For many, independent film is synonymous with movies that deal with depressing subject matter Hollywood is too timid to tackle. And given the Sundance Film Festival's stature as the world's most important independent film festival, those same people probably see the annual Park City event as one where only sad works come to nest.
Well, they couldn't be further from the truth. Because for every dreary Sundance hit like "Like Crazy" or "Precious," there are countless ones like "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Clerks" that provide a sense of joy in place of a good cry. With this year's edition of the festival just days away from launching, here's our list of the ten least depressing-sounding movies premiering in Park City.
"Napoleon Dynamite" co-writer Jerusha Hess makes her filmmaking debut with this romantic comedy sure to appeal to — you guessed it — Jane Austen fanatics. In it, "Felicity" star Keri Russell stars as Jane, a lovelorn Austen fan who heads to Austenland, a Disneyland retreat of sorts for literary types like herself, to meet her Mr. Darcy and take a much-needed break from modern life. Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler's mom in the "American Pie" movies") is sure to earn more than a few chuckles as a fellow Austenland resident.
2. 'Sound City'
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl makes his filmmaking debut with "Sound City," a documentary sure to put a spring in your step. The film tracks Grohl's journey to resurrect Sound City, a legendary recording studio that opened in 1969 in the San Fernando Valley, only to close with the advent of the digital age. Together with some of his musically-inclined friends who used to frequent the studio (Steve Nicks, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Rick Springfield and Paul McCartney), Grohl sets out to create a one-of-a-kind album on the historic soundboard.
Fresh off of charming audiences with her comedy "Your Sister's Sister," indie fave Lynn Shelton is back in Park City with her latest ensemble piece, "Touchy Feely," starring her "Sister" star Rosemarie DeWitt. "Touchy Feely" centers on Abby (DeWitt), a massage therapist who develops an aversion to bodily contact — not the best thing for her day job. DeWitt's real-life husband Ron Livington ("Sex and the City"), Ellen Page and the always hilarious Allison Janney co-star.
Also check out: 20 Movies Most Likely to Pop at Sundance
With Paul Rudd involved, chances are you’re in for a crowd-pleasing time. In this "bromantic" comedy, Rudd and Emile Hirsch star as a pair of mismatched acquaintances who leave the city to spend a summer repainting traffic lines down a country highway. Initially at each others' necks, the two open up over time, developing a unique friendship in the process. The film comes from David Gordon Green, the guy who explored somewhat similar territory in "Pineapple Express." In other words, you're in good hands.
Last year's action heartthrob breakout Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his debut behind the camera with "Don Jon's Addiction," a film that deals with sex addiction (but not in the grim "Shame" way). In the dramedy, Gordon-Levitt (who also wrote the script) stars as a modern-day Don Jon who loves beautiful women, expensive cars and most of all, porn. Through the help of two very different women (played by Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore), he embarks on a journey to become a better man.
6. 'The East'
Sundance darling Brit Marling reunites with her "Sound of My Voice" director (and co-writer) Zal Batmanglij for "The East," a timely thriller about an ex-FBI agent (Marling) who infiltrates an anarchist collective suspected of attacking big corporate CEOs. Once embedded within the group, however, she soon finds herself on their side. Patricia Clarkson, Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgård all co-star, proving that Batmanglij has risen up in the ranks in the two years it's been since he first made his mark in Park City.
Thanks to the presence of Steve Carell and Maya Rudolph, chances are no matter how heartfelt the coming of age yarn "The Way, Way Back" gets, the tone won't be dire and down. The film centers on 14-year-old Duncan (newcomer Liam James) and his summer vacation spent with his mother (Toni Colette) and her overbearing boyfriend (Carell). Not at ease within his own family, Duncan eventually breaks out of his shell with the help of an employee of a local water park (Sam Rockwell) where Duncan gets a summer job. "The Way, Way Back" marks the directorial debut of Oscar-winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the guys behind the script for "The Descendants."
The buddy road movie genre gets a glam makeover with "Ass Backwards," a sure to be raucous comedy that pits funny gal June Diane Raphael ("Bachelorette") and "Saturday Night Live" alum Casey Wilson together as two best friends who set out to win their hometown's beauty pageant milestone anniversary contest after tying for last place years ago. Sundance promises a comedy that includes "a rescued wild rabbit, a feminist wilderness commune and amateur night at a strip club," so be warned.
The ever-reliable and lovable Adam Scott plays a put-upon everyman in "A.C.O.D.," a modern family comedy with a fair amount of bite. Still scarred by his parents' divorce, Carter (Scott) takes it upon himself to bring some civility back into his family's life after he learns of his brother's engagement. Bringing the laughs are Catherine O'Hara as his stubborn mom and Amy Poehler as Carter's stepmom from hell.
10. 'Hell Baby'
From two of the hilarious minds behind the sketch TV shows "Reno 911," "The State" and "Viva Variety," comes "Hell Baby," a horror spoof about an expectant couple who move into a haunted house in New Orleans. Given the filmmakers' pedigree and that of its principal players (the film stars "MADtv"'s Keegan-Michael Key and "The Daily Show" correspondent Rob Corddry), chances are "Hell Baby" packs more laughs than scares.