By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 6, 2012 at 9:17AM
After the disappointing box office performance of last year's Sundance crop -- films like "Take Shelter," "Like Crazy" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene" all failed to live up to expectations, with none making more than $4 million -- it's unsurprising that buyers have been a little less trigger happy this time around. There have been plenty of major sales -- most notably Fox Searchlight's pick ups of "The Surrogate" and "Beasts of The Southern Wild" -- but over a week after the fest wrapped up, a number of major titles remain in play. For instance, most had pegged the starry, foul-mouthed comedy "Bachelorette" as the most likely pick up, especially in a post-"Bridesmaids" climate, but the film is yet to find a home.
But negotiations continue long after Park City empties out, and The Wrap reports that one of the most warmly received films of this year's festival has just been picked up, with Sony Pictures Classics landing "Smashed" for around the $1 million mark. The drama from director James Ponsoldt stars "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" star Mary Elizabeth Winstead and "Breaking Bad" dude Aaron Paul as a young alcoholic married couple who find their relationship put to the test when Winstead's character gives up the bottle.
The cast also features Oscar-winner in waiting Octavia Spencer ("The Help"), Nick Offerman ("Parks and Recreation"), Megan Mullally ("Will and Grace") and Mary Kay Place ("Being John Malkovich") and picked up strong reviews at the festival, with particular raves being directed at Winstead's performance, which most deemed revelatory from an actress best known until now for genre fare. Plus, it was responsible for our single favorite photograph in Sundance history (see above).
The delay in the buy and relatively low pricetag suggests that some distributors may have had issues with the tough subject matter, but it's certainly in good hands at Sony Pictures Classics (who also picked up rom-com "Celeste and Jesse Forever" and doc "Searching For Sugar Man" this year). Our big question at this point is whether the studo picked the film up intending to make an awards run for Winstead (or indeed Offerman, who our man James Rocchi praised in particular in his review). There's been buzz since the film premiered that it could well end up figuring into next year's Best Actress race, and SPC had success with another Sundance breakout two years ago with Carey Mulligan's nod for "An Education." We imagine it'll depend on the film's reception by critics at large; no release date has been set yet, but we imagine we'll see the film before the year is out.