The Best and Worst of Sundance 2016, Narrative Edition

Boyd Holbrook and Elisabeth Moss in "The Free World"

WORST OF THE FEST (runner-up)

The Free World

Elisabeth Moss is at her bleary-eyed best and Boyd Holbrook marshals an impressively physical performance, but both go to waste in this hoary, predictable Southern melodrama. What begins as a lead-footed trod through Rectify territory turns clumsily into a lovers-on-the-run story, as Jason Lew’s script scatters in clumsy metaphors, inexplicable actions, cliché-ridden dialogue, and head-scratching Tarantino-esque pop culture references. The pair get a good byplay going, and a couple of individual scenes sing, but overall, it’s a creaky mess.

WORST OF THE FEST

The 4th

Writer/director Andre Hyland stars as Jamie, a regular dude who’s just trying to throw a Fourth of July cookout, but his trip to buy lighter fluid is waylaid by a series of misfortunes. The one-crazy-day-in-LA framework makes it sound like another Tangerine, and it sort of is – if everyone in that movie were utterly loathsome. Hyland’s character and performance are immediately off-putting, and the supporting characters are equally hateable, and I know, I know, the move now is to make comedies like The Comedy that are just about making people uncomfortable and annoyed and so on, but you can keep ‘em. There are, admittedly, a few scattered laughs, but it’s mostly just exhausting; in the words of the old “rando” ejected from their cookout, “What a buncha hipster douchebags, Jesus Christ.” Amen to that.