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Robert Redford, John Legend and Nina Simone were all part of opening night at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, but the festival’s kickoff may end up better remembered for a deliciously raunchy and ridiculously gymnastic sex scene.

The scene came near the end of “The Bronze,” a comedy directed by Bryan Buckley, a filmmaker best known for his Super Bowl commercials. The story of a bitter gymnast trying to hang onto glory years after winning a bronze medal at the Olympics, it features an acrobatic hotel-room liason so over-the-top that it’ll no doubt give the ratings board fits, but it kept the audience at the Eccles Theater in hysterics.

Also read: Join TheWrap at Sundance for Its First Live-Streamed Interview Studio From the Film Fest


The film is the brainchild of married couple Melissa Rauch and Winston Rauch, who wanted to write a film role that Melissa could play. In a post-screening Q&A, Winston said his wife’s 4’11” height inspired them to write her a role in a movie about a gymnast.

The character makes an eye-opening debut in an opening scene that involves another sex act, and she goes on to display an array of disgraceful behavior – stealing from the U.S. mail, snorting allergy medication, mocking or ignoring every single person she meets – that will certainly make her one of the most delightfully awful people on display during Sundance’s opening weekend.

The film gets predictable at times, and it certainly won’t have the shelf-life of a Sundance standout like “Whiplash” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” but it was amusing enough, and sharply written enough, to close opening night on a lively note.

Also read: Sundance 2015 Answers #OscarsSoWhite, Gender Problems With Diverse Lineup

“The Bronze” was the second movie to screen at the Eccles on Thursday, with the festivities kicking off with the Liz Garbus documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” which was introduced by Sundance founder Redford and followed by John Legend performing three songs associated with Simone.

Not to put any unseemly pressure on Garbus’ film, which will be distributed by Netflix, but the last two Oscar winners in the Best Documentary Feature category, “20 Feet From Stardom” last year and “Searching for Sugar Man” the year before, were both opening-night Sundance docs.

Those were uplifting stories in which the films themselves helped supply happy endings, bringing extra attention to the forgotten singer-songwriter Rodriguez and to background singers like Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton and Darlene Love. And in both cases, the subjects hit the campaign trail, singing for voters and helping turn their films into sensations.

But to be true to its subject, “What Happened, Miss Simone?” needed to have a real edge, to be a tough, confrontational film as well as a celebratory one. (Chiemi Kurosawa pulled off something like this with the funny and fearsomely frank “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” which deserved more awards-season traction than it got.)

See photos: Sundance Party Report in Pictures: The Snowy Scene in Park City (Updating Photos)

And in fact, Garbus’ movie is tougher and darker than “Sugar Man” or “20 Feet.” Simone’s life and career have moments of real triumph, but they do not lend themselves to comfortable arcs or third-act redemptions.

The singer was trained as a classical pianist, but abandoned those dreams to sing blues, soul and jazz music, becoming popular in the early 1960s and then hurling herself headlong into the civil rights movement with songs like the scorching “Mississippi Goddam.”

She lost some of her popularity as she became more strident, but she refused to back down, and in the ‘70s left the U.S. and moved to Africa, then to Europe. Her later years are a sad tale of a faltering career, a long-undiagnosed bipolar disorder that drove her teenage daughter away and a comeback that came with a price: Medication helped her perform again, but it also put a heartbreaking deadness in her eyes.

Also read: 10 Sundance Breakout Stars Led by Melissa Rauch, Julia Garner and the ‘Knock Knock’ Girls

Garbus takes a straightforward approach to Simone, letting the singer tell her own story through archival interviews. But the heart of the film, and the heart of the story, lie in the songs, and in some devastating concert sequences in the film.

Highlights include a quietly wrenching version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” a rendition of “Mississippi Goddam” performed at Martin Luther King’s march from Selma to Montgomery, and particularly a calm, implacable, searing version of Janis Ian’s “Stars,” performed late in Simone’s career, each syllable weighted down with the weariness that came from a lifetime of speaking out and paying the price.

