You surely know what they mean when they say “it’s a Sundance movie”: the kind of modest, often scrappy films that helped transform Robert Redford’s Utah film festival into both a welcome alternative to big-studio tentpoles (now more than ever!) and a kingmaking institution. Sundance is a catch-all word, meaning you don’t have to attend the festival to view a Sundance film. If you were left laughing and slack-jawed, or just touched, by films like Eighth Grade, The Spectacular Now, Minari, or Half Nelson, to mention a few that premiered there and rightfully drew a bigger audience later, believe us: you know what a Sundance film is.
However, a less charitable variant of the phrase is still in use, implying a fairly clichéd version of the programming that frequently appears on the festival’s schedule. These films have been criticized of being artisanal twists on stock sitcoms and issue-driven dramas, presenting excessively familiar storylines with a dash of eccentricity. They’re frequently on the verge of fawning, a bit too eager for that easy chuckle, a touch too pushy in plying your heartstrings with arpeggios. Jury awards and trade-reported transactions are commonplace for them. Perhaps you saw Garden State, Little Miss Sunshine, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, or one of the many other films in this genre. “Woah, that’s terrible. IMDB