The Best Laughs at SXSW and Sundance: the Danielle Solzman Lowdown

Chicago Indie Critic Danielle Solzman reports to us from SXSW this year with the comedies she loves the most: 

While the early months of the year tend to be a dumping grounds for the studios, there’s a lot to be discovered at film festivals.

Sundance

Hearts Beat Loud is a beautifully made, music-driven film from Brett Haley.  What makes the film work isn’t just the screenplay Haley co-wrote with Marc Basch but it’s the music from songwriter/composer Keegan Dewitt that Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons shine through on screen.  To say that Clemons is phenomenal in this musical masterpiece is an understatement. (Featured Image Credit: Jon Pack)

Clara’s Ghost is the feature directorial debut from Bridey Elliott and offers us an exaggerated glimpse into the life of the comedic Elliott family.  While Chris, Abby, and Bridey may be the more familiar names, it’s Chris’s wife, Paula, who gets a substantial amount of material to work with in the film.  It’s a fun film that’s best watched with a glass of wine in your hands.

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Blockers is the feature directorial debut of comedy writer Kay Cannon.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny and I found myself falling out of my seat during the world premiere at SXSW.  The film offers a teen sex comedy from the female perspective with some great performances.  When it comes to R-rated comedies, this film is an instant classic and joins the likes of so many great films from the Judd Apatow brain machine.

What I love about Summer ’03 is that it comes from a first-time feature filmmaker and is so full of heart, emotion, and comedy.  Becca Gleason has a fresh voice and ought to be around for a long time to come.  It’s actress Joey King who carries this film from start to finish with an amazing performance.  That being said, everyone in the film, including improv pros Paul Scheer and Andrea Savage, get upstaged during June Squibb’s brief role as a dying grandmother whose biggest regret is never learning how to perform a proper blow job.

You Can Choose Your Family takes us back to 1992, where Jim Gaffigan’s Frank Hansen is married to two different women and has two children with both wives.  It’s going great for Frank until his son, Phillip (Logan Miller), discovers his secret and threatens to spill the beans unless his father gives him the money to attend NYU.  There’s times where it feels like the audience knows more than what the characters do and as such, there’s a few OMG moments late in the film.

I’m not ignoring Sorry to Bother You but I’m placing the satire into a category of it’s own.  It’s the new Get Out on so many levels but it’s not an outright comedy or drama.  Somewhere in between to be honest.

29134970_10102083915109720_1906448420_n   Danielle Solzman is a film critic and a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, Galeca: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and the Online Film & Television Association. She also writes for Solzy at the Movies.

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