The attitude coming out of Sundance this year is overwhelmingly positive, with many critics already swooning over quirky films like Miranda July’s “The Future” and Elizabeth Olsen’s performance in Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” But though there’s been a lot of praise during the first three days of the indie festival, the first film to truly wow viewers (and buyers, apparently) is Drake Doremus’ “Like Crazy,” a film about long-distance lovers trying to make it through. It’s apparently so wonderful that just a day after its premiere, Paramount Pictures has snatched it up for U.S. distribution, with production company Indian Paintbrush co-producing, according to those close to the deal. The film has been one we've been keeping a close eye on for a while, and was already listed as one of our most anticipated of the year and the positive buzz now coming out of Park City has only stoked our curiosity further.
According to an earlier piece by the LA Times, Indian Paintbrush, the backer of films like Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” had been circling “Like Crazy” from the beginning. It's Paramount however, the humongous company behind upcoming monstrosities like “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Thor” and “Captain America,” that surprised festivalgoers by picking up this tiny love story. The last time they bought a film straight out of Sundance, it was Craig Brewer’s “Hustle and Flow” in 2005. The deal, said to be worth about $4 million, closed early this morning, making “Like Crazy” the first massive acquisition of the festival; Fox Searchlight, Focus Features and Summit Entertainment were all pursuing rights to distribute the immensely popular movie.
Update: Word also just got out that “Margin Call” starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, and Stanley Tucci, was bought by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate. The star-studded cast had buyers circling the film early on at the festival, even though the reviews weren’t as strong. J.C. Chandor’s film went for just under $2 million.
Back to "Like Crazy." The film stars Anton Yelchin (“Charlie Bartlett,” “Star Trek”) and Felicity Jones (“The Tempest,” "Cemetery Junction") as Jacob and Anna, two college-aged students who fall in love and are then separated by an entire continent due to Anna’s visa issues. Soon-to-be Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence also co-stars. Doremus is no stranger to Sundance, as his film “Douchebag” premiered at the festival last year. Like “Douchebag,” “Like Crazy” is predominantly improvised by the actors; at the Q&A after the film, Doremus said, “We were very specific in the outline and then these wonderful actors brought it to life. We rehearsed it a lot to sort of find the beats to the story. Felicity and Anton especially really trusted me and just delved into it.” Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly got a quick review up, saying, “Young love has rarely been so palpable or looked so real. No ‘(500) Days of Summer’-y narrative tricks obscure the deepening of such heady passion.”
In a less expensive deal, HBO bought the Sundance documentary “Project Nim,” that premiered just a few days ago at the festival. Director James Marsh (“Man on Wire”) received much critical acclaim yet again for his portrayal of the life of a trained, experimental monkey. MPI Media Group also grabbed the Rhys Ifans comedy “Mr. Nice” out of Sundance, after a long festival circuit run hitting places like SXSW and Edinburgh. MPI hopes to land the film in a spring 2011 slot.
Outside of Sundance, it’s been a busy week for acquisitions as well. Relativity Media acquired the U.S. rights to “The Raven,” starring John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe. James McTeigue of “V for Vendetta” fame hopes to have a hit on his hands after the not-so-hot “Ninja Assassin.”
Sundance Selects acquired the rights to Errol Morris’ fantastically entertaining documentary “Tabloid.” The truth-is-stranger-than-fiction doc was one that wowed Playlist staffers and a picture that we concluded might be the director's best yet.
Samuel Goldwyn picked up Roland Joffe’s “There Will be Dragons” for a May 6 release. The film stars Wes Bentley as a journalist investigating a candidate for canonization who discovers a personal connection in the case.
Lastly, with Rooney Mara being the big ticket this year for her upcoming role as Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Anchor Bay has decided to purchase her coming-of-age tale "Tanner Hall" which debuted at TIFF way back in 2009. The company plans to release the film in close proximity to the December 21 release of 'Dragon Tattoo.' -Catherine Scott