With no volunteer shifts on Monday I was still trying to decide which film to see in the morning as I drove to Park City. Red State, Kevin Smith’s film looked most interesting to me but I didn’t think there was a chance at getting a volunteer ticket so I headed over to see Higher Ground, directed by and starring Vera Farmiga. Higher Ground is adapted from the Carolyn Briggs’ memoir, This Dark World, which I now want to read. The festival film description calls it a “moving story about the transformative powers of faith and doubt”. What was great about the film was it wasn’t heavy-handed at all and it wasn’t preachy on any particular side. Vera conducted a Q&A after the film and spoke about the challenges of a directorial debut that spanned eras and all that means to a production as well as battling pregnancy hormones the whole time. Her character in the film starts out as a small child and grows to an adult. We were all pretty amazed at how much the girl playing her character as a teenager really looked like her and it suddenly made sense when the credits rolled and we learned it was actually her 16 year old sister who played the part. Her sister was there at the screening as well but busy watching Vera’s toddler so she could answer our questions. Carolyn Briggs was also there and fielded a question herself. When talking about religion I thought she said something really profound and I’m really paraphrasing here but it was something like religion provides one with all the answers, which makes living easy. But it takes a brave individual to live with questions. Questions I wanted to ask Vera at the Q&A but would have never dared since it would have blown my serious movie lover cover… what does George Clooney smell like? Working with Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg on The Departed, tell me every single detail. Oh, and hottie alert in this film - Boyd Holbrook, who plays her husband when he was a teenager.
After the film I stared at Richard Ayoade from the IT Crowd as he chatted with another volunteer I’d been talking to in the hallway. I thought I’d get out and enjoy the sunshine and take a walk along Main Street. I saw the photographers and the autograph hounds with those stacks of pics they then sell online ascending on Lea Thompson. One of them put a racy glossy black and white pic in front of her and she said, “Ooh where did you find this one?” with a giggle.
I then headed over to the press tent and sat in on a press screening of a documentary called How to Die in Oregon. Did you know that Oregon as well as Washington allows someone who is terminally ill and has less than six months to live to get a prescription to end their own life? I knew this movie would be a downer and it didn’t disappoint. I have never been so grateful for the dark of the movie theatre as I sobbed throughout the entire thing. The content was excellent and showed a range of situations. Walking out of the theatre I didn’t know how I stood on the issue but I know that I felt like the filmmaker made me understand and appreciate the feelings of everyone in the documentary. Some of my fellow volunteers said that many of the people in the documentary were at the documentary premiere and how moving the process was for them. I'm glad I saw it and it reiterated some advice I had received from a fellow volunteer, go to some films you know nothing about and might not pick for yourself.
My last screening on Monday was in Salt Lake City and it was a film called Another Happy Day, described as a dysfunctional family drama, written and directed by a very young Sam Levinson. This is where my streak of great films comes to an end. I’ve talked to other volunteers who really liked it but I got way sick of Ellen Barkin crying and some of the characters being caricatures that were just too amped up to work. No doubt this will probably get picked up for distribution, because of the all-star cast but it won’t be a film I’ll sit through again. One fun aspect of the screening, when I was waiting in line to get in there was a group of teenage boys hanging out also waiting to go in and their conversation made me wonder if they were in a film in the festival. When Another Happy Day starts rolling I realize they’re all in this film.
What was great about Monday… it felt really decadent that my only responsibility and pursuit was to see as many films as interested me that day. Three in a day, when else would that seem normal unless at a film festival?