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Sundance Fave 'Concussion' Is a Sexy, Sometimes Troubling Look at Sexuality and Self-Worth (TRAILER)

Photo of Jacob Combs By Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood September 16, 2013 at 12:24PM

The title of Stacie Passon's new film "Concussion" is a bit of a misdirect. The eponymous baseball accident in the first five minutes of the film could well be the cause of everything that follows, but it could also be little more than an instigating incident--a fluke of life that separates what was before from what is now. It's a testament to Passon's subtle and somewhat conflicting film that it's impossible to tell just what the concussion in "Concussion" really signifies.

It was a classically indie shoot, filmed at Passon's Montclair, New Jersey home with her two children playing Abby's and Kate's kids. Before the shoot, Weigert spent several days living with Passon and her family. "There was a lot to just sort of observe that was just right there," she told me. "You're stepping into a very ready-made world."

Even with her past directing experience, Troche said she learned from Passon's self-assured, even-handed approach:  "I stood on the sidelines going, 'oh my god, I want to do this.'"  Because they were shooting on digital, Passon would leave the camera running after she called cut and just "see what [the actors] would do," as Troche put it.  Some of these un-directed, quasi-improvised moments made it into the final cut.

Weigert had no qualms about taking on a role as sexy and exposed (both physically and emotionally) as Abby.  When I asked her about it, she referenced Helen Hunt's performance as a sex therapist in "The Sessions," and the subsequent endless questions during Q&As about Hunt's performances during the film's sex scenes.  "You have to be in a place where you're feeling comfortable in your own skin," she told me.  "There's something about a woman taking her clothes off, period, that people get churned up about."

"Concussion," which opened this year's LGBT-focused NewFest in New York City a few weeks ago, made a splash at Sundance this winter and was scooped up almost immediately by the Weinsteins' RADiUS--in what was reportedly a seven-figure deal.

For Troche, it was a serendipitous case of déjà vu: her debut feature, "Go Fish," which focused on a group of lesbian friends living in Chicago, enjoyed an almost identical trajectory at the fest almost 20 years ago.  Like "Concussion," it sold after just one screening.  "It felt a little full circle to me," Troche admits of the two films' synchronicites.

It's unlikely "Concussion" will be a big hit--it might well be too sexy and edgy for some audiences, although Troche plans to push for some well-deserved awards nods for Weigert's performance and Passon's capable directing.  But even if it ends up being a lower profile film, "Concussion" feels like it's at the leading edge of a new kind of gay cinema that focuses not on its characters 'gayness' but everything else in their lives that interacts with their sexuality.  The stories are familiar; its the characters who are new--characters who in the past have been so categorically underrepresented.

Sometimes, as Abby learns, it takes a blow to the head to look at the things we already know through new eyes.

"Concussion "opens in Los Angeles and New York on October 4.

This article is related to: Concussion, Sundance Film Festival, NewFest, Gay cinema, Independents, Women in Film

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.