Not to be whiny, but blogging at Sundance is a bitch. The place is a logistical nightmare: It’s nearly impossible to update daily in any meaningful way. Unlike Toronto, you can’t just break out your laptop during down time at a Starbucks and post a few thoughts about the movie you’ve just seen — there is no down time here.
A typical Sundance day begins with coffee and a complimentary New York Times (they’re a sponsor) in the press room, followed by screening followed by bus ride followed by screening followed by bus ride followed by mediocre lunch on the fly followed by bus ride followed by screening — all fueled with enough coffee to kill a buffalo.
Even when you’re able to carve out some time, the hot spots here are few and far between. And the one time I did find both time and hot spot, I had only 10 minutes of power left on my MacBook. (Electrical outlets are as precious as tickets to the largely vacuous, celeb-spotting after-parties.)
Speaking of power, the battery meter on my laptop is down to 20 percent, thus I better jettison this excuse-laden preamble and a get on with a bit about Michael Keaton’s directorial debut.
The Merry Gentleman finds the veteran actor playing a tight-lipped, suicidal hitman who begins an unlikely friendship with an abused woman (Kelly MacDonald) trying to start a new life in Chicago. Ron Lazzeretti’s script is an odd beast in terms of tone, mixing brief bursts of violence with an unrelenting sense of melancholy. The inert narrative fails to generate much interest, which is a problem for a film that is content to luxuriate in its central duo’s unearned emotional desolation. I'm all for ambiguity, but there's not enough of their characters' back-story to make us care about their ceaseless self-loathing.
The Merry Gentleman is an odd choice for Keaton’s directorial debut — a low-key, admirably obtuse affair that contains Keaton’s most restrained performance to date. And, despite his high-profile presence, it’s also a movie that’s likely to have a hard time finding a distributor.
The actor/director was on hand for a post-screening Q&A. Clearly nervous, Keaton said he was happy that the sold-out Eccles Theater audience seemed to stay with the story despite its laconic pacing. He also said that, based on the crowd’s reaction, he was going to make “a few cuts here and there.”
Uh, no disrespect, Mike, but it’s going to take more than a few snips to make The Merry Gentleman palatable to anyone besides gawkers of your rapidly receding career.
— Jason Gargano