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Sundance 2010: Screening a low-budget road trip

January 28, 2010 |  8:49 pm


"I've been waiting a long time to say this -- Welcome to 'Douchebag.' " So began Trevor Groth, Sundance's director of programming, before the screening of the competition entry on Wednesday night

"Douchebag" is ostensibly the story of two estranged brothers, but the debut performance of Andrew Dickler as the more outrageously difficult of the two (he of the film's title) tends to overwhelm his co-star,  Ben York Jones. Dickler's character Sam is set to be married in a few days, and after his fiance (Marquerite Moreau) surprises him with the appearance of his brother Tom (Jones), Sam hatches a plan to find Tom's fifth-grade girlfriend. The two brothers set out on an impromptu road trip together, leaving Sam's fiance to complete the wedding plans and freeing Sam to do some last-minute womanizing.

It is difficult to discern what differentiates "Douchebag" from many of the films in this year's low-budget Next section, or from other films of this kind. The performance by Dickler, with his prodigious beard and difficult demeanor, is of interest at moments, but the character is too schematically drawn to sustain our interest.

One way it does differ from other low-budget movies at the festival: its look. Just because a film is made on a small budget does not mean that it must look ramshackle or haphazard. Many other films at Sundance this year, including "Lovers of Hate," "Obselidia," "One Too Many Mornings," "Daddy Longlegs" and more, have gotten by on just as little without looking as cheap.

After the screening, writer Drake Doremus invited up a number of collaborators, many of whom walked onstage wearing bushy fake beards to emulate the title character's sizable crop of facial hair. Doremus noted that the film was shot in less than 20 days, but spread out over a year and a half. During the breaks he and his team continued to craft characters and story. (The screenplay is credited to Doremus, co-producer Lindsay Stidham, producer Jonathan Schwartz and Dickler.)

As to what he thought when Doremus asked him to star in a movie while the pair were editing "Spooner" (which played at Slamdance last year), Dickler responded, "If he had asked me to shoot the movie I would have said yes to that too. It was that random."

Doremus jumped in to say, "The whole thing was Andrew. The whole movie was because of Andrew. When we were editing 'Spooner' I was like, 'I can't do anything else until I make this movie with you.' "

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Andrew Dickler and Ben York Jones. Credit: Sundance Film Festival

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