‘Tyrel’ Film Review: Jason Mitchell Elevates So-So Social Satire

The premise of writer-director Sebastián Silva’s “Tyrel” is simple enough: a guy joins his friend on a trip to the Catskills for a weekend birthday party (which also happens to be Trump’s inauguration weekend) with several people he doesn’t know, and he quickly discovers he is the only black man there.

With that in mind, the movie you expect is one that might offer some smart social commentary, a statement on fake woke-ness, or perhaps a thriller similar to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” Instead, what “Tyrel” offers is one stellar performance by Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Mudbound”) alongside a whole bunch of loose ends, half-thought-out commentary, and no answers for the questions the film proposes. The results may leave you confused and quite cold.

Tyler (Mitchell) decides to escape from the crowded home he shares with his girlfriend and her sick mother by heading out of town with Johnny (Christopher Abbott, “The Sinner”), his buddy from work. Their holiday plan? Boozin’ and male bonding with a bunch of guys Tyler has never met. Johnny’s Argentine friend Nico (Nicolas Arze) has invited them and a bunch of other dudes to his cabin in the Catskills, in the dead of winter, for a birthday celebration for Pete (Caleb Landry Jones, “Get Out”).

As Tyler meets the other guys, he comes to the realization that he’s about to spend an entire weekend with an all-white group of men. That flash of realization is one of the finer moments from Mitchell, who wears his discomfort in his eyes; it’s a look so visibly clear to those who know what it feels like to be the outsider, and more so, a feeling people of color know all too well upon realizing they’re the only person of color in a situation.

But Tyler tries to be one of the guys, ignoring some off-color remarks until the men play a game where they are given an iconic movie line and have to say it in a specific “accent” they draw at random. Of course, someone is given “black.” Of course, an argument erupts (though not at Tyler’s insistence) over whether or not it’s racist to assume there’s such a thing as a “black accent.” And then Tyler performs a version of that accent for the group.

It’s apparent that Silva (“Nasty Baby”) wants the audience to feel on-edge, wondering what will happen if Tyler finally gets to express himself, and the remote scenery definitely adds to that anxiety while also evoking hints of loneliness and desperation. But rather than go all-in on exploring heavy issues regarding race, appropriation, depression, and anxiety, or on focusing on the possible evolution of his characters — and boy, can these characters use some evolving — Silva chooses instead to teeter on the edge of a point before letting the thought dissolve into nothing, as if he is afraid to fully dive in and explore the narrative possibilities.

Silva relies too heavily on surface symbolism and dialogue: Tyler takes out “Lord of the Flies” to read, and later spoiled rich kid Alan (Michael Cera) tells Tyler, “Never trust the white man; he’ll let you die in the wilderness.” Much like the British schoolboys of “Lord of the Flies,” these men bask in their white privilege, and the more they drink, the less beholden to society’s rules they become. A smarter script would have used that premise to dig into the issues the dialogue opens up, and it would certainly explore the idea of why Tyler utilizes a technique many people of color learn in life — to blend in and cater to whiteness, choosing to just suck up his discomfort, and laughing when it’s clear he wants to run.

That would have been a much worthier story to tell, but instead Silva relies on the debauchery of the dude-bros. He even has Tyrel call Alan his “n***a,” and at one point, puts Alan in a do-rag but makes no statement about it while, in another scene, Silva takes careful measures to highlight Tyler’s night-time hair-care routine. The story is a bit confused on just how far it’s willing to explore American racial complexities.

The shaky, handheld camera shots from cinematographer Alexis Zabe (“The Florida Project”) create a feeling of chaos and a tension that adds to Mitchell’s performance. Every worry, every panic, every annoyance is articulated brilliantly by Mitchell and underscored by Zabe. The camerawork in the alcohol-fueled climax made me a bit queasy, but I couldn’t determine if it was a good or bad thing because it definitely felt like I was at the party with everyone, and just as drunk.

What “Tyrel” lacks in substance, Jason Mitchell more than makes up for in his performance. He is thoughtful, precise, vulnerable and authentic, and even in as flawed a film as “Tyrel,” he is an absolute joy to watch.

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Caleb Landry Jones quietly continues to be in everything, joins Jim Jarmusch’s zombie movie

Over the last couple years, Caleb Landry Jones as subtly worked his way up to “hey, it’s that guy!” status with memorable appearances in Get Out, Twin Peaks, and Thrill Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which was a nice step up after his X-Men: First Class character was unceremoniously killed off-screen. Now, get…

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Caleb Landry Jones Joins Jim Jarmusch’s Zombie Movie ‘The Dead Don’t Die’

Caleb Landry Jones has joined the ensemble of Jim Jarmusch’s zombie pic “The Dead Don’t Die.” Jones was seen in on-set photos obtained by the Daily Mail. Details behind his role are currently unknown. Jones joins Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, and Chloe Sevigny. The film is already filming in Upstate […]

Caleb Landry Jones On the Genius of David Lynch, Why He Knew ‘Get Out’ Would Be a Hit, and Never Regretting ‘X-Men’

Caleb Landry Jones would like you to know he’s not a tortured artist. The confusion is understandable: A decade into his career, the Texas native has been the guy selling viruses for fun and profit (“Antiviral”), the homeless heroin addict (“Heaven Knows What”), a ruined soldier (“Queen and Country”), the even-creepier son in a racist family (“Get Out”), and the dude who gets thrown out a window, not undeservedly so, in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” To be fair, he also made a 2010 appearance on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious,” in which he played “Adorable Guy.”

