Skip to main content

Film Comedian Jessica Williams gets serious in Sundance premiere

Jessica Williams stars in Jim Strouse’s The Incredible Jessica James, premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams flexes her dramatic chops, Cate Blanchett pays homage to great 20th century artists and Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani tells a very personal story in some of the films premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Festival programmers announced their selections for the documentary and narrative premiere sections Monday.

As with many years, the Sundance premiere slate can be a place for well-known comedians to take a stab at more dramatic and serious roles.

Story continues below advertisement

In what's expected to be one of the breakout films and performances of the festival, the comedian Williams stars in Jim Strouse's The Incredible Jessica James, about a New York playwright recovering from a breakup and finding solace in a recent divorcee.

Nanjiani is another who might surprise audiences in The Big Sick, which he co-wrote with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, and is based on their own courtship. He stars alongside Zoe Kazan in the Michael Showalter-directed pic.

The festival also has films featuring veteran actors in different kinds of roles. Shirley MacLaine stars in The Last Word, about a retired businesswoman who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a journalist (Amanda Seyfried) after writing her own obituary. Festival founder Robert Redford, too, is in Charlie McDowell's The Discovery, about a world where the afterlife has been proven. Jason Segel and Rooney Mara also star.

Blanchett re-enacts artistic statements of Dadaists, Lars von Trier and everyone in between in Manifesto; Michelle Pfeiffer and Kiefer Sutherland co-star in the drama Where is Kyra; and Avengers Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen reteam in the FBI crime thriller Wind River, the directorial debut of Hell or High Water writer Taylor Sheridan.

Bessie director Dee Rees is also poised to be a standout with Mudbound, a racial drama set in U.S. South after the Second World War and starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige. "It's quite topical to this time even though it's a period piece," said festival director John Cooper.

Among the documentaries premiering are a look at the Oklahoma City bombing from Barak Goodman; Stanley Nelson's examination of black colleges and universities, Tell Them We Are Rising; and Barbara Kopple's account of a champion diver who announces he is transgender, This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.

"The beauty of independent film is it's not a copycat world, unlike some of the Hollywood stuff where they follow trends," said programming director Trevor Groth. "Independent film has always been about originality and choice and something different."

Story continues below advertisement

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 19 through Jan. 29.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter