So many films, so little time. After a week spent nestled inside Park City's dark theaters, here are Marie Claire's picks for the best of the fest:
Best Use of Hyperbole Doc
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Renegade documentary maker Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) returns to Sundance with this highly entertaining, absurd romp through the ridiculous world of "brand integration." Completely funded by shameless product placement — Pom Wonderful, Jet Blue, Hyatt, Mini Cooper, and, er, Mane n' Tail shampoo are just a few of the brands he attempts to woo — Spurlock's marketing mayhem is playful, savvy, and downright hilarious. Picked up by Sony Picture Classics, trust us when we say you'll know exactly when this scorchingly funny flick hits theaters — from gas stations to grocery stores to on-board entertainment, Spurlock's shtick will be hard for any consumer to miss.
Best Weddingless Rom-Com
Elizabeth Banks and Tobey Maguire get their American Beauty dysfunction on as the Langs, a bickering married couple whose backyard renovation kick-starts a comedic tale that eventually morphs into something deliciously darker. With the meddling coo-coo cat lady Laura Linney next door, a pack of raccoons that hasn't done this much damage since the movie The Great Outdoors, infidelity (accidental and otherwise), and a twisted sense of obligation, The Details stumbles here and there, but overall the dramedy takes root in the way the new sod in the Lang's backyard refuses to. For your next date night, the Weinstein boys (the film's big buyers) are hoping you'll find that the devil's all in the details.
Best On-Trend Drama
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Just because it wouldn't be Sundance without a scary good performance by John Hawkes (Winter's Bone). But more astounding than the consistently terrific Hawkes is the debut of 21-year-old Elizabeth Olsen (yes, the kid sister to those Olsens). Reminiscent of a young Maggie Gyllenhaal, Olsen is note-perfect as a terrified jorts-clad girl who has escaped an increasingly violent cult. Superbly still when the situation calls for it — those alien-like Olsen peepers serve as convincing pools of fear and paranoia — the curviest, womanly-ist Olsen is also ripe with youth, naïvety and a desperate need to belong somewhere — or to someone — as shown in crucial flashbacks. An absorbing but tough drama even before the oh-no-they-didn't ending, Fox Searchlight is banking on Olsen's discovery to make this an instant indie classic.
Best Movie We Didn't Screen
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
MC didn't score tickets to this buzzy, sold-out doc about Kevin Clash, the man who voices Sesame Street's resident furry red monster and friend. But judging from ecstatic audiences' reactions and a little of our own sappy muppet nostalgia, that's 'nuff said.