Those characters, however, are not Jones.

“I think people want to put that on [me], because it’s easier. I don’t know, but maybe there is a bit of it,” Jones told IndieWire when asked about the perception that he’s that kind of dude in real life. “I think it’s easy for people to do that, maybe. I’m thinking it’s probably easier than [thinking] of me catching butterflies on the weekend.”

In his latest film, Jones is, unabashedly, the tortured artist. Debuting last week at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Peter Brunner’s “To the Night” casts Caleb as Norman, a visual artist who has spent years grappling with the emotional fallout of his parents’ death in a house fire when he was a child. While there are many good things in Norman’s life, including a thriving art career, a loving girlfriend (perpetual standout Eleonore Hendricks), and an adorable baby, Norman can’t shake the tragedy.

It’s a grim film that doesn’t gloss over grief or depression, and one that sees Jones going to some very dark places. But Jones isn’t interested in talking about how difficult his job can be, or how much his “process” demands of him. “I don’t want to romanticize the struggle in any way, because I think people do that a lot,” Jones said from the festival last week. “And it’s not romantic. And the process is what it is, and I’m not even sure what the process is really, for myself.”

That doesn’t mean he can shake off his roles. Asked if he finds it easy to step away from his work, Jones hedged a bit. “I couldn’t tell you,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it starts or stops, or if it does start or stop. Later, he did concede, “For me, a job doesn’t end when I go home.”

To the Night Caleb Landry Jones

“To the Night”

Ten years into his career, Jones sounds like he’s trying to put up a few barriers between the work part and the going-home part. He’s not a big fan of reviews, though he sometimes can’t help but read them (“Usually it seems like most reviews try and keep me from doing what I’m doing. But in order to keep doing it, I’ve got to not get so hellbent”) and he’s hesitant to talk too much about upcoming roles (“I remember reading this Sidney Lumet interview and he’s just [like], ‘I don’t like to talk about any projects, especially that are still in the middle of happening'”).

When it comes to the directors he’s like to work with, the first two were Czech native sons: the late Milos Forman, and Jan Svankmajer, who has made some of Jones’ favorite films, including “Alice,” “Lunacy,” and “Conspirators of Pleasure.” Mused Jones, “He’s out here somewhere in the Czech Republic.” It was easy to imagine that Jones might just hang up and go looking for him.

For all Jones’ indie film bonafides, he’s not snobbish at all about his early dalliances with big-budget filmmaking. In 2011, he starred in Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class” as young superhero Banshee, marking his first — and so far, only — foray into franchises. Jones has zero regrets about the gig.

“It was a wonderful experience. The cast and the crew were incredible,” the actor said. “It’s a movie for entertainment, and it’s for six-year-olds and eight-year-olds, I guess, 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds. Maybe a bit dark for that age. I was so happy to be a part of that, and still so happy to have been a part of it.”

Jones admitted that getting such a high-profile part forced him to reconcile his idealistic sense of Hollywood with the reality of the industry. At least it happened early.

“When I came out to Los Angeles, Lindsay Anderson was one of my favorite directors, and I didn’t meet a single person who knew who Lindsay Anderson was,” he said of the British New Wave filmmaker. “I had a very different idea of what the film industry was going to be like or was like. Six or seven months into living there, I got this excellent movie, and it opened so many doors and people wanted to know who I was. So, this was very good, and at the same time, maybe it made it harder. I don’t know.”

He’s not ruling out those kinds of films, however, even if no one is knocking down his door for those parts right now. “If I had kids, maybe I’d think about it again,” Jones said. “But no one’s going, ‘Caleb, we need you to fly,’ or ‘Would you mind suiting up again?’ No one’s asked me that. I haven’t had to think about it.”

What Jones does think about is how he can find his people. “I’ve always wanted to do a certain kind of work, and work with a certain kind of people, and I’ve been trying to do that ever since I went up to Los Angeles,” Jones said. “I was very fortunate to have worked with a lot of people that are wanting to do the same thing.”

Jones isn’t entirely clear about how he classifies those “certain kind of people,” but he balked at the idea that it related to a shared philosophy. It’s something even more intangible.

“You get the feeling that they’re going for the same thing that you’re going for,” Jones said. “And no matter what, you guys are going to do your best to get it. But I don’t know. I mean, Peter [Brunner]’s philosophy and my philosophy is very different, but this is no reason to not work with each other.”