“How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” Simone asks at one point in the film — and to the credit of “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” the film shows why she is an artist for these times, too.

In front of an audience that included “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, Garbus said after the screening that we needed “voices like Nina Simone today, speaking the pain and the passion of the moment that’s been building on the streets in the last six months.”

Robert Redford, Liz Garbus and John Legend>

Robert Redford, Liz Garbus and John Legend (Getty Images)

Then she introduced Legend, and the Eccles screen rose to reveal the suave singer-songwriter sitting at a grand piano on the stage. He wisely stayed away from Simone’s signature songs, performing “Lilac Wine” and “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free” before calling her “one of my favorite artists of all time.”

He then did a lovely, deeply felt version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” – though even Legend himself would probably agree that it paled next to the profound ache in the version heard sung by Simone about an hour earlier.

Sundance Party Report in Pictures: Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Kellan Lutz, Jason Segel (Updating Photos)

  • Keanu Reeves gets Seacrest'ed by Eli Roth as Lorenza Izzo and Collen Camp enjoy the breather while speaking with TheWrap's Jeff Sneider on Saturday. 

    Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Chefdance
  • Pure as snow: Iggy Azalea performed at Billboard's Winter Fest on Saturday night.

    Getty Images
  • Dianna Agron is in town for her drama "Zipper," with "Game of Thrones'" Lena Heady. On her first trip to Sundance, she hit Birchbox's pop-up shop to cut down on the delivery time of the subscription beauty/grooming company.

    Tiffany Rose/Getty Images
  • Rashida Jones, who produced the amateur-to-professional porn documentary "Hot Girls Wanted" that debuted on Saturday afternoon at the Temple Theatre. She and the crew celebrated at the Merrell #Trailscape.

    Miles Mortensen
  • A frequent site in Park City: cell phone charging stations.  If half the money spent on parties went to solar energy research, this could be obsolete by next Sundance. 

    Mikey Glazer
  • Lori Singer and John Leguizamo celebrate the Stanley Milgram biopic "Experimenter" at the Grey Goose Blue Door on Sunday night. DJ Spider would close it down with a early 1990s hip hop dance party afterwards. 

    Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
  • "Flight of the Conchord's" Jemaine Clement and Sean Rad at the Tinder Arts & Cinema Centre's party for "Tig & People Places and Things" on Sunday night. 

    David Edwards/DailyCeleb
  • Catherine Durickas from The SpinOffs with Catdance host Nikki Reed. The heavily promoted "feline" film event remains a head scratcher.

  • Roxy Manning gets the scoop on "Animals" from Mark and Jay Duplass at the Kia Supper Suite by STK on Saturday night. 

    David Edwards/DailyCeleb
  • Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Nick Offerman form an impressive round table at the Acura studio on Saturday afternoon.

    (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Acura)
  • Sarah Silverman looks overwhelmed as she ducked in off Main Street to hit Kari Feinstein's Style Lounge, which has been giving full trips (including airfare) to Aruba.

  • After spending the day on the press circuit, Kid Cudi and director Josh Mond goofed off at a dinner celebrating their film "James White" hosted by Sabra Hummus at Ciseros.

    Michael Bezjian
  • Star Trek co-stars Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto hit up the same Sabra Hummus House for a cross-film kick off party celebrating indy filmmakers.

    Michael Bezjian
  • Director Ramin Bahrani and Michael Shannon strike a pose while celebrating "99 Homes" on the opening weekend.

    Michael Bezjian
  • Toni Collette came through the busy space housing TheWrap's Interview Studio at the Indiegogo Lounge and picked up some fuel at the Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop in the space that will house Iggy Azalea's concert on Saturday night. 

    Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Chefdance
  • She also signed in to Rock & Reilly's, which has been an industry hangout all festival. Thursday night had the densest concentration of L.A. publicists and media in one room actually paying for their own drinks.

