Sundance 2011: A ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ reunion in ‘The Convincer’


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‘Little Miss Sunshine’ was one of the signature hits to emerge from the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Now, its stars Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin have been reunited in another Sundance movie, ‘The Convincer,’ from writer-director Jill Sprecher.

Sprecher had her first film, ‘Clockwatchers,’ play at the festival almost 15 years ago. As festival director John Cooper said Tuesday night at the Eccles Theater, Sprecher was ‘a discovery, all the way back in 1997.’ Her second feature, ’13 Conversations About One Thing,’ played at the festival in 2002. ‘The Convincer’ was co-written with her sister Karen Sprecher.


Kinnear plays a Wisconsin insurance salesman who is perhaps not as slick as he’d like to think he is, and all the spinning plates of his life -- marriage, business -- are starting to fall. Always looking for an angle, he needs perhaps just one stroke of luck to turn things around.

Into his life suddenly appear a strange group of characters (played by Arkin, Billy Crudup, Bob Balaban and others) and one possibly extremely rare violin. The film goes for a number of wild shifts in tone -- there is one startling act of violence, and Crudup conveys a wild unpredictability -- that Sprecher nimbly navigates. As one person in the audience was overheard to say, ‘Well, this just became a different movie.’

In a Q&A following the screening, Sprecher brought to the stage cast members Kinnear, Arkin, Balaban, Lea Thompson, David Harbour and Michelle Arthur. Sprecher said she wrote Arkin’s part with him in mind (he starred in ’13 Conversations’) and the actor in turn passed the script on to Kinnear, facilitating the big-screen reunion of the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ co-stars.

When asked what inspired the story, Sprecher said: ‘My sister and I wanted to write a movie that our dad would finally sit through the whole thing. He sells insurance in Wisconsin, so I think he’s really going to like it.’

-- Mark Olsen in Park City, Utah