Amanda Seyfried and Caleb Landry Jones, "Twin Peaks"

Amanda Seyfried and Caleb Landry Jones, “Twin Peaks”

Showtime

One project that made Jones feel great: David Lynch’s recent “Twin Peaks” revival, in which he played Steven Burnett, the son-in-law of Laura Palmer’s one-time boyfriend Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook).

“I still can’t believe I was a part of that,” he said. “[Lynch is] someone I’ve been wanting to work with since I fell in love with film, and it was a series that itself had struck a nerve in me and had done something to me that I liked and also didn’t like very much. He’s pushing film in ways that no other filmmaker is really doing in the marketplace, and he does. And with the marketplace as it is, it’s almost impossible to do what he had done. And he achieved the impossible.”

Asked about Steven’s ultimate fate in the series — while his final episode ended with the implication that he killed his wife Becky (Amanda Seyfried), Mark Frost’s official followup novel “Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier” indicated that Becky was alive and Steven was on the run.

“I mean, I think it’s pretty clear,” Jones said. “But apparently I guess it’s not, so I’m not going to say anything. I don’t know, myself. I mean, I know as much as anyone that has watched it knows. Somehow I feel like [I know] even less, just because of the separation. They can separate it more and I can’t.”

Jones is clear on one thing: He always knew that Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” was going to be a huge hit. While he admitted to being a bit shocked by the “recognition” the Academy paid to it (four Oscar nominations, one win), he knew if audiences turned ou, it would become a massive box office hit.

“I was not surprised by what it did,” he said. “I always knew that if enough people could see it, then it would do a lot, and it would go very deep with a lot of people. And they just had to see it. I’m so thrilled that that’s what happened. This is great because now it enables Jordan to do anything and everything, which is fantastic.”

Ahead, Jones has another jam-packed season including punk-rock drama “Viena and the Fantomes” (co-starring Dakota Fanning and Evan Rachel Wood), an untitled Lone Scherfig feature, Rod Lurie’s war drama “The Outpost,” and another film with Brunner. He’s hoping to find a little rest in between, if only because he remembers what things were like just last year.

“I need alone time. I think most people need alone time,” Jones said. “I definitely need alone time. But that was a year where I was getting to work on so many things that I was dying to work on and was so excited to work on, and all at once, and it was daunting and a little too much. At the end, I was more than ready for a day doing nothing. And at the same time, still itching to do something, and always doing something and nothing at the same time. Just not in front of the camera. But yeah, I suppose I need to be working all the time.”

So, no catching butterflies on the weekend? Jones laughed, and then gave the kind of answer one might expect from such a singular talent: sweet and a little strange. “Not in a few years, not since I realized they were alive,” Jones said. “Once you caught them, they wouldn’t live very much longer. I put a kibosh to that pretty quickly.”

“To the Night” premiered at the 2018 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.

Caleb Landry Jones on ‘Using Film as Art,’ Emotionally Taxing ‘To The Night’ Role

Caleb Landry Jones’ role in “To the Night,” Austrian writer-director Peter Brunner’s competition entry at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, caused the actor no shortage of ups and downs. The energetic 28-year-old Texan, who has taken on a wide range of roles with directors including David Lynch, the Coen brothers, Martin McDonagh and Sean Baker, […]

‘To the Night’ Review: Caleb Landry Jones Flirts with Self-Parody in This Noxious Portrait of a Tortured Artist — KVIFF 2018

A noxious — if somewhat necessary — response to the prescriptive nature of some contemporary indie cinema, Peter Brunner’s “To the Night” is not the kind of movie in which the damaged (but lovable) hero can reply on the plot to save them from themselves. It’s not the kind of movie in which a haunted (but sarcastic) twentysomething is able to slay their personal dragons by winning a dance competition, or making peace with a dying parent, or meeting a girl who loves The Shins. It’s not the kind of movie that invites you to trust in the process, so you know that even the most painful moments are productive steps towards the final catharsis.

No, “To the Night” is the kind of movie in which Caleb Landry Jones plays a tortured artist who punches his girlfriend in the face, neglects their baby boy, buys ketamine from a man with horns, and spends most of his waking hours in a violent psychotic state. It’s a frequently insufferable reminder that life is more complicated and fucked up than the movies allow it to seem, less a coherent drama than an allergic reaction to the safety of conventional storytelling — it’s as enjoyable as a rash of hives on the part of your back you can’t scratch.

