Two offbeat indies that have been popping up hither and yon on the international festival circuit throughout the past year are finally kicking off commercial releases this weekend – and both are opening at the Sundance Cinemas.
Hugh Laurie segues from his long run as the acerbic antihero of TV’s House to The Oranges, first-time feature filmmaker Julian Farino’s dark comedy about a discontent New Jersey suburbanite who falls for the ravishingly beautiful and entirely age-inappropriate daughter (newcomer Leighton Meester) of his across-the-street neighbors.
Laurie is the love-smitten protagonist, Catherine Keener is his understandably upset (and ultimately vengeful) wife, and Oliver Platt and Allison Janney are the baffled and embarrassed neighbors.
In Butter, a political satire set in a Midwest milieu where blue-ribbon competitions are not unlike bloodsports, Jennifer Garner plays Laura Pickler, the frightfully ambitious wife of a much-lauded butter-carving champ (Ty Burrell) – known widely, if not always admiringly, as “the Elvis of butter" – who decides to retire so that others might have a crack at the Iowa state title.
Laura vows to keep the title in the family, despite her lack of discernible butter-carving talent and, more important, serious competition from a young African-American orphan (Yara Shahidi) portentously named Destiny. Look for Rob Corddry, Alicia Silverstone, Olivia Wilde and Hugh Jackman – yes, that Hugh Jackman – in supporting roles.
On a more serious note: The Sundance Cinema run of How to Survive a Plague – writer-director David France’s acclaimed documentary about the activists who sparked the search for an AIDS cure – will begin off Friday with a 6 p.m. reception (followed by a 7 p.m. screening) to support HIV/AIDs testing in the Greater Houston area through Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and AIDS Foundation Houston. You can read more about it here.