Drake Doremus' 'Douchebag' at Sundance

OC stage prodigy-turned-filmmaker Drake Doremus brings his 'very personal' movie to Park City, Utah

   

THE RACQUET CLUB. PARK CITY, UTAH. FRIDAY, JAN. 22, 8 P.M.
The temporary, ascending rows of theater seats quickly fill up. If it’s not a full house, it’s pretty darn close. After a brief welcome from Doremus, the film begins. It’s funny and better-paced than Spooner, although that could also be because of the things coming out of the titular character’s mouth. You’re on the edge of your seat wondering what dickish thing Dickler will say next.

The end credits produce hearty cheers and applause, although film critics and distributors in the room are sitting on their hands like poker players concealing their tells.

The most boisterous howls and clapping come moments later when Doremus reveals Barger is in the crowd, which by now knows she is central to the movie, even though she never appears onscreen.

Then it’s complete silence.

“Mary?” Doremus asks sheepishly. “Is she still here? Uh-oh . . .”

“WOO-HOO!” comes a yell from the back of the room, prompting another audience outburst.

A young woman in the crowd suggests Doremus marry the real Barger to help with the film’s marketing.

All questions and comments are positive. “I loved this movie so much,” says another woman. “Now I have to see Spooner.”

Schwartz jokes Spooner is now showing as a double feature with Avatar. Actually, it’s to be distributed on DVD and pay-per-view, although a Douchebag-Spooner package deal is also being floated to potential buyers.

Doremus is asked how he found his amazing lead actors, who seem so real onscreen.

“Well, Andrew was my editor on my previous film Spooner,” he says. “I just had this crazy idea that my friend Ben play his brother. It was in my heart and my mind, and I just had to do it.”

The most surprising disclosure of the night is that Dickler, who plays a committed vegetarian in the film and really is one, ate five hamburgers for one scene.

   

FILM FESTIVAL HEADQUARTERS. MARRIOTT HOTEL. PARK CITY, UTAH. SUNDAY, JAN. 24, 7:20 P.M.
Standing with Dickler, Kerr and a family friend in the hotel lobby before leaving for an intimate Douchebag screening an hour away at Sundance Resort, Doremus is jazzed about a post that went up on an LA Times blog a couple of hours earlier.

Writing about the thriller Buried starring Ryan Reynolds being the first feature film to sell at Sundance 2010, John Horn reported that many of the festival’s most star-laden movies had not yet been snatched up. “Instead,” he wrote, “the buyers’ attention was focused on smaller genre titles like the low-budget road comedy Douchebag, the digital-age romance documentary Catfish and the Afghanistan war documentary Restrepo.”

Dickler concedes it’s weird being on the acting side of the Sundance buzz-athon, as is having strangers come up and praise his acting or say they can’t believe Douchebag is his first lead role.

Now sporting a tightly trimmed beard, Dickler also misses the big, bushy version seen onscreen.

   

SUNDANCE INSTITUTE SCREENING ROOM. SUNDANCE RESORT, NORTH FORK, PROVO CANYON, UTAH. SUNDAY, JAN. 24, 9 P.M.
The drive over is miserable: long, dark and fog-shrouded. When you can actually make out a sign, it says things such as “Watch for Falling Rocks” or “Watch for Falling Avalanches.”

That’s a buried memory by the time Douchebag finishes rolling in the 164-seat theater at the resort Robert Redford built. This audience reaction is downright boisterous.

A question that had been asked at previous screenings surfaces here: What was the real seed for the fractured brotherly relationship of Dickler and Jones? But there is no real-life family drama. The realness of the relationship came from the improvisation produced after Doremus brought his two leads together, according to the actors.

“I loved it,” Dickler says of working that way. “It was awesome. Lindsay and Drake encouraged us going off the page.”

“Lindsay’s graciousness coupled with Drake’s ability to capture a moment allowed us to use our own words to capture what they wanted to say,” Jones adds.

“It felt enormously real,” a woman in the audience remarks. “I feel like you know [the brothers] loved each other. The way you showed the strong raw emotions with each other was really well-done.”

Asked about his film’s title, Doremus says three days in Park City confirmed they made the right choice:

“Everyone is coming up to us calling us douchebags on the street.”

mcoker@ocweekly.com

This story appeared in the print edition under the headline "Douchebag at Sundance."

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