Sundance Diary: Plan B Leads To 'Catfish' And More : Monkey See There are two ways to see a film festival, and sometimes the most rewarding experiences come from having no idea where you're going when you get started.
NPR logo Sundance Diary: Plan B Leads To 'Catfish' And More

Sundance Diary: Plan B Leads To 'Catfish' And More

Yes, the title Douchebag isn't too promising, but the movie, featuring Ben York Jones and Andrew Dickler, isn't bad. Drake Doremus hide caption

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Drake Doremus

by Ella Taylor

Sleep comes hard at Sundance, due to the usual lethal cocktail of altitude, overconsumption of movies about emotional end states, and the existential anxieties of putting together a whole new life for yourself for one fleeting week.

So here I am at 4:00 a.m. Sunday, scarfing down tangerines and plantain chips, to tell you about the great day I had Saturday — or was it Friday?

There are basically two ways I cover film festivals. Plan A, in which I make like a real pro, is to slavishly follow the list of Web-buzzed films I carefully pre-packaged at home. As luck would have it, this year I left that list on my desk in my rush for the taxicab. Which, after the requisite panic attack, left me gloriously open to Plan B, in which I board the shuttle bus unscripted and soak up below-the-radar buzz from friends and colleagues along the way.

Plan B takes flight, after the jump.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to run into an excellent film-festival programmer I know, who mapped out for me a dud-free day I might not have chosen for myself, beginning with Secrets Of The Tribe, Jose Padilha's alarming documentary about anthropologists behaving badly in the Amazon jungle.

Traumatized by male academics driven by power trips and monster egos to abuse the hospitality of indigenous peoples, I licked my wounds over a veggie burrito lunch, then crept off to see Douchebag, whose title got me all grumpy and judgmental up front but turned out to be a charming and astute comic drama about a freaked bridegroom spinning into self-destructive overdrive as he takes an unplanned pre-wedding trip with his estranged younger brother.

Film editor Andrew Dickler is terrific as the groom, a proselytizing vegetarian blowhard with a messianic gleam in his beady eyes, whose gift for the precisely aimed put-down has alienated and enslaved his self-doubting younger brother (a persuasively dorky Ben York Jones) for years. Director Drake Doremus springs them from toxic co-dependence too fast and too easily, but the meat of the film will speak all too painfully to the ruthless politics of sibling rivalry, and the underground yearning for connection they cover.

Onward to coffee, cake and another tip, this time to Catfish, a potently bizarre meta-documentary about the perils of social networking in which hip New York dance photographer Yaniv Schulman becomes Facebook friends with two Michigan sisters and their mother, none of whom are as they seem.

The film, which turns on their increasingly freaky correspondence and Schulman's trip to the Midwest with his brother Ariel and filmmaker Henry Joost to see what really gives, is at once predictable and utterly engrossing. But I came away as disturbed by the murkiness of who was using whom as I was moved by the loneliness and the desperate, loony creativity that triggered this liaison between strangers from radically different worlds. A Sundance sensation, if Catfish isn't snapped up by some canny theatrical, TV or Internet bidder by the time I wake up later today, or is it tomorrow, I'll turn in my press pass. Night night, except that it's already light, dammit.