Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sundance with Abe: Sidney Hall

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the fourth time. I had the chance to see a number of films and will be posting reviews of everything I see!


Sidney Hall
Directed by Shawn Christensen
Premieres

Authors can spend decades writing and still not manage to create something that reaches and is read by the public. A first novel is a massive undertaking and one that requires a deep commitment to hard work and endless revisions. Sometimes, however, the task can be simpler, like when a high school student known for saying and writing provocative things pens an entire novel while still in school, leading him on a straight path to success and almost instant fame.

Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman) is not a popular kid at school - not that he tries - and comes home to the wrath of his monster mother (Michelle Monaghan) and his disabled father. When an old friend who has since become a star athlete (Blake Jenner) asks for his help in finding something buried long ago, Sidney gets the inspiration to write an incredible book that catapults him to fame. Along the way, Sidney finds himself courted by his neighbor Melody (Elle Fanning) and pursued, much later in life, by a determined detective (Kyle Chandler) trying to find the recluse who has disappeared completely from the public eye.

The specific plot of Sidney's smash novel is never explicitly covered, but its general themes are revealed through the way that Sidney responds to developments in his life, gradually retreating from the spotlight, something he never wanted in the first place. Sidney doesn’t want to go to parties and socialize with people who respect him, and he rarely displays much excitement about what he has written. The way those around him speak to him and about him provide much help in determining just what kind of person he is, a natural talent whose work has been interpreted to be something else by many who read it.

Lerman, who is twenty-five, still looks relatively young, and having him play a role that spans a number of years doesn't involve him physically aging all that much, yet the depth of his portrayal makes it work well. Fanning is playing the same part she always seems to and excelling at it as usual. The rest of the supporting cast helps to guide Sidney's story as he tries to play as minimal a part in it as possible. A lot happens over the course of this film, and it's all told in an invigorating and enthralling manner.

B+

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