So what do you do when a three-and-a-half-day film festival trip gets shortened by a travel-halting blizzard?
That's my situation this year at the Sundance Film Festival: I was booked to arrive in Park City on Sunday afternoon, departing on Thursday. But weather cancellations of flights from the East Coast to Salt Lake City meant I didn't get here until the wee early hours of Tuesday.
So, with just two days on the ground here before I have to leave, I did the only thing I could: I'm trying to see 10 movies in two days. And I'm more than halfway there.
Of the five-and-a-half films I took in (I sampled Lovesong for a half-hour while killing time between two other movies and was not sorry to walk out early), the three best ones all dealt with issues of family in emotionally complex, compelling and sometimes funny ways.
My favorite of the day was Captain Fantastic, written and directed by actor Matt Ross (Gavin Belson on Silicon Valley). Starring Viggo Mortensen and a cast of kids (along with Frank Langella, Steve Zahn and Kathryn Hahn), it's about a father who has raised his brood of six completely off the grid in the northwest mountains, and who now has to bring them back to civilization for the funeral of their mother.
The writing offers a very funny social critique of American popular culture, as a vapid wasteland filled with violently gaudy excess and legions of the obese. Mortensen plays Ben, who has rejected all of this and trained his kids with both a physical and an intellectual rigor that has turned them into imaginative, intelligent, free-spirited - and polite - group of individuals.
Yet Ross is dealing with something more complex than the culture-clash of the independent man against the smothering of the human spirit by modern society. Ben, initially viewed as wise and calm, eventually shows another side that, from the right angle, looks selfish and self-serving. He's not perfect - but he is fascinatingly real. Mortensen, with his beard looking like a coloring experiment at a barber college, gives a wonderfully controlled and witty performance, supported by George MacKay (who will be seen in "11.22.63") and the ever-reliable Hahn and Zahn. It's a funny film with heart that will have you in tears and leave you thinking.
So will Ira Sachs' Little Men. It's a portrait of a friendship between two pre-teens: Jake (Theo Taplitz) is a bit of a nerd with no friends who spends his time drawing. When his grandfather dies, his parents (Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle) take the opportunity to shed an expensive apartment in Manhattan to move into the grandfather's old place in Brooklyn.
This commentary continues on my website.