Jones is Norman, a scraggly installation artist who’s obsessed with the fire that killed his parents when he was a child. All of his art has been forged by the incident (his signature piece is like… a translucent baby in a fish tank that’s bathed in red light?), and he always squints like there’s still a bit of smoke caught in his eyes. Norman isn’t a person so much as a wiry vessel for trauma, and that hasn’t changed even now that he has a child of his own. Parenting duties fall to his girlfriend, Penelope (Eléonore Hendricks), who cares for baby Caleb while Norman is busy rewatching local news footage of the blaze, or making “Hereditary”-like miniatures of the house where it happened. They share a decrepit loft on the far shores of the East River — it’s a huge place, but never big enough for Penelope to hide from Norman’s rage, which feeds on the empty space like a fire devouring fresh oxygen. It’s, uh, not a sustainable situation, to say the least.

Right from the start, it’s evident that Brunner’s English-language debut imports the same emotionally-driven approach that informed his Austrian features (“My Blind Heart” and “Those Who Fall Have Wings”). “To the Night” isn’t comprised of scenes — it’s glued together like the shards of a broken man. A fragment of Norman and Penelope celebrating his latest show is followed by one of them fighting in their apartment, baby Caleb wailing on the floor. A handheld fragment of Norman running around the city like an idiot with his visually impaired friend (Christos Haas as Andi) is followed by one of Penelope crying to her girlfriend, Caty (“The Neon Demon” survivor Abbey Lee).

There’s domestic violence, and copious amounts of drugs. There’s a hospitalization, and a handful of operatic dream sequences that make it clear that Norman is hurting — otherwise, it might’ve been hard to tell. His pain replaces any recognizable plot. The art he makes doesn’t matter nearly as much as the reasons he needs to make it. The same is true of the portrait that Brunner has painted around him: The structure, the characters, the music, the framing, the entertainment value… it all runs a distant second to Norman’s scars. There are movies about people with trauma, and movies about trauma with people, and this is most definitely one of the latter.

As Norman turns 29 and confronts the idea that he’ll soon be older than his parents ever were, the character’s actions become harder to understand. He’s repeatedly drawn to the upstate manse where he almost died, parking at the edge of the property like the burnt out husk is luring Norman back to finish the job (nobody’s made use of the land in the last 30 years? In this real-estate market? Sure, Jan). He conducts all sorts of strange experiments in and around the house, as though his process were sacred enough to justify the senselessness of watching it unfold.

So what if Norman is a self-destructive asshole who ignores his kid, punches his girlfriend, and actively endangers all of his friends? He’s an artist! He’s Arthur Rimbaud and Edvard Munch! So consumed by his imagined responsibility for one tragic event that he ignores his actual responsibility in several others. Anything to get the monkey off his back! And Brunner supports Norman every step of the way, slowly eliminating any sort of interiority from the characters around him. The film asks the extent to which people will tolerate a loved one’s trauma, but it only poses the question rhetorically. Over time, “To the Night” resolves into one of the most certain, least convincing arguments any recent movie has made about the toxicity of artistic obsession, and the extent to which it should absolve a man of his actions.

Needless to say, if Caleb Landry Jones didn’t star in this movie, you’d probably want to know why. One of the most feral and delirious actors of his generation, Jones has mastered the art of playing strung-out and self-involved (even though brilliant turns in films like “Queen and Country” and “Get Out” suggest that his bag of tricks is a lot deeper than it might seem at first). Jones’ performance as a heroin addict in the Safdie brothers’ “Heaven Knows What” is so monstrous and complete that it feels like self-harm. At the same time, the intensity he brings to each role can backfire if a filmmaker isn’t sure what to do with it — his energy can burn out if not properly kindled.

Brunner, in more ways than one, is too seduced by the flames to forge anything with them. Jones gets to ignite from the very beginning, but Norman’s feeble backstory isn’t enough to sustain him for 102 minutes. He’s consumed everything around him by the end of the opening credits, and the rest of the movie is just a collection of reheated affectations — Jones’ artistic process is almost certainly more interesting than the one Brunner invents for Norman. Of course, it’s a backhanded testament to the actor’s unique presence that he’s achieved self-parody so early in his career, but there’s only so long we can watch him blaze through every role like this. Forget the fire, it’s time to see what Jones can build from the ashes.

Grade: C-

“To the Night” premiered at the 2018 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.

‘To the Night’ Trailer: Caleb Landry Jones Leaves Ebbing, Missouri for New York in Surreal Karlovy Vary Drama — Watch

Karlovy Vary is underway in the Czech Republic, and among the world premieres is writer/director Peter Brunner’s “To the Night.” Caleb Landry Jones (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Twin Peaks: The Return,” “Get Out”) stars in the film, which received “dramaturgical consulting” from Michael Haneke — a teacher of Brunner’s. Watch the trailer below.

Here’s the synopsis: “Norman has never come to terms with the fire that, in his childhood, took away all those closest to him. His inner sorrow and feelings of guilt prevent him from starting a new life with his girlfriend and son. Although the fire took everything, it now becomes a path to dealing with his trauma. Gifted director Peter Brunner ramps up the near physical intensity of the viewer’s experience via the thoughtful use of unspoken hints and images, which assail the associative processes of the subconscious rather than the rational mind.”

