It's generally been a pretty positive year at Sundance with lots of buys, and positive buzz surrounding a number of films. But one film has walked away with the unfortunate honor of having one of the most contentious screenings at the festival. And no, we're not talking about "Red State."
Dito Montiel's "Son of No One," a gritty cop drama starring Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan, Ray Liotta and Juliette Binoche found itself in an ugly position when THR reported that its first press and industry screening on Monday was a disaster of epic proportions. The trade reported that the screening was attended by reps from nearly every major distributor -- Samuel Goldwyn, Paramount, Summit, The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group, IFC Films, Morgan Creek, Screen Media, Miramax, Relativity -- but that there was an "exodus" of walkouts during the film, and that one lone wolf attempting to start applause for the film as it ended got no help from anyone else. Sounds awful right? Well, a rep for the film has a far different take on what happened.
Speaking with Deadline, Cassian Elwes who's selling distribution rights for the film, gave his version of events. Elwes describes the THR story as a "slam piece" and adds that while it has certainly put a negative impression of the film out there, three offers have already come in. Moreover, Elwes claims it was a projectionist error that prompted confusion about the end of the film that led to people leaving the theater, not the quality of the film.
"About a month ago, Dito decided to add a card, two scenes before the end of the film, that says, 'Based on the book, Story of Milk.' That is the character's name in the film. Yesterday, the projectionist thought that meant the movie was over, and he turned the lights on. That's when people got up. They thought movie had ended. Some left, but most stayed. This nasty little piece didn't mention any of this. It's not true that the movie is a bomb. We've got three offers, but I feel some buyers pushing their own agenda with spin to bring the price down. Meanwhile, none of the reviews have come out. Before the press rushes to judgment, why not wait to see what real reviewers think, or at least get the story right?"
Well, since Elwes spoke with Deadline, reviews are starting to trickle out and for the most part, they aren't good. But there's still plenty of time for "Son of No One" and really, critical momentum can change. It certainly wouldn't be the first time a derided (or praised) film walked away from a festival only to have opinion on it change. But for now, the truth lies somewhere in between and we'll just have to wait to see for ourselves.
Update: Some folks on Twitter have given us their helpful perspective on the screening:
ErikDavis from Cinematical tweeted at us, "I was at that screening and there were walkouts before that. [Harvey] Weinstein walked out about halfway through. Movie is horrible."
An audience member in attendance, Benjamin Vargas, simply replies, "worst film I saw all last year."
The Film Stage has a full report on what happened at the screening and it appears that it was simply a case of a bad film marred further by some head-scratching editing choices:
There was no “exodus” and the lights didn’t go up when Elwes stated. Up until the last 10 minutes of the film, it played out like a sub-par, often poor, cop drama. There were intermittent walkouts leading up to this moment, but no “exodus.” In what was to be believed the ‘final’ scene of the film, Montiel employed some odd (i.e. flabbergasting) editing choices which caused laughing, head-shaking, and groaning from a variety of audience members including myself. After the scene ended the title card came up “Based on the book: Story of Milk,” but no lights were raised. This slight confusion caused some audience members to gather their things and start to get up, but soon after we saw additional scenes wrapping up the plot. Many sat back down to finish the film, and this caused more groans since most already gathered their belongings to exit. Once those additional scenes ended, the lights came up and many exited as quickly as possible. With many needing to get to another screening, or do writing, this ended in a similar fashion, as with all press and industry screenings.