The long, loooonng delayed Spring Breakdownfinally premiered late Friday night at Sundance, where stars Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch and Parker Posey found worshipful fans and perhaps their last shot at a theatrical release.
The buddy flick ships the three socially allergic women off to spring break at South Padre Island, where the eco-idealist political gofer Becky (Posey) is assigned to chaperone her boss’s own awkward daughter (Amber Tamblyn). Becky’s BFFs Judi (Dratch) and Gayle (Poehler) join up, soon losing — and ultimately finding — themselves in the seasonal co-ed debauchery. It’s Revenge of the Nerds meets Sex and the City, with all of the former’s giddy depravity and the latter’s sharp camaraderie, but with neither film’s relative ambition. Director Ryan Shiraki borrows heavily from the ’80s playbook of underdog cheapies, with about their same inconsistency and cult potential.
Those margins aren’t satisfactory for Warner Bros., which produced Breakdownseveral years ago, offloaded it to its troubled (now defunct) Warner Independent Pictures label, and now leans toward a straight-to-DVD release. The enthusiastic full house at the Library Theater would disapprove. If only it were up to them.
Meanwhile, Poehler had made the journey to Park City at around 5 a.m. and greeted us with a gape, maybe a half-yawn, we couldn’t tell. “Pardon me,” she said. “My lips are out of juice.” Do we ever know the feeling. But it’s the world premiere! Let’s celebrate! “The world premiere!” Her eyes alit. “I like that. It was fun. It was kind of a dream world.”
Adding to the surreal quality was the likelihood that we were one of five audiences — only at Sundance — who may ever see Spring Breakdown in a movie theater. Poehler shrugged. “Warner’s sister is going to put it out. I think?” Really? “Maybe they still will. Like I said, I think there’s an arm of Warner Independent or Warner’s sister that’s going to put it out. It’s going to be Warner Independent Independent.”
The optimism cooled proportionately as the Breakdown family exited into the freezing Library parking lot, where Shiraki (pictured here with co-writer Dratch after the premiere) declined to discuss its limbo, and one disappointed insider told us even an exuberant Sundance response wouldn’t necessarily guarantee the film a theatrical life. It has champions among the brass — including WB production exec Sara Schechter, who was on hand gauging reaction as well — but if Warner Independent couldn’t stand by a crowd-pleasing Oscar lock like Slumdog Millionaire, the adage around Park City goes, what odds did an microbudget indie comedy stand? Even (or especially, in the minds of WIP skeptics) with Poehler, Dratch and Posey.
Technically, the jury remains out. But it seems clear enough that if you happen to be among the hardcore hopeful for whom Breakdown is a lost, lamented moviegoing grail, we’d say you have one week in Park City to track it down. That whole “theater near you” thing seems a long shot from here.