Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sundance with Abe: Arizona

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the fifth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

Directed by Jonathan Waston

There are some actors for whom a plot isn’t even really necessary since they can work with whatever material they’re given. Danny McBride, who was first truly memorable in a supporting role in “Pineapple Express,” is just such an actor. He has successfully headlined two TV series, “Eastbound and Down” and “Vice Principals,” and shown that he’s ultimately going to play a similar character in all of them, one who effortlessly carries the entire project with his signature foul-mouthed excessiveness. He’s the perfect person to star in one of the Sundance Film Festival’s Midnight section hits.

Cassie (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a realtor in rural 2009 Arizona, where the housing market has taken a complete downturn and she barely does any business. When Sonny (Danny McBride), arrives at her office to confront her boss (Seth Rogen) for selling him a worthless home he can’t afford, a fatal scuffle ensues and Cassie finds herself kidnapped by Sonny, who continues to try to cover his tracks as things get worse and worse. Cassie fights for her life as Sonny causes more collateral damage, bringing her daughter (Lolli Sorenson), ex-husband (Luke Wilson), and his new girlfriend (Elizabeth Gillies) into this crazy and unpredictable mess.

Many of the films playing in the Midnight category at Sundance are horror films, and while this one does contain some horrifying moments and its share of gore, it’s primarily a comedy. Sonny is so driven by his desire to cover up something that probably could have been explained away as an accident that he taps into his rage and hatred toward the world and society to commit a ridiculous number of subsequent crimes which he can’t possibly walk back. Cassie just wants to survive, even though, as she’ll admit, there isn’t much she likes about her life except for her daughter.

McBride delivers expectedly and fully, making Sonny into a villain driven purely by impulse, hilariously pointing himself out in a family photo to Cassie while wearing a mask and always thinking just to the next step of his hastily-hatched plan and not beyond. DeWitt is a great lead, playing a role she doesn’t usually play, with some fantastic assistance from the entire cast, including Kaitlin Olson as Sonny’s angry ex-wife and particularly the underrated Gillies. This film is great fun for the 85 minutes that it lasts, making good on exactly what it sets out to be.


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