  • Donald Margulies, James Ponsoldt and Jason Segel had one of the hot parties on Friday for "The End of Tour". They broke in the Grey Goose Blue Door on its first night. (Michael Loccisano)

    (Michael Loccisano)
  • Later in the night, Nicole Kidman would party there for "Strangerland".

    (Michael Loccisano)
  • Cool photo opp at the TR Suites. Newly minted Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez and Henry Esteve stayed at ground level on the "Vuarnet Sunglasses Lift" supported by Otterbox.

    (Alexandra Wyman/AP Invision)
  • Ryan Hawke and Ethan Hawke at the "Ten Thousand Saints" premiere on Friday night.

    George Pimentel/Getty Image
  • Kiana Madani, Thomas Middleditch, Gary Cole, and Jay Duplass toast "The Bronze" at the Kia Supper Suite by STK.

    David Edwards/Daily Celeb
  • Festival regular Andie McDowell arrives in one of the ubiquitous Kia Sorentos shuttling talent around town.

    David Edwards/Daily Celeb
  • Former SAG president and screen legend Ed Asner is at Sundance on the weekend of the SAG awards. He found some rare personal space with Lois Rezler at the Kia Supper Suite.

    David Edwards/Daily Celeb
  • Josh Hutcherson took a pause with Murilo Bueno at the Merrell Trailscape, where the crown jewel is the Oculus Rift.

    Miles Mortensen
  • Ken Sunshine joined HFPA President Theo Kingma and Sunshine Sachs' Michael Samonte at the HFPA's first event at Sundance -- a party at the Sky Lodge with THR where DJ Jesse Marco got people dancing with "Remix to Ignition."

    Al Powers/Powers Imagery
  • Festival regular Kellan Lutz hit Tao late on Friday, which has Elyx as its partner this year.

    Scott Roth/AP Images​
  • Ethan Hawke is amongst the first to tag the hood of an Acura TLX that will be auctioned off for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation after the festival.

  • California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom popped up on Heber at the Merrell Trailscape on Friday.

    Miles Mortensen
  • Sean P. Means, John Cooper, Keri Putnam, and Sundance chief Robert Redford kicked off the festival at the annual Day One Press Conference on Thursday. 

    (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Sundance)
  • Delta ran a festival shuttle in conjunction with UTA from LAX on Thursday, raffling off business class tickets to Shanghai, Paris, "anywhere in the 50 states," and "anywhere in Mexico" on board. People actually talked to their seat neighbors on the all-industry flight. The pilots hawked a script.

    (Mikey Glazer)
  • UTA's Jeremy Barber with Delta's Ranjan Goswami, who closed down Lemonade in LAX for an industry pre-flight brunch. "Bad news, Jeremy Zimmer did not make the flight. Good news, we have his credit card and we will be buying drinks," Goswami said over the flight's P.A.

  • Post flight, official Sundance vehicles awaited faces like Adam Scott.

    Gustavo Caballero/GC Images via Getty Images
  • Billboards and signage still taking shape.

    (George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance)
  • Films looking for daylight get an early jump on poster space along Main Street.

    (Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for Sundance)
  • Already full ... and it is not even dark on Thursday yet.

    (George Pimentel/Getty Images for Sundance)
  • Meanwhile back in L.A., Francis Ford Coppola and former Academy President Sid Ganis presented Dagmar Dolby with a star on the walk of fame. Dagmar Dolby accepted for her late husband, Ray Dolby, whose name now emblazons the home of the Oscars.

    (Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
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Mikey Glazer’s view of the best people, parties and places in Park City, presented by the all-new Kia Sorento

Keanu Reeves gets Seacrest'ed by Eli Roth as Lorenza Izzo and Collen Camp enjoy the breather while speaking with TheWrap's Jeff Sneider on Saturday. 

Source : http://www.thewrap.com/sundance-acrobatic-sex-scene-steals-opening-night-from-robert-redford-and-john-legend/

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