Eléonore Hendricks, Abbey Lee, Jana McKinnon, and Christos Haas co-star in the film. “To the Night” has yet to receive theatrical distribution.

‘To The Night’ Trailer: Caleb Landry Jones Is An Artist Suffering From PTSD In Karlovy Vary-Bound Drama

EXCLUSIVE: Here’s the first trailer for gritty-looking psychological drama To The Night, starring Three Billboards and X-Men: First Class actor Caleb Landry Jones as an artist suffering from PTSD. Written and directed by rising Austrian director Peter Brunner, a protege of The White Ribbon and Amour filmmaker Michael Haneke (who was a consultant on the film), the English-language feature also stars Eléonore Hendricks (Heaven Knows What) and Abbey Lee (The Neon…

Jason Mitchell’s ‘Tyrel’ Sells to Magnolia Pictures

Magnolia Pictures has picked up the worldwide rights to Jason Mitchell’s “Tyrel,” the company announced Tuesday.

The film stars Michael Cera, Chris Abbott, Ann Dowd and Caleb Landry Jones. A drama about race relations, it premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in January. Magnolia Pictures is aiming for a 2018 theatrical release.

Sebastián Silva wrote and directed the film about Tyler, the sole black man who goes on a weekend getaway trip with his drunk friends.

“Sebastián Silva continues to upset the apple cart in the most interesting ways with this scaldingly fresh take on being the other,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles in a statement.

Silva added, “I’m thrilled and honored that ‘Tyrel’ has found its home with Magnolia. We’re excited to have such a collaborative and creative distribution partner on board so that this film gets seen by as many people as possible.  We believe the movie is timely and are hopeful that it will help continue to move the race conversation forward.”

“Tyrel” was produced by Max Born, Jacob Wasserman, and Silva. The deal was negotiated by Magnolia co-EVP Dori Begley and SVP of acquisitions John Von Thaden with UTA Independent Film Group on behalf of the filmmakers. Magnolia Head of International Sales Lorna Lee Sagebiel-Torres and Manager of International Sales Catalina Ramirez will be representing the film at Cannes.  International rights are still available.

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Bill Nighy, Caleb Landry Jones, Jay Baruchel Join Lone Scherfig’s New York Restaurant Movie

Bill Nighy, Caleb Landry Jones and Jay Baruchel have joined Andrea Riseborough, Tahar Rahim and Zoe Kazan in director Lone Scherfig’s untitled New York restaurant project. Principal photography started in Toronto on March 23. The film will also shoot in Copenhagen and New York City. The film, unofficially titled “Secrets From the Russian Tea Room,” […]

Bill Nighy, Caleb Landry Jones & Jay Baruchel Join Lone Scherfig Drama, Shoot Underway In Toronto

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Actor Tye Sheridan is doing double duty at SXSW. Many might be pressing start for his role in the festival’s surprise screening of Ready Player One, but his other film, Friday’s Child directed by A.J. Edwards speaks more to the independent bend of the film fest with a story that focuses on a Sheridan’s Richie, an 18-year-old fresh out of foster care who becomes  a young drifter that turns to petty crime to survive and discovers an impossible love in an unlikely friend…

‘Tyrel’: Race, Class and Bad Manners Collide in Showcase for Jason Mitchell

It’s safe to bet that everyone, at least once, has felt trapped at a sleepover they can’t leave. It brings the ugly choice: win over the room, disappear into sleep or call crying for mom.

That’s the dilemma for the embattled lead in “Tyrel,” a sweet guy named Tyler who finds himself the only black man at a weekend birthday celebration soaked in booze and fragile masculine egos.

“Straight Outta Compton” star Jason Mitchell plays Tyler, who in the first moments of the film is called “Tyrel” by one of his new pals. Inverting the letters of his name registers as both a fleeting mistake and a nuclear microaggression. It’s a moment that sets the stage for a tense and emotional ride, written and directed by Sundance alum Sebastian Silva.

There was an urgency to see the film at it’s Saturday premiere, held at the Park City library. Not just because Silva’s previous five films have shown here (this is his first in U.S. Dramatic Competition), but thanks to it’s on-paper similarities to “Get Out” — which is currently hurling toward a Best Picture nomination.

This film is about a black man isolated in the wilderness, his very presence a confrontation to the norm that surrounds him. So is “Get Out,” at first. This film also stars the gangly, charming and terrifying Caleb Landry Jones.

Here Landry Jones plays the birthday boy, someone who challenges his a new guest to physical fights and mind games. In “Get Out,” Landry Jones plays a prodigal son who challenges his new guest Daniel Kaluuya to physical fights and mind games.

The similarities end there, unless you’re like us and consider a bad host and bad friends truly terrifying.

Tyler has been invited to this celebration by Johnny (Christopher Abbott), an excuse for a break from the medical problems his girlfriend’s mother is suffering. It’s weighing on his relationship, and Tyler is trying to vent to Johnny as they make their way to the country abode of house-flipper Nico.

