As I already mentioned in my review for On the Ice, not everything is made of wine and roses at the annual Sundance Film Festival. While it is nice to report back about all the good that happens in theaters up in frosty Park City, UT, one should also take it upon themselves to make sure they forewarn about the things that people should avoid. While the film may not find distribution anyway, if you happen upon the film Uncle Kent with some blurb about being featured at Sundance, move along folks, there’s nothing to see here. IFC Films has picked up distribution duties as they are surely the only ones who ever would.
Kent Osborne (playing “himself”) is a kid’s show cartoonist looking for love or something in all the wrong places. He spends his days sitting around working, smoking pot, searching for hip reading glasses, complaining about how he’s too old to date at 40 years old (i.e. he’s too selfish to commit) and playing Chatroulette chatting with either families he draws or guys masturbating on camera for no reason other than to possibly fulfill director Joe Swanberg’s own sense of shock and awe. When Kate (Jennifer Prediger) comes to stay with him for the weekend he thinks he’s finally hit the jackpot but she immediately shuns his “advances.” Eventually the two head straight into a threeway with a bi-curious girl they find on Craigslist (Josephine Decker) only to wind up putting even more strains on their newfound friendship.
If you think the characters here are wishy washy, check out the directing. While the actors are all fully capable and ultimately likeable, it’s the characters that get in the way. I’m not one to judge, but if this is how adult cartoonist spend their weekends, the film leaves a bad aftertaste to think about what goes on behind the scenes of your favorite Spongebob Squarepants episode (Osborne also happens to be a writer for that beloved kids show). One joke involving Kent’s reading glasses, the threeway and a camera really works and the whole film attempts to pretend that it’s been leading up to the big “punch line” in the last scene which really just makes you shrug and think, “that’s it?”
What Swanberg (along with Osborne as co-writer) has essentially made is a smug non-commentative version of everything that’s wrong with some Sundance films. As my friend, critic Jeff Vice said, “It’s the kind of movie that makes people hate Sundance movies.” And he’s completely right. While the Duplass Brothers keep chugging along finally breaking into the mainstream while keeping their indie cred intact, at least they’re giving the recent “mumble core” scene a good name, its people like those involved with Uncle Kent that keep audiences away and make the everyday movie-goers continue to call Sundance movies artsy-fartsy… fartsy indeed.
Uncle Kent will screen tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the Library Center Theatre in Park City and on Saturday at 9:00 p.m. at the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City.
Photos courtesy IFC Films