Sundance affords as many opportunities for career setbacks in 10 days as it does for meteoric advancement — not even Robert De Niro or Dakota Fanning could get out of Park City alive.
This year's vintage features another barrel of celebrities with equally little margin for error, some less endangered than others. For your handy trajectory-watching reference, we've narrowed their ranks to 10 of the most interesting:
1. Ashton Kutcher: The festival itself describes Kutcher's gigolo farce Spread as "such a perfectly tuned, contemporary depiction of the trials and tribulations of sleeping your way to wealth and success that, guilty pleasure or not, it's irresistible." Either the responsible programmer's tongue is so far in his cheek it'll leave a bruise, or we must forge on with the faith that Kutcher is up to credibly depicting those fraught "trials and tribulations." He's a producer on this as well, upping the skeevy self-casting factor proportionately with the stakes that accompany putting this on the Sundance market. THREAT LEVEL: Severe
2. Rachel Dratch: As co-writer and co-star of the Midnight section highlight Spring Breakdown, Dratch is nominally on the hook for delivering a sort of inverted Sex and the City: Three terminally unsophisticated women (played by Dratch, Amy Poehler and Parker Posey) entrusted to chaperone a teenager to spring break wind up cavorting with the savage youth. Laffs, empowerment and, hopefully for Dratch, a cult following ensue, exhuming this film from the shallow grave where it has languished for months and on to video shelves where it's likely to make its next stop. THREAT LEVEL: Elevated
3. Pierce Brosnan: A man for whom being the most tone-deaf cast member in history's biggest musical is his primary film accomplishment of the last five years, Brosnan needs his grieving-dad weepie The Greatest to find legs during its Saturday premiere — and not those of critics and buyers fleeing the Racquet Club in terror. Like Kutcher and about a million other actors to travel here with movies over the years, he's got a producer credit, which means he needs a sale, which means to needs to be on his game. For once. Whatever that might be. THREAT LEVEL: Dire
4. John Krasinski: He'll be on hand presenting his writing-directing debut Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, an adaptation of the novel by David Foster Wallace. It's a double-jeopardy scenario risking both his own artistic humiliation and the ultimate torpedoing of his recently deceased source. That said, he's John Krasinski — how bad can it really be? Wait, don't answer that. THREAT LEVEL: Moderate
5. Jim Carrey: One month removed from a lukewarm success with Yes Man, Carrey isn't traveling to Sundance to reinvent himself as an indie influence-peddler. But he still has to convince distributors and a game if cynical-by-default press corps that I Love You Phillip Morris is anchored in anything other than the Carrey-on-McGregor romance gimmick. As mentioned here yesterday, this has as much potential to be this year's What Just Happened as it does to be its Little Miss Sunshine; don't look for it to be much in between. THREAT LEVEL: Critical
6 - 10. Billy Bob Thornton's co-stars: The man whose one-time castmates have occasional trouble staying alive arrives with two wildly disparate films — the LA excess potboiler The Informers and the crap-salesman dramedy Manure — featuring two wildly disparate ensembles including Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, Kyle MacLachlan, Winona Ryder, Tea Leoni and others. Everyone make sure you have your affairs in order before coming to Park City. THREAT LEVEL: Imminent