — with the schedule here it was hard to get to it. And of course the answer is that after all the hype, Winick's comedy is truly great, very refreshing, and probably the movie that Wes Anderson wishes he'd made with The Royal Tenenbaums.

But there are a lot of great stories about the making of this movie about a 15-year-old Manhattan prep school kid who comes of age over a Thanksgiving weekend when he spends time with his dad and stepmother. For one thing, Winick conceded yesterday that because he used digital video, he didn't need the usual city permits in order to make his film.

"With the small hand-held cameras, if anyone had asked what we were doing, we could say it was a home movie," he laughed.

True enough. I was at a Thanksgiving gathering at producer Beverly Camhe's apartment on Central Park West last November at which Winick was shooting – and it turns out he was shooting for Tadpole. Camhe gets a big thank you at the end of the movie.

What is Tadpole about? Aaron Stanford, who's really 25, plays the 15-year-old kid who has a terrible crush on his dad's wife, played by Sigourney Weaver. His father is played by John Ritter. He winds up losing his virginity to the stepmom's best friend, performed with Oscar certainty by Bebe Neuwirth. In fact, all four of the adults will likely be fêted at different awards ceremonies next year, as well as Stanford.

Screenwriters Heather McGowan and Niels Mueller have managed to take The Catcher in the Rye, Woody Allen's Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters and several other classic stories of Upper East Side adolescence and worked them into something utterly new and delightful. Toward the end, as a new recording of Simon & Garfunkel's "Only Living Boy in New York" starts playing, you know they've hit every right note.

Winick is Sundance's big winner. He produced Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity as well, and has quickly made a name for himself with his InDigEnt Film company. He's joined the ranks of In the Bedroom's Todd Field as one of the new names we're going to be hearing from quite a bit in our new century of filmmaking.

The family name in Tadpole, by the way, is Grubman — which I thought might be a reference to New York's famed entertainment lawyer Alan Grubman and his daughter Lizzie, the public-relations woman who became infamous last year for a huge car accident in the Hamptons. Winick denies it, sort of. "I have a great Alan Grubman story," he said, declining to tell it, "but no — we just liked the name."

Andie MacDowell Hits Town; S&M Attracts an Audience

The beauteous and always fun Andie MacDowell hit town last night at InStyle magazine's very cozy gathering at Zoom Restaurant on Main Street.

Andie's here for a new movie called Crush, and she told me she's got two more films in the can. But now she's basically taking it easy and enjoying her new marriage to her childhood sweetheart.

Still, her life is not headache-free. On Sept. 11, her daughter and some friends were on a plane from New York to North Carolina after getting fitted for Andie's then-upcoming wedding.

"It was terrible because we didn't know what was happening and we couldn't get through to the airline," she said. It's a story told by so many people, but it puts life in perspective, Andie observed. Luckily, everyone returned home safely.

Meanwhile, Steven Shainberg's Secretary is causing a lot of talk and buzz, although it's unclear how it will be received in theaters. Secretary is a comedy about S&M with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader — as a sec and her boss — involved in the very unusual relationship. How is it that James Spader has become the poster boy for sick sexually twisted guys? Anyway, Gyllenhall — whose brother Jake stars in The Good Girl and is equally good — is just riveting, and is destined for big things. I'm sure Secretary will become a cult film, but whoever takes it will have to have a great spin doctor in their press department.

French For Beginners: Overheard in Sundance

So a famous young actress and her French actor boyfriend were in a Sundance taxi, talking in French — and they thought in secret — about the woman's co-star. Apparently the couple was outraged by all the attention being lavished on this co-star, leaving our girl — a bigger movie star and more talented actress — out in the cold, publicity-wise. Yikes! Both the cab driver and the publicist in the taxi understood the whole conversation, and have repeated it to one and all….

Golden Globes Warm Up: Parties Galore

What a contrast to the Emmy Awards: Sept. 11 and the economy seem to have had no effect on this weekend's Golden Globe partying.

Tonight, Talk magazine has its second annual Globes party at the Mondrian Hotel. Tina Brown will welcome the Hollywood A-list, with many nominees from all categories including the entire casts of movies such as In the Bedroom and Lord of the Rings. In the meantime, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe will be here in Sundance for the launch of their new films….

Tomorrow night, Phoenix Pictures president and industry hero Mike Medavoy is expecting 500 of his closest friends at his Hollywood Hills home. This pre-Globe soirée has become the go-to deal annually, and has prompted inquiries from all around the world…

Friday the Fox411 travels to Los Angeles. Check in here on Saturday for more Sundance updates, and news on Kidman and Crowe…