There is something profoundly wrong with the mentality behind the Sundance aquisition frenzy. No, not Paramount Vantage paying $7 million for Son of Rambow (i.e., Billy Elliott if directed by Tim Burton). Not Adrienne Shelly‘s Waitress selling to Fox Searchlight for $4 million, despite it being a somewhat hammy, too-obvious thing. And not Harvey Weinstein buying Grace is Gone, a steady, honest film about loss and denial that may find fans among the rural reds. All of these are solid deals that make sense.
What’s mind-blowing is the fact is that none of them deliver as much of an exquisite, true-hearted high as John Carney‘s Once, and this little Irish film isn’t even getting mentioned as a curious non-seller in articles about Sundance pickup action. Forget bottom-line distribution execs — even journalists are ignoring it. The problem, as everyone knows, is that it’s seen as a marketing challenge. Maybe, but it works when you sit down and watch it.
There’s one particular acquisition — First Look’s payment of $3 million for a piece of shit called The King of California, which is basically about a bearded Michael Douglas acting wiggy and eccentric and Fisher King-y — is driving me up the wall. Mike Cahill‘s movie is a wash, a throwaway…but it sold because distribs believe they can sell Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood in the leads. Once, trust me, is several times more likable and engaging, and yet distributors are reportedly steer- ing clear. As Jack Nicholson‘s gangster says in The Departed, “That’s called a paradox.”
Here’s one way to sell Once…..ready? Sell it as the best date movie since The Notebook. No, since Titanic. Use the old Don Juan DeMarco line — “If you can’t get laid after taking her to see Once, you can’t get laid.”
Here, if you’re interested, is the film’s signature song — Glen Hansard‘s “Slowly Falling”.