“The Argentinian fellow,” remarks passing neighbor Ann Dowd of Nico, a signal that there are other “others” on this trip though none ever winds up subjected to what Tyler will endure. There’s also the openly gay Roddy, whose connection to the men is unclear.

Johnny and his core group are yearslong friends, cut from the same cloth of discontented men of privilege who love hypothetical babble and observational humor. Tyler is not a talker, does not need to perform his intellect and is generally uninterested in stoking the insecurities of his peers for sport.

Because you get the sense that Tyler knows what a good friend is.

Strapped with rising anxiety over how much he does not fit in, Tyler first tries to become of service: bussing dishes, helping cook meals, walking the adorable house dog Cosmo. But Johnny senses his unease, and instead of trying to understand becomes agitated. This new addition is not blending, and it’s making Johnny uncomfortable.

After sneaking off to bed early (and resisting putting on his do-rag, which was painful to watch), Tyler wakes the next day with a mission to lean the f— in. He drinks, he battles, he relentlessly teases the other men, mimicking their rituals to become one of them.

It works for a while, but he overshoots his drinking and weed smoking. He becomes seductively similar to the men, and then a total buzzkill with his slurring and horseplay and inability to hang. There’s no winning.

The audience at the library had notably different takes watching the film: some were amused at the comedy of errors and outlandish bro stunts by Johnny & Co. Others were wracked with anxiety over scenarios that could have sent the film in a bleak direction, like a drunken blindfold game where the group stabs a Donald Trump piñata with a kitchen knife.

The varied reactions could present a challenge in how a distributor might market “Tyrel,” but the obvious takeaway is Mitchell’s rich performance. He lets you feel every humiliation and subsequent redemption while he’s trapped in this dynamic.

He disappears into sleep. He wins over the room. He even calls mommy crying (a drunken trip to Dowd’s house, though he’s inevitably pulled back to his host).

He makes it rewarding.

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Park City, Utah, is about to be flush with cash — and we’re not talking about buying apres-ski gear. Here are the most promising sales titles of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

“Tyrel”

After his stunning performance in “Mudbound,” Jason Mitchell is back in this drama alongside Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Cera and Ann Dowd — the latter or whom has had a great year as well. Buyers should go crazy for the film about a guy who goes on a weekend birthday trip to a cabin — but he’s the only black guy on the retreat.

“Lizzie”

There’s much intrigue for the film “Lizzie,” which chronicles the life of Lizzie Borden, who was tried and acquitted for the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother. Chloe Sevigny, Kristen Stewart and Denis O’Hare star.

“Burden”

Garrett Hedlund also gave a stellar performance in “Mudbound,” playing the son of a man associated with the Ku Klux Klan. In “Burden,” Hedlund is a repo man rising through the ranks of the KKK, but everything changes when he falls for a woman, portrayed by Andrea Riseborough. The additional cast of Forest Whitaker and Usher should entice buyers.

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”

Chloe Grace Moretz stars as a high school teenager who gets caught in the backseat of her car with another girl. She’s quickly shipped off for conversion therapy, where she for the first time finds her place among fellow outcasts. The strong themes of pain and loss while finding yourself and your identity should make it a hot title — after all, it’s based on Emily Danforth’s acclaimed novel.

“Juliet, Naked”

Perhaps one of the most anticipated films on the Sundance schedule, “Juliet, Naked” is an adaptation of Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel. Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd star in this comedic drama about a woman who is in a transatlantic romance with a once-revered musician.

Watch the Heartbreaking First Trailer for Sean Baker’s ‘Florida Project’ (Video)

A24 has released the first trailer for Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” in which Willem Dafoe stars as a property manager of a motel in which a six-year-old lives with her rebellious mother.

In the trailer, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) shows her friends the pink-coated motel she is currently staying in. The kids also make up excuses to get money from people for ice cream and cuddle up in their bed while Moonee’s mother (Bria Vinaite) struggles with providing for her daughter.

A24 acquired the project in May. The film about a family living in budget motels is the follow-up to Baker’s “Tangerine,” which was shot entirely on iPhone and netted two Gotham Awards. It starred Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Karren Karagulian, and was released in 2015.

“The Florida Project,” starring Dafoe, Caleb Landry Jones and newcomers Prince and Vinaite, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar.

Baker co-wrote the script along with Chris Bergoch.

At Cannes, the firm received strong reviews, enticing interest from multiple buyers including Amazon Studios, Neon and Annapurna. “The Florida Project” was one of the hottest sale titles heading into the festival.

“The Florida Project” will open in select theaters on October 6.

Watch the trailer above.

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Sean Baker’s ‘Florida Project’ Acquired by A24

A24 has acquired North American distribution rights to Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” an individual with knowledge of the deal told TheWrap.

