With the fall festivals in high gear already, the fall can be so packed to the gills with quality indie options that you’re bound to miss a handful of good ones as the heavy Oscar contenders start to line up. Here are six extremely different indie options you might want to consider, and the obvious disclaimer is these will all be available in limited release.
Written and Directed by Josh Radnor
Starring: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney
Summary: Jesse (Radnor), a 30-something, returns to his college for his professor’s (Jenkins) retirement party where he meets Zibby (Olsen), a current student for whom he falls considerably.
The Word: You may know him as Ted Mosby, but Josh Radnor has been building quite a name for himself as an independent filmmaker. He earned a fair share of praise for his debut film, “Happythankyoumoreplease,” which premiered back at Sundance 2010, and now he lands some indie acting gems in Jenkins, Janney (what’s this woman not in?) and the quickly budding Olsen.
My Thoughts: I could do without another age-discrepancy romance (they’re absolutely rampant this fall), but ” LIberal Arts” looks to hit on some close-to-home truths about how college doesn’t exactly prepare one for the real world. I have still yet to see “Happythankyoumoreplease” (frustratingly), so that’s first on my to-do list, but for those who have, “Liberal Arts” arrives just before all the big-draw indies swoop in, so the timing is right.
Written and Directed by Stephen Chbosky (based on his novel)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Summary: As Charlie enters high school, he has trouble fitting in as well as coping with a friend’s suicide and his own issues, that is until two seniors take him under their wing and show him life from their perspective.
The Word: If Hollywood won’t do it, do it yourself. While I can’t be sure Chbosky took bringing his novel to the big screen into his own hands quite that dramatically, I’m sure he never imagined he would not only adapt but also direct his successful 1999 novel, and more than 10 years later to boot.
My Thoughts: This cast of young actors is quite impressive, with “Harry Potter” alumna Watson, Lerman of “Percy Jackson” fame and Miller, who creeped the hell out of me in “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” I suspect they’ll be terrific, but I have to question the degree of freshness that this coming-of-age story will have so long after MTV first published it.
Directed by Ry Russo-Young
Written by Lena Dunham, Ry Russo-Young
Starring: Olivia Thirlby, John Krasinski, Rosemaire DeWitt, India Ennenga
Summary: A young filmmaker (Thirlby) goes to stay with Peter and his family (Krasinski) and his family. As Peter helps her with the sound for her new movie, he must confront his attraction toward her that his wife (DeWitt) has already noticed.
The Word: Filmmaker Ry Russo-Young gets a big boost in credentials with the help of co-writer Lena Dunham, the brains behind and star of HBO’s “Girls” and the indie film “Tiny Furniture.” The cast has more than a few recognizable names as well. Sure, it’s a story about inappropriate relationships, but it seems to take a slightly more poetic approach.
My Thoughts: This one has a much darker tone than the other illicit romance indies being offered this season. I’m not sure yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Word from Sundance was not particularly strong, but it’s a brisk 85 minutes, so what could hurt?
Written and Directed by Ben Lewin
Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood
Summary: Mark (Hawkes) has been debilitated by polio, but he still has one deep desire — to lose his virginity. With the blessing of his priest (Macy), he seeks the help of a sex surrogate (Hunt)
The Word: “The Sessions” was one of the biggest award-buzz films to come out of Sundance 2012 (where it was called “The Surrogate”), especially for Hawkes’ performance. Interestingly, filmmaker Ben Lewin has been around forever but hasn’t made many films and none of them were big. That looks to change. The film’s follow-up performance at Toronto this past week was outstanding and the film carries 100% on Rotten Tomatoes as of now.
My Thoughts: Everything I’ve been reading about the film suggests it’s terrific, especially in the way that it goes about dealing with both Mark’s condition and sex. With Fox Searchlight behind it, there’s no question it could be in awards contention, at least for Hawkes — at the very least.
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Written by Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello
Starring: Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch
Summary: A retired rockstar (Penn) living off his royalties in Dublin returns home to the States to visit his dying father, a Holocaust survivor who lived out his last days searching for his tormentor in Auschwitz. He endeavors to finish what his father started.
The Word: The festival journey of this film has been a long one that started at Cannes in 2011 and included a stop at Sundance this year. As such, it’s gathered many a review and currently stands at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. The appeal is definitely in Penn’s bizarre appearance and manner of speech playing a makeup-clad rocker, but successful Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino will be the reason you like this film if in fact you do.
My Thoughts: I have yet to make up my mind on this one. I’m a big fan of Penn’s transformative talents and this has to be one of the more outlandish takes on a Holocaust-related story, but it could end up being just too weird. Generally positive reviews are encouraging.
The Details (Nov. 2)
Written and Directed by Jacob Aaron Estes
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta, Kerry Washington
Summary: Jeff (Maguire) and Nealy (Banks) have a raccoon problem in their back yard. Jeff tries to poison the raccoons but accidentally kills the neighbors cat, setting off a chain reaction of domestic problems including infidelity.
The Word: Jacob Aaron Estes’ feature debut “Mean Creek” made some waves back in 2004 and now he finally follows it up with “The Details,” a black comedy if ever there was one. As with the many films listed above, the movie premiered at Sundance this year, but it has been pretty quiet.
My Thoughts: There’s no poster and the trailer I found is not even official, so this one is really flying below the radar and has little to no buzz whatsoever. It looks interesting enough and has some serious talents, however, so if it ever gets its marketing act together, maybe at some point you’ll get a chance to see it.