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Bruce Newman's Sundance Journal





Thursday, January 27, 2005

Love the One You're With

Film festivals have a way of making you feel that, no matter how much you're enjoying the movie you're watching, there's always something better going on somewhere else, and you're missing it. You should have chosen more wisely. Buzz is erupting all around you, and you're suffering through director Michael Hoffman's and writer Don DeLillo's recreation of "Game 6" between the Mets and the Red Sox. And with stars Michael Keaton and Griffin Dunne exchanging high-fives right behind you, it would be rude to slump down in your seat and whimper quietly.

The extent to which this phenomenon also applies to parties--the ones you can get into, versus the really cool ones to which you were never invited--attaches such a painful multiplier to those insecurities--They have chosen wisely--that Sundance sometimes feels like high school, with snow.

Keanu, we hardly knew ye.

Pamela Sue Anderson has been here for the parties. Paris and Nicky Hilton have raced from one exclusive party to the next, collecting swag bags. David LaChapelle, the photographer/director whose "Rize" documents a kids dance movement called "crunk," was beaten up and booked after the party for his movie. I was sitting in my hotel room in my underwear, watching "CSI Weekend" while all that was going on.

It should come as no surprise--especially given the ages of most of the directors here--that some of the more interesting movies to emerge at this year's festival are set in high school. Instead of an awards ceremony Saturday night, Sundance should throw a prom.

At least one of those pictures, "The Chumscrubber," has already been picked up by Newmarket for summer release. Another is "Thumbsucker," about a 17-year-old boy who sucks his thumb and stars Keanu Reaves. It's among the most widely praised films of the festival, so, naturally, I haven't seen it. I was at "Game 6."

(I throw this idea out to Newmarket at no extra charge: I would pay good money to see a "Thumbsucker"/"Chumscrubber" double-feature.

"The Chumscrubber" is first-time director Ari Posin's stylish take on suburban alienation, teenage anomie and the distribution of psycho-pharmaceuticals. Put glibly (and why stop now?), it's "Donnie Darko" meets "Desperate Housewives," and if writer Zac Stanford's script has a tendency to push the bizarre quotient over the top, the film is rescued by its standout cast, which includes Jamie Bell, Glenn Close, Ralph Fiennes, Allison Janney, Carrie-Anne Moss and Rita Wilson.

The most notable performance in "Chumscrubber," however, comes from Camilla Belle, an 18-year-old actress who I believe--and do so here proclaim--will soon become a big movie star, very much in the mold of Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman. I spoke to Belle Wednesday about her work in this movie and "The Ballad of Jack and Rose," in which she plays Rose opposite Daniel Day-Lewis' Jack. She put the two remarkable performances together after taking three years off from acting so she could finish high school like a normal person.

As a kid, she appeared in "A Little Princess," "The Lose World: Jurassic Park" (she finds the "compys" in the opening scene) and "Poison Ivy II." Now, as her characters make the transformation from adolescence to womanhood onscreen, so does Camilla (pronounced Ca-MEE-la) from child actress to screen siren. She's going to be huge.

In this, at last, I am sure I have chosen wisely.

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