Writer-director Charles Ferguson is more poli-sci major than flashy filmmaker. He is, in other words, what we need right now.
The film, which played in this year's Sundance Film Festival in the competitive documentary category, does not shriek or hector, or settle for Michael Moore-style rabble-rousing.
Sundance co-founder Robert Redford declared the 2007 festival the fest of the docs, and while many of them disappointed – including Chicago 10 , which opened the festival with a blast of noise and not enough perspective – My Kid Could Paint That did not. Of all the docs I saw in which the act of documenting a subject became part of the film itself, this one made a particularly compelling case for becoming part of itself, as it were.
The best dramatic feature I saw in competition was the new David Gordon Green film Snow Angels , one of seemingly thousands of Sundance pictures this year in which teen desolation (or child endangerment) ruled the world. This is always the way: Films such as the sadly dismissible Hounddog get all the pre-festival attention, in this case because 12-year-old Dakota Fanning plays an incest and rape survivor, while Green's film – which has its share of melodrama, but nuanced and wonderfully acted – barely blips the radar screen.
I very much enjoyed Rocket Science , a Rushmore -y comedy from writer-director Jeffrey Blitz, the man behind the documentary Spellbound . In it a bright, shy high schooler (Reece Daniel Thompson) dealing with a stutter comes under the steely tutelage of the ace debate-team shark (Anna Kendrick). It's glib to a fault, but a scene with Denis O'Hare as the boy's father is sweet and sincere enough to counteract the archness.
Fun, too, was the Adrienne Shelly trip to Crimes of the Heart -land called Waitress , starring Keri Russell as a Southern belle-in-the-rough having an affair with her doctor (Nathan Fillion). Andy Griffith plays the crotchety pie shop owner where Russell's character works and slings “Alice”-type banter with cohorts Shelly and Cheryl Hines (in the Polly Holliday role).
Can you detect a sitcom odor coming from the kitchen? Yes, you can. But it's disarming and pretty funny. And it is very sad that Shelly, murdered not long ago in her New York apartment, wasn't around to see her feature go over so well at Sundance.
© 2007, Chicago Tribune.
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