Sundance 2013: Day 2

The Look Of Love premiere, Austenland and The Spectacular Now

by Amber Wilkinson

Steve Coogan stars in Michael Winterbottom's Look of Love
Steve Coogan stars in Michael Winterbottom's Look of Love
Addiction wormed its way into all the films I saw yesterday - The Look Of Love, Austenland and The Spectacular Now, without being the sole focus of any of them. Perhaps surprisingly then, two of the films were comedies of sorts, and even the third had its moments.

Coke addiction seeps into the fabric of Michael Winterbottom's latest, The Look Of Love - a biopic of porn king Paul Raymond and the women in his life - wife Jean (Anna Friel), lover Fiona Richmond (Tamsin Egerton) and daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots), who died from an overdose. You can read the full review here.

At the Q&A after the film's premiere, Winterbottom said: "I think we tried to keep the film as accurate as possible. Of course, with any film like this you have to imagine what happens in private, you have to imagine the conversations and motivations. But in terms of actually happens, it's as exact as we could get it.

"When we started making the film we thought we might be charting the times, to see through him what it was like in the Fifties and Sixties and Seventies. But when we got down to it, it became more about the relationship with the women. So although I hope that is there in the film, the focus became his relationship with his wife, his relationship with Tamsin's character, his relationship with his daughter. You want to get it as right as possible but that wasn't the focus for me. For me what the film was about was what he lost along the way."

The film went down well with the audience, which bodes well for its UK premiere at Glasgow Film Festival next month and general UK release on April 26.

The Spectacular Now
The Spectacular Now
Earlier in the day, it was alcohol addiction that lurked in the background of coming of age drama The Spectacular Now, although it is not the dominant theme. James Ponsoldt's film bears all the trappings of a mainstream high school comedy drama, but its characters have complexities and issues thankfully, extend a lot further than where their next beer or boyfriend is coming from. They are also refreshingly ordinary looking. Sure, they're pretty but not in that over-the-top made-up-to-the-nines way that Hollywood tends to prefer. Miles Teller plays Sutter, an easygoing sort who went to the Ferris Bueller charm school, except that this charm is no act - he genuinely cares about people. Tomorrow is a far off land for Sutter, who prefers to keep things in the here and now and is unfazed by events such as working up on a strangers lawn after a booze black-out with no idea where he left his car.

It is there that he meets good girl Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a studious sort who can't wait for tomorrow to get here, because her current now mostly involves doing everything for her mum. The pair form a friendship, even as Sutter is still angling to get back into the arms of his former squeeze Cassidy (Brie Larsen). Although the set-up sounds as though it might make Aimee the put-upon second-choice girl, Sutter clearly sees her as a lot more than that and wants to help her to see herself in a better light as much as to work his way into her affections. Woodley and Teller have chemistry to burn and Ponsoldt knows how to be profound without being preachy. Hell, he even sneaks in a safer sex message without laying it on thick.

The script, adapted from Tim Tharp's book by Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber ((500) Days Of Summer) genuinely reflects the hopes, fears and adjustment of ideals that comes in that crazy transition period between kid and adult and still manages to bring with it more conventional ideas of romance and friendship. An all-too-rare intelligent look at growing up that deserves to make the leap to the mainstream.

Austenland
Austenland
Finally, from the addiction-lite department comes Austenland, Jerusha Hess's adaptation of the Sharon Hale novel. It isn't the debatable pleasures of drink or drugs that holds singleton Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) in its thrall but the lure of Pride & Prejudice. Her house is a shrine to the book and BBC adaptation. So when an opportunity presents itself for her to go on an English themed holiday at Austenland, complete with happily ever after, she can't resist spending her savings on it.

What ensues is a mash-up between the sort of broad comedy pastiche familiar to lovers of the Comic Strip Presents and an altogether more endearing romance - along Austen lines, of course - that genuinely leaves you rooting for Jane to find true love with either the sexy Aussie handyman (Bret McKenzie) or the aloof but dashingly old-fashioned Henry Nobley (JJ Feild, who deserves to be a better known name). A lot more intelligent than some of the broader comedy initially suggests, this is a warm-hearted pleasure for comedy romance lovers - Austen readers or not - everywhere.

Speaking of addictions, I appear to have picked up a small saline nose-spray habit this week in a bid to stave off nosebleeds in the dry atmosphere (feel free to add your own a-salt on your senses gag here).

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