Sundance Film Festival highlights

Tom Andrew

There were many wonderful feature films, documentaries, and short films presented this year at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

A few of the standouts were “The Extra Man” and “Obselidia.”

“Obselidia,” written and directed by Diane Bell, is the story of a man named George, played by Michael Piccirilli, who works as a librarian during the day, and works on a book in his free time of things that have become obsolete over the years.

His home is stuffed with old telephones, cameras, record albums and books, with things we no longer use in the 21th century. He uses a typewriter and transcribes all of his interviews himself.
His life leaves him little time for love, which he believes is obsolete, until he meets Sophie, underplayed quite well by Gaynor Howe.

He agrees to take a trip to Death Valley with her so he can interview someone for his book and along the way, he starts to see what it would be like to fall in love and have someone in his life on a regular basis.

First time writer/director Bell hits all the right notes and even finds some new ones in her quaint story about first love. She directs with a deft eye and wrote a beautiful script.

Actors Piccirilli and Howe have wonderful chemistry, and never take their roles too seriously. They play their roles well enough without being too corny or stereotypical, and in the process make us wish most overused actors of today would take a lesson from their acting choices.

This film is definitely one I would recommend and keep an eye out for.

Another favorite film at the festival was “The Extra Man,” starring “A Fish Called Wanda’s” Kevin Kline.

Kline plays Henry Harrison, an eccentric older man who is an escort for older women in New York City. When his roommate moves out, he places an ad in the paper for a new one.

Paul Dano, seen in “Little Miss Sunshine” and “There Will Be Blood”, plays Louis Ives, a young man with a secret fetish who has recently lost his job as a professor. He moves to the city and needs a place to live. As fate would have it, he answers Harrison’s ad and the two become the most unlikely pair of roommates since Oscar and Felix in “The Odd Couple.”

“The Extra Man” brings Kline back to the screen in a role that shows his comedic side. Something we haven’t had the pleasure of seeing since “In & Out,” “Soapdish” and “A Fish Called Wanda.” Kline struts, dances, bellows and shines in a role that is his best to date. His turn as Harrison will delight and amuse anyone who catches this film. His antics are a joy to watch.

Dano underplays his role to perfection. At first playing a boy with a secret, and then the man who is taking control of his secret and his life.

“The Extra Man” is filled with a wonderfully talented supporting cast, including John C. Reilly, hysterical and moving, and Marian Seldes, appropriately Norma Desmond-ish. Patti D’Arbanville also supports the cast as a dominatrix with a heart, as well as an uncredited Dan Hedaya as a fellow rival escort.

Written and directed by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, “The Extra Man” is sure to be a hit once it hits theatres. It is well paced and shot and brings back a romantic and homesick view of New York City that we haven’t seen in a long while. Don’t miss this one.