Sundance Film Review: Don Verdean

Posted February 3, 2015 in
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Don Verdean
Sundance Film Review: Don Verdean

Don Verdean
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Jared Hess

Since the sleeper success of 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite, Jared and Jerusha Hess have had an interesting track record. Regardless of how their work is received by audiences and critics, they have maintained a cinematic style that is, to say the least, unique. Don Verdean (Sam Rockwell) is a biblical scholar and archaeologist who has built his career on excavating and preserving artifacts from the good book—the film’s opening scene features an antiquated documentary in which Verdean tracks down the shears that Delilah used to cut Samson’s hair. After his career slows down, he, his Israeli fixer Boaz (Jemaine Clement), and his research assistant Carol (Amy Ryan) agree to a contract with Tony Lazarus (Danny McBride) to track down more artifacts in order to keep his congregation from joining that of Pastor Fontaine (Will Forte), a former Satanist turned Christian. As pressures mount, Verdean begins to compromise his standards in pursuit of “filthy lucre,” as Boaz puts it. From an acting perspective, the performances are great. Rockwell and Clement have great comedic chemistry, and Amy Ryan grounds the film with her genuine sincerity. That being said, there is still something indulgent in this film—almost like team Hess has packed it full of inside jokes that only resonate with themselves. It might be time for them to come out and play with the rest of us. –Alex Springer

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