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Sundance's fashionable belt-notch? 'Parks and Recreation'

January 31, 2012 |  7:30 am

Crossover between film and television has perhaps never been more common. But it's not often you see the kind of overlap recently demonstrated by "Parks and Recreation," the single-camera tale of bureaucracy in small-town Indiana, and the Sundance Film Festival, the multi-paparazzi story of hype in small-town Utah.

No fewer than four regulars from the NBC series premiered movies at the film gathering, which closed the last of its snow-covered doors on Sunday.

Adam Scott rode into town and shifted from the awkwardness of Ben Wyatt to play the one that got away (from "Party Down" co-star" Lizzy Caplan) in "Bachelorette," one of several raunchy femme-centric romantic comedies at the festival.

Nick Offerman incarnated a recovering alcoholic in the addiction dramedy "Smashed." He's goateed, not mustachioed, here, but his portrayal of a weirdo stuffed-shirt will elicit thoughts of of Ron Swanson. (Real-life wife Megan Mullaly, who of course has a recurring part as Mrs. Swanson on "Parks and Rec," also has a small part in the film, this time as Offerman's boss.)

Rashida Jones, Ann Perkins in "Parks and Recreation's" mythical town of Pawnee, co-wrote and starred in "Celeste & Jesse Forever," a romantic dramedy about her attempts to stay friends with her ex (played by Andy Samberg, himself a "Parks and Rec" guest star).

Perhaps the revelation of the festival was Aubrey Plaza. The actress took her April-flavored, blackly comic, monotone-intoned disaffectedness to new levels as the lead in the whimsical comedy "Safety Not Gauranteed." For many film-goers one of the most likable movies of the festival, "Safety" sees Plaza playing Darius, a twentysomething with few prospects who finds a strange kinship with a wannabe time-traveler (Mark Duplass)

The ethos of independent film has been creeping into television for a while now -- witness the off-kilter comedy of Sundance fixture Zooey Deschanel in Fox's "New Girl."  But the trend just as easily goes the other way. The Sundance stars spoke of their enthusiasm for the NBC show because they say that the series, though aired on a broadcast network, offers a degree of freedom you generally find only in independent film. 

On the set of "Smashed" a few months ago, Offerman told Show Tracker that he finds the independent film and his NBC series simpatico because they both allow for a flexibility that goes well beyond the script. "I've been on shows where it feels like you've just been given a list of rules and you have to read them, and neither of these feels that way," he said.

Seemingly the only "Parks & Rec" star who didn't turn up in Park City was Amy Poehler. But don't be surprised if Leslie Knope makes an appearance here one of these days. After all, everyone knows the only job more important than president of the United States is the one held by Sundance chief John Cooper.


Parks & Recreation: Show Tracker

Smashed is a booze film with a dry wit

Rashida Jones does romantic dramedy in Celeste & Jesse Forever

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Aubrey Plaza, left, stars with Mark Duplass in "Safety Not Guaranteed." Credit: Sundance Film Festival