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Sundance Watch: Margin Call Ignites Buyer Interest

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 22, 2011 at 2:29AM

So they're off! On a bright sunny Friday morning, the usual gang of buyers assembled at Park City' Utah's Holiday Cinema III for one of the more promising commercial titles, Margin Call, featuring an attractive ensemble of wily character actors led by Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany and Zachary Quinto--with ace support from Demi Moore, Simon Baker and Jeremy Irons. Buyers Harvey Weinstein, Focus's James Schamus, Sony Pictures Classics' Tom Bernard, Fox Searchlight's Tony Safford, IFC's Jonathan Seyring, and others packed the press and industry screening. UPDATE: Three companies are bidding on the film so far.
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Thompson on Hollywood

So they're off! On a bright sunny Friday morning, the usual gang of buyers assembled at Park City' Utah's Holiday Cinema III for one of the more promising commercial titles, Margin Call, featuring an attractive ensemble of wily character actors led by Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany and Zachary Quinto--with ace support from Demi Moore, Simon Baker and Jeremy Irons. Buyers Harvey Weinstein, Focus's James Schamus, Sony Pictures Classics' Tom Bernard, Fox Searchlight's Tony Safford, IFC's Jonathan Seyring, and others packed the press and industry screening. UPDATE: Three companies are bidding on the film so far.

Set in 2008, the film shows the financial world on the edge of collapse; risk analyst Stanley Tucci is just figuring this out when he gets canned after 19 years. He passes his charts onto one of his staffers, Quinto, who turns out to be a trained rocket scientist who plays with numbers--why not make more money on Wall Street? The movie follows the 24 hours before the Crash as the players at an ancient investment bank (Lehman Brothers), decide how they are going to get out of the coming shitstorm alive.

Thompson on Hollywood

While first-time director J.C. Chandor's script made the top ten on last year's Black List, he had to struggle to get the film financed via foreign pre-sales. The final film could have used a little spit and polish; the pace is deliberate. But the movie, which was produced at a fraction of the cost of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and financed independently via foreign pre-sales, works as an engaging, tense character study about how people behave under duress.

Here's the LAT and Variety's review.

This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Reviews, Sundance, Independents, Drama


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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.