The Sundance Film Festival has premiered critically adored and much beloved films ranging from Blue Valentine and Little Miss Sunshine to Sex, Lies and Videotape and Reservoir Dogs, but without fail there arrives every year one film that manages to cause a great stir, and not in a good way. This year, that film seems to be Compliance.
Based on actual events, Compliance tells the story of an employee at a fast food restaurant who, after a fake police officer calls in a claim she is stealing from customers, is treated to a series of increasingly awful treatments from her manager. Culminating in rape.
Following the screening, audience members quickly began to heckle and scream at the cast and director Craig Zobel. One woman yelling, “Sundance, you can do better, this is not the year to make violence against women entertaining.”
What’s worse, one audience member apparently had the audacity to tell the film’s star Dreama Walker, largely known for her role as Hazel On Gossip Girl, ”Your body is pretty appealing.” After watching her be emotionally and sexually maligned for two hours on screen. His mother must be proud.
One of the actors in the film, Ashlie Atkinon, attempted to control the situation by explaining what drew her to the film. The actress told the crowd, “my immediate reaction upon seing the film is that a girl as cute as Dreama feels so robbed of any agency and thereby any effort at beauty. If you can see beauty and find it appealing when all of her agency and her power is taken from her, then I don’t know what to say to you.”
Reviews thus far, while acknowledging the film’s recption, are largely favorable. Justin Chang at Variety wrote, “From its expert performances and carefully researched material to its dead-on evocation of life behind the counter at an average Middle American burger joint, this is intelligent low-budget filmmaking that handles its risky subject matter with taste and discipline.”
Sadly, a large number of the films that draw reactions like this at the festival, most notably the Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba and Casey Affleck pic The Killer Inside Me and last year’s The Woman starring the incredibly talented and ridiculously underrated Angela Bettis, tend to never see a release beyond NYC and LA. Hopefully, controversial as it may be, this film may change all that.
Sundance 2012: Screaming, Anger at Tension-Filled ‘Compliance’ Premiere [THR]