Sundance Dramatic Competition to Feature John Hawkes, Michael Cera, Time Travel

Tim Grierson
The Projector

Sundance 2012 kicks off in 50 days. We kinda can't believe it. Today, the Park City festival unveiled its list of films that will be screening during the U.S. Dramatic Competition, the U.S. Documentary Competition, the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, and the World Cinema Documentary Competition. They're all great programs, but we're going to focus right now on the U.S. Dramatic Competition, mostly because it's coming off an especially good year. The 2011 slate featured "Like Crazy," "Take Shelter," "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Higher Ground." There's no way to know if January's 16 programmed films will yield that many treasures, but here's hoping.

One of the things that jumps out immediately in the U.S. Dramatic Competition is that there are actually several comedies among the group, although Trevor Groth, director of programming, told Variety that the Dramatic Competition film called "The Comedy" is actually one of the darker films in the lineup.

It's impossible to know much about any of these films from a one-sentence plot description and some cast/crew info, but we will say that one of the movies we were curious about that might premiere at Sundance, "The Surrogate," is indeed in the Dramatic Competition. That's the true-life drama starring John Hawkes (who has been at Sundance recently with "Winter's Bone" and Martha Marcy May Marlene") as Mark O'Brien, a man confined to an iron lung who decided to hire a "professional sex surrogate" to help him lose his virginity. We can't wait to see it -- and we're already anticipating the angry op-ed pieces the movie will inspire.

Then there's Michael Cera, who's something of an indie poster child. He'll be in "The End of Love," which was written and directed by "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World" co-star Mark Webber, who also plays the lead, a new father who has to cope with a young son after his wife's death. (We are guessing this is not one of the comedies.)

We're also intrigued about first-time feature director Colin Trevorrow's "Safety Not Guaranteed," which has a quirky logline: "A trio of magazine employees investigate a classified ad seeking a partner for time travel. One employee develops feelings for the paranoid but compelling loner and seeks to discover what he's really up to." Is that absurdist sci-fi? We're not sure, but it has Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza in it.

This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg for what's in store at Sundance 2012 -- they're showing 111 features, after all -- so you should definitely peruse the complete list of all four programs. A year ago, no one knew who Elizabeth Olsen was. Right now, that next discovery is hidden somewhere within those lists.

Sundance 2012: U.S. Dramatic Competition [Indiewire]