The film about a homeless family is the follow-up to Baker’s “Tangerine,” which was shot entirely on iPhone and netted two Gotham Awards. It starred Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Karren Karagulian, and was released in 2015.

“The Florida Project,” starring Willem Dafoe, Caleb Landry Jones and newcomers Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar.

Baker co-wrote the script along with Chris Bergoch.

At Cannes, the firm received strong reviews, enticing interest from multiple buyers including Amazon Studios, Neon and Annapurna. “The Florida Project” was one of the hottest sale titles heading into the festival.

A24 recently won a Best Picture Academy Award for “Moonlight” and also released award frontrunners “20th Century Women, “Ex Machina” and “Room.”

ICM represented the deal with WME and CAA.

Variety first reported the news.

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‘Get Out’ Filmmaker Jordan Peele Named CinemaCon Director of the Year

Jordan Peele is CinemaCon’s Director of the Year.

The annual gathering of American movie exhibitors will honor the multi-hyphenate star for his breakthrough, still-buzzing racial thriller “Get Out.”

Approaching $140 million at the domestic box office, Peele’s film about a terrifying country weekend has been anointed by critics and moviegoers alike.

Jordan Peele has instantaneously become a force to reckon with as a gifted and enormously talented director and filmmaker,” said CinemaCon Managing Director Mitch Neuhauser. “He has audiences and critics around the globe enamored and spellbound, dare I say hypnotized, with his wildly inventive directorial debut, and we are ecstatic to be honoring him as this year’s ‘Director of the Year.'”

The spec script from the former Comedy Central star was produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse and distributed by Universal Pictures.

It stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener.

Sean McKittrick, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Peele are also producers on the project. The film also stars Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Milton “Lil Rel” Howery, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson and Lakeith Stanfield.

CinemaCon will run from March 27-30 and will feature presentations from top studios, mini-majors STX and Amazon Studios.

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Reflections on ‘Get Out’: The Shock of Racial Truth Served Up Till It Hurts

I am probably the last person in the country to see “Get Out,” except for the 50 or so other people in the theater with me last night.

My lame excuse: I’m scared of horror movies.

But there are so many notable things about this film that I’m compelled to point them out, even though I’m late. The movie sticks with me, and is going to stick in the culture, too.

Consider this: A thriller that makes us think about race because it places the viewer at the center of a racial conspiracy. That’s new.

“Get Out” grabs us with the shock of truth, cloaked in the thriller genre. The audience recognizes the danger for our hero, Chris, before he feels it himself, and roots for him to, well, get woke.

Early in his weekend visit to the wealthy parents of his white girlfriend, we know there’s something terribly wrong about the black folks that work for them. Chris’ (Daniel Kaluuya) wide eyes are wary from experience, but we want to warn him — “It’s way worse than you think!”

The Dad (Bradley Whitford) can be pegged as a racist right off, and the menacing son Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) might have stepped out of the plantation dinner scene of Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” But girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) and the open-minded Mom (Catherine Keener) reveal themselves more slowly.

The movie grabs us with the shock of the new. I can’t recall a movie told from the point of view of a young African-American man as he navigates a white-dominated world. That’s really different.

In doing so, writer-director Jordan Peele makes us feel what he — as an African-America man — has felt. All while entertaining us with the sinister beats of a classic thriller.

That’s what Peele is saying, I think: This is what it feels like to be me. In the age of Black Lives Matter, in the age of Trayvon Martin, in the wake of a two-term black president, Peele has created a vehicle that allows us to empathize fully with that experience — the constant measuring of oneself against expectations of others, the dull daily impact of small insults, little indignities, the wearing down of a person’s internal barometer of self-worth.

So much so that when our hero gets to turn the tables, the audience is fully on board with a black man (SPOILER ALERT) wreaking his revenge on an upper class white family using bats, balls and a well-placed set of antler horns.

I heard Peele call the movie a “social thriller,” and I understand that take. I heard him say that the idea has been percolating for years, and that it’s a direct result of the election of Obama. OK.

It hurts because the truth hurts. The film is an indictment of where we hoped we were in a supposedly post-racial society. It’s a statement on behalf of Trayvon Martin, whose hoodie gets a nod. It’s that opening scene when a twenty-something black man is walking down the street and he feels a car following him. “Oh, hell no,” he blurts out to himself, turning on his heel to walk quickly away from the confrontation. (Or so he thought.)

“Get Out” gives the lie to the belief that we are past vanquishing racial awareness, much less prejudice. Peele tells us that he’s not past it, and the millions of Americans who have gone to see the film validate his view.

For that matter, neither is Ava Duvernay, who tells us her truth with “13th,” her documentary about mass incarceration of black men. Barry Jenkins tells us his truth with “Moonlight,” the story that dared us to sympathize with a young man growing up in the crack-infested ‘hood.

To be fair, we are nowhere on this path. We did elect Barack Obama, twice. As a country we did love him, and we loved his wife Michelle.

