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Naomi Watts, Kristen Bell, Matthew McConaughey: Sundance Film Festival's Best Performances

USMagazine, Friday, January 25, 2013, 7:37am (PST)

Couldn't make it to Sundance this year? No worries! Us Weekly film critic Mara Reinstein is here to give you the inside scoop on which performances were hot in cold Park City. Earlier in the week, she raved about Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's Before Midnight, the third installment of the duo's cinematic ode to love. Now here are her other picks for standout performances at Sundance.

PHOTOS: See all the stars and parties at Sundance The MILF of the Century: Naomi Watts, Two Mothers

Picture it. Naomi Watts and Robin Wright are childhood besties living in a gorgeous Australian beach town with their Adonis-like teen surfer sons. Then they sleep with each other’s kids. “We’ve crossed the line,” declares Watts with a straight face. Gee, you think? But wait, there’s more: These respective relationships go on for years. Years! Utterly ridiculous yet laughably earnest, this one’s destined for the guilty pleasure queue. And in case you were wondering, 40-somethings Watts and Wright show off seriously buff bikini bods.

The Who-knew? Triple Threat: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Don Jon’s Addiction

While you spent your downtime last year vegging on the couch and hanging on Honey Boo Boo’s every word, Levitt was busy writing, directing and starring in this wickedly edgy comedy. He oils himself up as a Jersey Shore-type Guido who’d rather look at X-rated videos all day than be with a girl. Can a sexpot in a red dress (Scarlett Johansson, unearthing her rarely seen comedic chops) successfully persuade him to kick the habit? Provocative subject matter aside, this is essentially a sweet and satisfying love story. As a special bonus, it features excellent usage of A. Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations” and B. Tony Danza.

The Shirtless Charmer (Lifetime Achievement): Matthew McConaughey, Mud

Deep in the heart of Mississippi, two 14-year-old boys take a boat out to a deserted island. They stumble upon a grizzled fugitive named Mud who immediately disarms them with his easygoing charisma. Mud soon convinces the teens to help him elude bounty hunters and flee town in a motorboat with his dream girl (Reese Witherspoon, also excellent) in tow. Really, could anyone but McConaughey get away with this?! Every time he turns on that impish smile, it's easy to see why the young heroes in this rich adventure tale want him to get away with murder. May the grassroots 2014 Oscar campaign begin!

The Least Annoying Gen Y-er: Kristen Bell, The Lifeguard

With all due respect to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, it’s about time Bell got to shine on the big screen. In this bittersweet comedy, she plays a 29-year old journalist who scraps her life in NYC to move back home. To make the regression complete, the former high school valedictorian takes her old lifeguard gig and sleeps with a teen skateboarder. Though the film can’t quite overcome its flaws (for starters, the reasoning behind her quarter-life crisis doesn’t wash), Bell delivers a relatable, heartfelt performance. In fact, you’d be surprised how many tears this lifeguard sheds on duty.

The (Creepiest) Queen of Ice: Nicole Kidman, Stoker  

It’s actually understandable why Kidman was drawn to this gothic chiller. After all, as a cold-blooded widow, she gets to skulk around in stilettos, wear tailored black dresses, bark at her daughter (Mia Wasikowska), and make out with her handsome and appealingly creepy brother-in-law (Matthew Goode). But there’s a fine line between stylish and flat-out bizarre. That is, unless you’re into gruesome strangulation intercut with images of a spider crawling up Wasikowska’s leg. It only gets darker — and more disturbing — from there.

The Coolest Guy in the Room: Dave Grohl, Sound City

Bravo to Grohl for directing a documentary with a yawn-inducing topic — how the transition from analog to digital recording shut down beloved music studio Sound City — and making it as entertaining as hell. Here, he calls on his friends (Hi, Rick Springfield, Stevie Nicks, Trent Reznor and Paul McCartney!) to record a tribute album in his personal studio. Music fans (translation: everybody) will find it impossible not to head-bob to the rock soundtrack, while Nirvana fans will especially cherish demos of the group’s iconic Nevermind album. Also, let’s face it: This is the closest we’ll ever come to hanging out with real rock stars. 

This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Naomi Watts, Kristen Bell, Matthew McConaughey: Sundance Film Festival's Best Performances

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