Pedro Pascal’s new film “Freaky Tales” had its world premiere on January 18th as the opening night selection for the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. While carrying high expectations, the unconventional anthology film received mixed reviews from critics.
High Profile Premiere Draws A-List Crowd
The premiere screening at the Eccles Theater in Park City was a star-studded event. Pascal walked the red carpet along with co-stars Ben Mendelsohn, Jay Ellis, and Angus Cloud. Other attendees included Sophie Turner, Joe Keery, Aubrey Plaza, and Maggie Rogers.
Pascal, Mendelsohn, and Ellis all gave tribute speeches honoring the late Cloud, who passed away shortly after filming wrapped.
“Angus was a talented soul who brought passion to his role,” Pascal said. “This film is now a fitting tribute to his incredible spirit.”
Uneven Anthology Format Polarizes Critics
Freaky Tales follows six stories unfolding over a single day in Oakland, centered around a fateful BART train ride. The nonlinear narrative jumps back and forth in time, gradually revealing connections between the characters.
|An agoraphobic woman riding the train for the first time
|A single father reconnecting with his troubled daughter
|Teenagers plotting an intricate heist
|Angus Cloud, Phoenix LeClerc
|A writer hunting for inspiration
|Tech entrepreneurs pivoting after a failed app launch
|Jay Ellis, Jonathan Majors
|A musician debating selling her song catalog
In his Variety review, chief critic Owen Gleiberman said the film “promises to unite its disparate threads into a grand tapestry, but can’t quite pull it off.” He argued that the constant time-jumping “breeds more confusion than intrigue” and that “only two of the tales deliver fully fleshed emotional arcs.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney echoed this sentiment, saying that “only Pascal’s storyline carries real poignancy” while the others “deliver surface-level takes on intriguing themes.”
Performances Earn High Praise
Despite criticisms of the plot structure, reviews widely praised the acting. Gleiberman highlighted Pascal’s “wounded tenderness” and called Ellis the standout as an “electrifying ball of intensity.” Rooney raved about newcomer Phoenix LeClerc, saying she “matches Cloud beat for beat in their live-wire juvenile delinquent romance.”
Mendelsohn also earned applause for his supporting turn as a cynical train passenger who acts as the de facto narrator. Spling Movies said his frequent asides to the camera have “shades of Kevin Spacey in House of Cards,” providing sardonic commentary on the intersecting stories.
Could Festival Buzz Propel Oscar Attention?
Despite the uneven reception, some still expect Freaky Tales to remain a conversation piece that garners awards season attention. Given Sundance’s history of launching acclaimed indies like Get Out and CODA, Pascal and Ellis already face speculation over potential Oscar nominations.
“The unorthodox premise and structure make it a long shot,” said Gold Derby’s Theo Zenou. “But Pascal and Ellis could break through if voters connect with their emotional storylines.”
The film does not yet have a wide release date confirmed. Distributor A24 plans an awards-qualifying limited run later this year before expanding wider in early 2025. How broader audiences connect with the complex narrative remains to be seen. But stunning performances and bold creative risks could still make Freaky Tales a cult favorite, if not a mainstream smash.
Director Faced Uphill Battle
In the post-screening Q&A, director Autumn McQueen admitted she faced immense challenges pulling together the ambitious project. Funding collapsed two months before filming, requiring radical rewrites to slash the budget. Key crew members also dropped out shortly before production.
“I can’t say the stars aligned for this film,” McQueen said with a laugh. “It’s a miracle we pulled it off at all.”
But despite production woes, she said the spirit of artistic collaboration carried the set through.
“There was this electric energy with the cast,” she noted. “We knew we were creating something special, even with all the stumbling blocks.”
That passion certainly comes through from Pascal, Ellis, and the rest of the standout cast. So while the intersecting plot lines often feel truncated, the talent on display still makes Freaky Tales a memorable, if uneven, showcase of creativity and raw emotion.
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