But it seems we are destined to struggle with our desire to become a society of equals. And the message of “Get Out” tells us how far we still have to go.

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‘Get Out’ Review: Jordan Peele Scores With a Scary, Funny, Relevant Directorial Debut

The spirit of Ira Levin is alive and well in “Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s impressive feature debut as a writer-director. Levin was best known for novels like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Stepford Wives,” chilling little tales in which a seemingly posh and prosperous community was hiding something truly terrifying.

That’s the vibe that Peele nails so successfully. On the sketch show “Key & Peele,” he and comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key were masters at finding the humor in the uncomfortable gulf between male and female, black and white, gay and straight, nerdy and cool; here, there’s a similar mining of everyday absurdities and injustice, only it’s in the service of a tightly-wound horror film.

In the same way that “The Stepford Wives” exploited liberated feminists’ fear of male chauvinists’ fear of liberated feminists, “Get Out” finds its tension in black people’s fear of white people’s fear of black people.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, “Sicario”) is a black photographer who’s a little nervous about meeting the parents of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams, “Girls”), despite the fact that she’s enlightened enough to chew out a cop who asks for Chris’s ID after Rose hits a deer on their drive to her lakefront home. (After “The Invitation” and “A Cure for Wellness,” this makes the third thriller in the last year where a car hits a deer in the first ten minutes; it’s now officially a trend.)

Rose’s doctor parents Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford), and her med-student brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones, “X-Men: First Class”) are cordial enough, although they eventually unleash a torrent of microagressions: Dean can’t stop calling Chris “my man,” and Jeremy suggests that with some gym training, Chris’s “genetic makeup” would make him a “beast” in MMA.

Those familial faux pas aren’t the only thing making Chris uncomfortable: what’s up with the glacial stares from the family’s black staff members Georgina (Betty Gabriel, “Good Girls Revolt”) and Walter (Marcus Henderson, “Pete’s Dragon”)? Why the strange behavior from the elderly white guests at the house party? And who’s the guy (Lakeith Stanfield, “Short Term 12”) who looks so familiar to Chris, but is dressing and behaving so strangely?

Generally, when a thriller is built on a “Something Strange Is Happening Here” plot, once the Something Strange is revealed, it’s time to wrap things up. It’s a testament to Peele’s storytelling skills that even after we know exactly what’s going on, we’re still engaged by the characters and by what else is going to happen. Editor Gregory Plotkin, best known for his work on the “Paranormal Activity” films, does standout work here, in both the micro — setting up specific jump-scare moments — and the macro — pacing the story, never letting the momentum drag, maintaining the tension even as we cut away from Chris to his best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery, “The Carmichael Show”), who’s suspicious about this entire trip.

Peele never sledgehammers his ideas about race, but blackness and whiteness both drive the plot and provide a constant source of tension over the course of the film. It’s potent satire that’s very much about America in 2017; call it post-“post-racial.” And any thin-skinned white viewers who complain about how Caucasians are treated in the movie are invited to go read some Donald Bogle, write a book report, and get over it.

Two scenes involving the police put a somewhat fine point upon it, but Chris never really gets to relax; he’s in an affluent white world, and while no one’s ever outright hostile, he constantly feels on display and subject to judgment. (Even in a purportedly liberal household: Rose accurately predicts that Dean will mention how he wishes he could have voted for Obama a third time.) Peele delicately weaves in notions of white supremacy, eugenics and racial symbolism in ways that don’t call attention to themselves, but they’re there for those with eyes to see.

Kaluuya makes a great everyman, expressing panic in small and subtle ways, but a movie like this always belongs to the people with shadowy motivations, so it’s Whitford and especially Keener, both playing with their screen image, who make the biggest impact. (Thanks to Keener and the film’s sound team, you’ll never hear a spoon scraping the side of a teacup the same way again.)

It’s a little on the nose to cast Landry Jones in a sinister role; he’s capable of being straightforward and charming in a film like John Boorman’s “Queen & Country,” but he’s also currently the go-to for directors who want a character with shifty eyes and a sweaty brow. Wiliams keeps the audience guessing, but the ultimate secret weapon of “Get Out” is the hilarious Howery, who walks off with every scene that’s not nailed down.

Once the Something Terrible is revealed, Peele and Plotkin and cinematographer Toby Oliver (“Wolf Creek 2”) don’t make the usual horror moves; they slow down instead of speeding up, using longer takes and brightly-lit rooms to make the grim reality even more frightening. The satirical tension gives way to an unbearable calm, and while there’s still humor, the last act remains breathlessly exciting and tense.

Jordan Peele has made an extraordinary leap in genre here, and he’s also crafted a horror film that has more blistering observations about race than half a dozen well-intentioned Oscar-bait dramas. “Get Out” is one of the very few films that’s ever going to be compared with both “You’re Next” and “13th,” and it heralds the arrival of a very promising new filmmaker.

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