Ringing in 2022 also ushers in a new lineup of films to look forward to this year, and the perfect vessel to showcase our new year of content is the Sundance Film Festival. The Festival is due to take place January 20-30, but with the threat of COVID-19 still looming large, I decided to “attend” the Festival virtually this year. Thanks to an amazing online platform, I will still be able to bring you reviews on as many films as possible from the Festival’s vast offerings. So far on my calendar, I plan to catch at least 20 movies, which may sound like a lot over a week, but I know I can do it. Here are my ten most anticipated films, with a particular focus on those directed by and/or starring women.
Directed by one of my favorite comedians Tig Notaro and her wife Stephanie Allynne, the story follows Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Sonoya Mizuno), best friends that have known each other most of their lives and feel they know everything there is to know about each other. However, when Jane announces she is moving to London, Lucy reveals a long-held secret that threatens to change their relationship forever.
Not only will I see this because it looks like there will be some good shipping, but also because I love the filmmakers, especially Dakota Johnson who can do no wrong in my book. This is also the first film produced under Johnson and her production company Tea Time Pictures. She is also producing another film at the Festival, CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH (see below).
I feel like it isn’t Sundance if there isn’t a film starring Aubrey Plaza, and this year’s submission is EMILY THE CRIMINAL, a thriller from first time writer-director John Patton Ford. Emily (Plaza) is struggling to overcome significant student debt, unable to get a decent job because she has a minor criminal record. When she takes on a less-than-legal gig as a “dummy shopper”, aka buying goods with stolen credit cards, Emily starts to get a taste for this thrilling lifestyle, as well as the man that got her into it.
I have never seen Plaza, who also produced the film, in a straight up thriller like this, so I am excited to see her add a new genre to her already stellar repertoire.
It has been way too long since we have seen a film from writer/director James Pondsoldt, who directed some of my favorite films/TV shows of the last decade (THE SPECTACULAR NOW, SMASHED, SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS). I am so excited that he is back with SUMMERING, a coming-of-age film about a group of friends that are looking for one last adventure before they have to part ways and start middle school. What starts as a summertime adventure turns into a mystery that helps them start to think about the hard truths of growing up.
I am a sucker for movies like NOW AND THEN and STAND BY ME, so if SUMMERING is even a quarter of what those films are, I am so here for it.
Originally an Audible original, WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD marks Jesse Eisenberg’s feature directorial debut, and who better to star than Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard. The film follows Ziggy (Wolfhard), a high school student who plays rock music for his devoted online fanbase, and his mom Evelyn (Moore), who runs a shelter for domestic abuse survivors. With seemingly different interests and priorities, the two cannot seem to figure each other out. And things only get worse when Evelyn brings another young boy under her wing, which is seen as a pseudo-replacement for her son.
This film is also one of two A24 films at Sundance this year, and I will never miss an A24 project. Eisenberg’s ZOMBIELAND costar Emma Stone is also a producer on the film, so that just adds to my excitement. With Emma and A24’s stamp of approval, it has to be good.
The second A24 film at Sundance, AFTER YANG originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to positive reviews and has been on my radar ever since. Jake (Colin Farrell) and his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) acquire Yang, an artificial intelligence droid, to act as a companion for their daughter. When the droid suddenly stops working, the family works to get it repaired.
Directed by visionary filmmaker Kogonada, the movie still I posted above gives me EX MACHINA vibes, so that hooked me immediately. Plus, I will see anything with Jodie Turner-Smith and consider it a treat whenever she is on-screen, so you better believe I am not going to miss her here.
CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH is Dakota Johnson’s second film at Sundance, which she also produced and stars in. Written, directed, and starring Cooper Raiff, the story follows Andrew (Raiff), a 22-year-old fresh out of college, struggling to find a life outside of his childhood home in New Jersey. He starts working as a Bar and Bat Mitzvah entertainer, but when he meets Domino (Johnson) and her daughter, he realizes his party lifestyle may not be the future he wants.
Again, I am super excited that this year Sundance is also the Dakota Johnson Film Festival because I am always happy to see her on screen. But you know what would make me even happier? A scene of Dakota doing the Cha-Cha Slide.
This pick is a no-brainer for me. I will never be sick of reading and watching anything on Princess Diana and this documentary, directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian Ed Perkins, is no exception. I am super interested to see how this will stand apart from the dozens of other documentaries on the topic.
Speaking of no-brainer documentaries I am excited about, I can think of no better topic than Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The fact that it is directed by Amy Poehler is the cherry on top. As a fellow redhead, I have always been obsessed with Lucy; I have even read her autobiography. So I am super excited to see what new information I learn from the film, particularly the different camera techniques Lucy and Desi pioneered, and celebrate the most iconic comedian and couple in TV history.
I am more intrigued about this film than anything. Written and directed by Mariama Diallo, the film is billed as a psychological thriller with dramatic and comedic elements. And with the always-amazing Regina Hall as the lead, that description makes complete sense. The film follows three women who are striving to find their place at a New England university, which, ya know, happens to have been built over Salem-era gallows.
Let’s call it like it is… this film had me at Regina Hall, Salem, and witches.
I am a huge fan of Daisy Edgar-Jones and have been waiting to see what her next project would be after NORMAL PEOPLE. In FRESH, directed by Mimi Cave, Daisy stars as Noa, a girl who thinks she may have found Mr. Right, but later realizes he is hiding some “unusual appetites.” Is this giving anyone else PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN vibes? Let’s just hope this dude isn’t a zombie or something and that Noa has a better happy ending than Daisy’s NORMAL PEOPLE character Marianne.
**All photos in this post are courtesy of the Sundance Institute**