Sundance Film Festival - Day Four

Sundance and stars? Go directly ahead, past the dead skunk...

by Amber Wilkinson

Robert Carlyle in Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing And Charm School

Robert Carlyle in Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing And Charm School

Early start to write some reviews this morning. It became clear that I hadn't woken up sufficiently, when after driving the 30 minutes to Coalville for a lunch and press conference for Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School I realised that I had left my press pass at the hotel. Still, the drive at least cleared up one mystery. Every evening as we've returned home there is a point on the road which is like nature's equivalent of smelling salts. Turns out the sinus-busting smell is a dead skunk. Am informed by Tony that people actually sometimes put their dogs down if they get sprayed by a skunk. Sounds outrageous... but the smell is pretty all-pervading.

Press pass secured it was a quick dash back to town for the press conference which was, predictably, running late. A bowl of chicken and rice later and the second realisation of the day dawned. I pulled my dictaphone from my pocket only to discover that it belonged to Tony - and doesn't have any tape in. Just as well I remembered my notebook, then.

The press conference rolls around but feels faintly pointless as no-one has yet been able to see the film. A galaxy of stars were in attendance though: John Goodman (at ease with everything), Robert Carlyle (looking as though he wished he was anywhere but there), Marisa Tomei, Donnie Wahlberg, Mary Steenburgen (who looks even more beautiful in the flesh than on screen), Ernie Hudson (the one you can never remember the name of from Ghostbusters), director Randall Miller and his wife and writer of the screenplay Jody Savin.

The cast dutifully answer questions on all things dancing and reunion - two of the movie's themes if the press pack is to be believed. I manage to ask Robert if he's ever been tempted to look up his old school pals on Friends Reunited. He laughs and says he'd be "terrified to know what they're saying about me".

A quick photocall outside follows and then it's time for a couple of hours playing email catch up. This whole trip has been dogged by computer problems. The signal strength in the hotel is so weak that for the last three nights I've had to sit out in the hall to file my copy - the manager even came up for a natter on Tuesday after reports of someone trying to break-in. Nice. My state-of-the-art laptop has decided it doesn't want me to access the internet, so just as well Tony brought his along. Researching while working is proving tricky, though.

Twist Of FaithEmails sent, it's time for the first and last screening of the day. Director Mike Mills' debut feature Thumbsucker, pictured left. It's great. Some of the critics even clap at the end, though personally I think that may be slightly overegging the pudding. The film casts an eye over family life for Justin Cobb (Lou Pucci). His family live in a world of insecurity and missed communication. He sucks his thumb, which Dad (Vincent D'Onofrio) hates and Mum (Tilda Swinton) worries about - but who is the family member with the real problems? Funny and insightful, the presence of Keanu Reeves as a guru-like orthodonist only serves to convince me that it will be a huge box office success.

Tony - who has yet to get press credentials, though we're hopeful he may get some transferred to him tomorrow - has been rubbing shoulders with the great and the good while I've been sitting in screenings. Leonard Maltin is in town with his daughter and happy to stand and chat for a while - a theme common with all the stars. They seem quite ready to pose for pictures with fans a happy side-effect of this festival's intimacy. Good things certainly come in small packages.

Thumbsucker screening over, we decide to head for the hills for dinner. American chain Ruby Tuesday manages to provide us with quite the worst service ever. As soon as we get there we sense they don't want to seat us, but they do. The order is wrong, they close the salad bar while we're still trying to serve ourselves and offer us desert within seconds of our main course. Am secretly glad when another six people arrive meaning they won't be able to sneak off early as planned.

Drive back to Coalville uneventful, save for the smelly skunk - still it beats the deer that walked out into the road in front of us two days ago.

Hit the sack so I can get early start to research interview with MirrorMask creators tomorrow.

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