Well, the law of diminishing returns caught up with me on Tuesday at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival because, well, it's the law.
So my last film of the day, Ass Backwards, sent me fleeing into the chilly night after 20 or so minutes (because, really, if they can't make you laugh in the first 20 minutes, well, take a hint). Written by and starring the dreaded team of Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael, it's about -- well, really, who cares? Keep in mind that this is the same pair responsible for the awful Bride Wars and you get the picture.
The film, about two unself-aware losers who go home to compete in a beauty pageant they'd lost as children, is reminiscent of Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion -- except, you know, without actually being either funny or smart. Wilson's character has the affect of a female Jim Carrey from his early years -- painfully clueless about her own cluelessness. Raphael, who looks like a less-talented clone of Christine Baranski, is -- well, again, why bother? With luck, this film will never escape the festival circuit.
And my second-to-the-last film of the day was the impenetrable Upstream Color, by Shane Carruth, whose mind-bending Primer was a Sundance hit in 2004. This film, however, is not just hard to figure out -- it's nearly impossible. I wasn't the only one who came out of it shaking his head and muttering, "What the hell was that?"
I wouldn't even venture a guess. At first, it seemed to be about a guy discovering that, if he forces other people to ingest a grub-worm from the dirt of a certain plant, he gains a kind of hypnotic control over them. Then it was about a group of pigs in a pen. Then it was about some strange worm-like parasite that grows inside one woman who was forced to ingest the grub. Every time you try to assign meaning to something (Wait -- are the people and the pigs sharing the same consciousness in different dimensions or realities?), Carruth pulls the rug out and you have to refigure where you are in the film's world. Or you could simply save yourself the time and trouble and skip it.
I liked Blue Caprice, a film by Alexandre Moors about the Beltway sniper, although it is stark and probably not particularly commercial.
This commentary continues on my website.