The Tribeca Film Festival opens Wednesday, April 18 in theaters all over New York City. Since we know how difficult the festival is to navigate, we've narrowed down the features program to ten films we think you should see. (For a complete festival program, see the offical Tribeca Film Festival website.) *Note that our list does NOT include The Avengers or the James Franco meta-mockumentary. You've already heard enough about those, but maybe not these:
Director/animator Chris Sullivan spent 15 years making this film, about the intertwining lives of three curious characters living in the Rust Belt. If that’s not enough to make you want to see it, this should be:
Juliette Binoche plays a Very Serious Journalist who gets caught up in the stories of two young women who are paying their way through college as hookers. A NC-17 rating suggests that “Elles” is more seductive than prescriptive, which is what we want in a movie that’s all about sex. Also, it’s been a while since Binoche has carried a film by herself.
A homecoming tale that looks like it’s paying dual homage to “Garden State” and “Beautiful Girls,” “Fairhaven” follows a group of something-somethings (30s?) reunited after one of them returns to their blue-collar Massachusetts town after the death of his father. Expect a healthy dose of self-loathing, nouveau elitism, and confrontations of the “What makes you think you’re so goddamned special?” variety. Relative unknown Tom O’Brien directs and stars; how he was able to land Chris Messina, Rich Sommer, and Sarah Paulson is unclear. Maybe it’s great!
“First Winter” is a hipster dream turned nightmare – a group of Brooklyn artist/yoga types are stranded in a cabin upstate after an apocalyptic storm leads to a massive infrastructure collapse. Method director Benjamin Dickinson required cast and crew to live like the characters in the film – without electricity, hot water, or nearly enough food – and did not use any artificial light to shoot after the fictional loss of power. Those who donated $100 or more on Kickstarter (where they raised nearly $15,000) were rewarded with a package of homemade granola made on location. That is a fact.
“The Five Year Engagement”
Yes, it’s a paint-by-numbers studio romantic comedy, and it’s screening at Tribeca for no other reason than to boost an April 27 release date, but Emily Blunt and Jason Segel are two of the most likeable actors working in unimportant movies today, and director Nick Stoller (with Segel’s help) is responsible for “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” one of the few truly funny romantic comedies in recent memory. Also, Jacki Weaver!
Note: It’s only screening – on the festival opening day – is already sold out. Which is clearly part of an evil master plan.
“The Giant Mechanical Man”
Jenna Fisher’s husband Lee Kirk directs her in “The Giant Mechanical Man,” which falls neatly into the category of Offbeat Indie Romantic Comedy. Forced to move in with her sister and her husband after being fired from a pointless job, Jenna falls for an equally wayward street artist (Chris Messina) while being pursued by a hilariously obnoxious author and motivational speaker (Topher Grace). If this movie sucks – and it probably won’t – it’s Jenna Fisher’s husband’s fault.
Gretchen Dyer, who has the sole writing credit on “The Playroom,” has been dead for nearly three years; leaving her sister and filmmaking partner Julia Dyer to complete the sisters’ follow-up to the groundbreaking “Late Bloomers.” John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone”) stars in this 1970s period piece that unfolds over a single night in a suburban home, where children tell stories in the attic while their parents entertain downstairs. “The Ice Storm” meets Raymond Carver meets sleepaway camp.
“Replicas” is newcomer Jeremy Power Regimbal’s feature directorial debut. Though we were only able to dig up a short clip of the movie, we’re suckers for the ‘well-do-to-family-encounters-life-threatening-horror-while-recovering-from-a-senseless-tragedy’ genre. The story not only impressed the Tribeca curators but well-established actors Selma Blair and James D’Arcy, who both took a risk here. Blair and Josh Close play a wealthy couple who escape to their upscale country house after the sudden death of their young daughter. They soon meet friendly neighbors who reveal themselves to be obsessive and deranged. Spoiler alert: Leaked production stills suggest not everyone dies.
Lena Dunham makes a cameo in Daniel Schechter’s comedy about a team of film editors who get a bit too caught up in the movie they’re trying to save. Alex Karpovsky – who appeared in Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture” and has his own feature premiering at Tribeca – plays a semi-average Joe in a stable relationship who is tempted by the attention of a starlet. The physically unappealing Karpovsky is shaping up to be something like mumblecore’s answer to the Woody Allen/Albert Brooks prototype. Still not sure if we’re rooting for him, but we support this movie.
“Take This Waltz”
The acting/writing/directing powerhouse Sarah Polley is back with a follow-up to her astonishing directorial debut (“Away From Her”), this time exploring the challenges of a much younger couple whose congenial marriage is threatened by a sexy stranger. Michelle Williams, Seth Rogan, and Luke Kirby make up the love triangle; Sarah Silverman has earned advance raves for her supporting turn as Rogan’s sister. Empirically impossible for “Take This Waltz” to suck.