THE BLOG
05/01/2011 06:39 pm ET | Updated Jul 01, 2011

No Room at the Orgy as Tribeca Wraps

Life on the fest circuit can be dicey: one hand gives, the other takes away. The moment I type "accept" for the after-party of A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy, an email arrives saying, We cannot accommodate you at this time. Oh well, no loss, since the party kicked off at an hour I'd rather be flossing. The film sounds like a hoot, though, and should hit the big screen later this summer. At an earlier shindig, its director Peter Huyck described Orgy as a Big Chill kind of premise for 30 somethings, set in the Hamptons and toplined by Jason Sudeikis. What's not to like? It's also hard to imagine a pleasanter, more ingratiating guy than the film's director. This in contrast to Gotham's bold face names, with their eyeballs that barely graze you. Exceptions exist. Some bolds may want something from the humble reporter. Others are simply classy.

Which brings me to a class act, the Vanity Fair party on the rotunda of 60 Centre Street, an annual highlight of the Tribeca Film Festival. I arrived to a barrage of cameras from the red carpet, smiling graciously. Only they were shooting Wendy and Rupert Murdoch. Robert De Niro, the fest co-founder, presided at the entrance. He's not given to long eloquent statements, De Niro, but stands there with his cockeyed smile, bestowing bonhomie. The party's A-list nibbles were courtesy of Per Se and I discovered cologne in the loo from Jo Malone, which turned out to be lotion soap. Champagne flowed. Amazing, every time I looked, my glass was full. I schmoozed with Ron Howard (sans baseball cap) and Akiva Goldsman of the cool name, the team who made A Beautiful Mind. So what are you guys working on? A film version of The Dark Tower by Stephen King, Ron Howard said. I looked blank. It's sci fi, he said apologetically. Also touched based with NY Times media maven David Carr, who steals the show in the forthcoming docu Page One. Salman Rushdie arrived with, I think, a tall blonde. The usual cracks about not wanting to be under the same roof with him. Paranoia reigns. Most attractive couple at the event: Alessandro Nivola and wife Emily Mortimer, Nivola at TFF to present his film Janie Jones. Those two seem to have a sense of humor about the whole biz. I told Nivola I was still haunted by his turn as Boy something (the Brits, you know), Chanel's ill-fated lover in Coco Chanel. Get it on Net Flix.

John McEnroe was on hand -- with a woman he introduced as his agent -- and eager to tell me about his tennis academy on Randalls Island, which will groom local kids. Zack Braff talked up new film The Cost of Living, much awaited after Garden State. An undercurrent I took away from chatting with filmmakers: how brutal the business has become, how elusive the distributors. It's truly a wonder good films get made at all -- and then actually get seen (the new VOD helps). Everyone's hustling, even at this summa of parties, and not just filmmakers. How to flag anyone's attention for anything in the Age of Information?

Janie Jones bowed two nights later in Chelsea. Guests were practically strip-searched at the SVA theater. The film follows Ethan (Alessandro Nivola), a struggling musician on the road with his motley crew of rockers, whose life gets up-ended by the arrival of a thirteen-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) he never knew he had. As it happens, Janie is a budding singer herself. After major (predictable) resistance from dad, the two embark on a road trip of music and father-daughter bonding. Ordinarily I avoid this type of movie, an engine designed to wring tears from the viewer. But Janie transcends the model. Both actors are themselves musicians, which lends the film authenticity and a pleasing home-made vibe. (At the after-party at Marquee, they treated guests to a mini concert of folk rock.) Nivola, with his sexy inward gaze, is pitch perfect as a rich kid songster battling inner demons. Breslin floods the screen with luminosity. Of course Janie is too perfect, pure hearted, preternaturally wise to be real. But that's the key, she's a magical girl from folk tales, a trope Strindberg drew on in his play Easter. Together Breslin and Nivola are irresistible.

An aside: at the premiere, director David Rosenthal revealed that the film reflected his own story, then called his own thirteen year old daughter to the stage. I mean, what's the deal with guys who kinda don't remember they made a kid? (Martin Amis in the same club, famously, but ravaging the countryside is part of his career description). Don't we expect such lapses from creatures lower on the food chain? It takes absent-mindedness to new levels. Or is this some kind of chest-thumping male ritual?

THE BEST OF TRIBECA'S REST:

Blackthorn, a first feature from Mateo Gil (screenwriter of Vanilla Sky and The Sea Inside), imagines that Butch Cassidy, the notorious American outlaw (Sam Shepard), managed to dodge the law men and is now a grizzled rancher re-baptized as James Blackthorn and living in Bolivia. But he longs to end his exile and reunite with his family. On the journey home Blackthorn encounters a mining robber (Eduardo Noriega) who pulls him into a final adventure that establishes Butch as a bandit with principles.

Why you should see it:
Sam Shepard is a magnificent craggy presence as an aging, vinegar-y coot, still polishing his legend. (And of course he does his own riding.) The premise is ingenious and adroitly handled. The locations are spectacular, especially the endless salt flats of the Bolivian frontier.

Rid Of Me
In this inventive dark comedy by James Westby sad-sack Meris (Katie O'Grady) moves with her studly but stiff husband to Portland, Oregon, where she gets little love from his friends, a ghastly bunch out of The Stepford Wives. When her husband dumps her for his high school flame, Meris takes a job in a candy store, stumbling into the Northwest underground punk scene and emerging with a renewed sense of self-worth.

Why you should see it:
Director James Westby is a talent on the march. "Rid of Me" is not only cheerfully obscene, hip, and wickedly funny -- it scraps linear narrative in favor of flash forwards and backwards, deftly capturing emotional states through techniques peculiarly suited to cinema. Using super-saturated colors, outrageous up-your-nose closeups, and tropes from horror movies Rid of Me is about the triumph of the nerds over the bland, intolerant majority.