Satirical Shallow

It’s a Wonderful Night for a Sundance

Ashton Kutcher enjoying that Holocaust documentary
Dateline, Park City, Utah— The temperature is dipping below zero tonight at the Sundance Film Festival, but the scene is heating up here at the Miramax/Metamucil party in honor of My Baby’s Daddy. While technically not part of the festival, the movie has the distinction of being the eighth highest grossing film in the country this past weekend. Truly, this is a great moment for Miramax, the little New York indie that helped put this little Utah town on the map.
No wonder Harvey Weinstein, Miramax’s Ozymandias-like president, is feeling magnanimous tonight. The big man has taken it upon himself to greet every guest personally: he offers a firm handshake to every man, a courtly kiss on the cheek to every woman, and in a display of his wonderful sense of humor (this is the man, after all, who snapped up that modern classic, Happy, Texas at the fest five years ago), he’s putting every journalist present in loving headlock.
To answer your two top questions: Yes, and Old Spice.

The theme of tonight’s party is Sundance at 20. Waiters are walking around dressed as Steven Soderbergh—clunky black glasses, baseball caps worn low—offering hors d’oeuvres, while the bar is being manned by dudes in black suits and skinny ties like the tough guys in Reservoir Dogs. In a stroke of brilliance from Miramax’s colossal marketing department (coming soon to an Oscar campaign near you!), Harvey has hired author Peter Biskind to sit in the corner with a manual typewriter and speed-write guests into short, gossipy reports about the festival. “I guess I’m like a caricaturist,” Biskind tells me during one of his breaks. “It’s good to know there’re no hard feelings between me and Harvey!”
Also feeling no hard feelings is Scarlett Johansson, this year’s Sundance ‘It’ Girl. She looks around the room and says in her signature honey-on-gravel voice, “This is amazing, isn’t it? Who’s that old dude dancing to Paris Hilton?” I tell her it’s Henry Kissinger. “Oh my god, are you serious? They’re dancing so close!”
We laugh and clink our glasses. We’re both drinking Meta-tinis, a drink invented for this event. It’s a Skyy vodka martini mixed with Metamucil and it’s surprisingly good.
Since the party theme is Sundance at 20, I ask Scarlett where she was during the first fest. “Not born yet!” she says, her throaty laugh filling the tiny space between us. “Can you believe it? I wasn’t even born!” She catches me looking from her eyes to her Meta-tini and says quickly, “It’s fine! It’s fine! My mom doesn’t care if I drink. I pay her, after all!” We laugh and clink again. I almost feel like singing “Mrs. Johansson You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” to her, but I’m pretty sure she’s never heard of Herman’s Hermits, and my throat is sore from Karaoke with Ashton and Soleil Moon Frye last night at the Nike house.
The next day, I’m on line at Dunkin’ Donuts, fueling up for some grueling screenings. (You try sitting through some of these movies without a strong, black coffee, kay?) On line with me are three Culkins and at least two Coppolas: I find myself wondering how Sofia keeps such a lovely figure when she clearly loves crullers as much as delicately-wrought character studies set against exotic locales. I also find myself wondering who I’ll run into on Main Street when I’m done.
I don’t have to wonder long, since I walk smack into Vincent D’Onofrio in a wool hat and scarf doing his hilariously hammy Street Mime impersonation right outside the doughnut shop. I try to ask him a few questions about Thumbsucker, his sure-to-be hit film based on Walter Kirn‘s novel, but he’s goofing around, pointing at his throat and shaking his head. He’s a pretty convincing mime—he does the whole stuck-in-a-box thing, the pulling-the-rope, etc.—but, boy, a terrible interview!
I do my own miming—as an indifferent journalist—and walk on to catch a flick. On the way, I pass Taryn Manning (or is it Camryn Manheim—who cares, they’re both fantastic!), DMX, that actor who plays the cool brother on Six Feet Under, and Kyle MacLachlan who looks dashing with his newly gray hair.
During the screening, I hear at least 40 cell phones (half playing the bars from “Hey, Ya!”). On either side of me is a writer with a laptop open, instant-messaging and polishing their scripts. I think to myself, So, this is what it must be like to be a true film artist: nothing distracts you from your work—nothing!
I turn my attention back to the movie.
It’s in French, and I can hear Britney Spears‘s assistant in the second row reading her the subtitles. Every time there’s a joke, the entire audience roars with laughter and then a beat later, Britney laughs, which makes the audience laugh even more. The laughter spreads in little waves, rippling up and down the aisles—and this isn’t even a comedy we’re watching: it’s a Holocaust documentary.
The feeling in the theater is warm, convivial: we’re all old friends, hanging out and laughing together at this movie in the biggest, swankiest living room in the world. It’s like a big slumber party, but with more bold-faced names.
I turn to my left and look past the laptop guy—who’s taken to playing wireless Quake against the guy on my right—and see Scarlett again. She sees me, too, but she doesn’t seem to recognize me from last night. I wave a little, but she just focuses on the movie. I gesture just a little more furiously, but she’s rapt by the images on the screen and pays me no never mind.
I turn back to the screen myself, just in time to get swept up in another peel of laughter: Forget it, Matt, I tell myself. This is Sundance!

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