The Sundance Film Festival is no stranger to explicit and controversial films. Offhand, who can forget the then-racy " Sex, Lies and Videotape," and "Spanking the Monkey," and last year’s homage to vagina dentata, "Teeth."
But one of this year’s most controversial Sundance films is "Downloading Nancy," the dark, twisted tale of a suicidal woman (Maria Bello) who leaves her emotionally distant husband (Rufus Sewell) and hires a man (Jason Patric) on the Internet to kill her. That’s right, kill her. Then they fall in love. Or rather, in some kind of love.
A few horrified viewers walked out of one screening. Variety film critic Todd McCarthy called it "chilly enough to cause global cooling all by itself."
But Sundance’s John Cooper called "Nancy" "stunningly executed," adding that the director "forces the viewer to succumb to the darkness these characters face in the world — if not with empathy or sympathy, at least with understanding."
The film has the panache of being the first feature from an award-winning commercial/music video director Johan Renck (Levi’s, Nike, Mercedes, Dom Perignon, H&M, the Libertines, the Street, New Order, Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams).
The former Swedish pop star (Stakka Bo) won a Silver Lion for his "Karl Lagerfeld for H&M" video, two Cannes Bronze Lions for his Nike commercial "Racing Marion," and has been nominated for MTV Video Awards for directing Madonna and Beyonce’s music videos. Check out his Roberto Cavalli for H&M video HERE
In short, the dude is hot. One of the reasons Patric agreed to initially read the script is because producer Mark Johnson, known for finding and nurturing fledgling film talents, asked him to. Read Anne Thompson’s recent piece on Johnson’s influence HERE.
Anyway, like many Sundance films this year, the "Nancy" hasn’t found distribution yet. "They’re in talks with several distribution companies," the film’s PMKHBH publicist says. But there’s still a strong chance it may find its way to DVD and/or theaters, perhaps appealing to a more open-minded Euro audience.
Here’s my Sundance chat with Jason and Johan, who talked openly about the film’s damaged characters, its disturbingly raw content and their intense working relationship.