One of the greatest elements of Sundance is the unknown. When walking into a theater one can go in completely blank and have no idea what they are about to see. Is it a comedy? A tragedy? Will it make me cry? Maybe even feel uncontrollable rage? Without a trailer or any early buzz before a film premieres most of the time an audience member has no idea what to expect.
A film like Magazine Dreams landed an incredible impact with me because it took me on a ride I never could have seen coming.
Magazine Dreams is led by a career best performance by Jonathan Majors (Last Black Man in San Francisco, Devotion,) and that is saying a lot about a young man who has already compiled an impressive filmography.
Jonathan Majors shines as Killian Maddox, an aspiring bodybuilder who has aspirations of becoming a World Champion and coverboy of magazines around the world. On the surface Maddox is cut like a Greek God, but underneath the muscle and definition lies a troubled, disturbed soul who has lived through unspeakable tragedy.
Writer and Director Elijah Bynum masterfully crafts a film that delves into mental illness and how brutal the world can be to people who just need a helping hand. The visuals, sounds, and pacing of the film ramp up the anxiety of the world in which Maddox lives.
It is perhaps one of the most intense, hard to watch films I have seen at Sundance that isn’t a horror film.
As Maddox’s life starts to unravel, the film becomes a frenetic experience that creates moments that I had to cover my eyes. Majors is absolutely phenomenal as a troubled, beaten down individual who you just want to see win. But as each loss piles up you feel just as hopeless as the main protagonist.
The supporting cast is filled with many young stars on the rise like Taylour Paige (Zola) and Haley Bennett (Cyrano) The film also includes real life body builder Mike O’Hearn who’s presence on screen sends the entire film in a different direction.
Bynum is a clear directing talent as he handles multiple tough to tackle subjects that challenge each of his actors and especially the observing audience. This is not an easy film to view and it is sure to make many uncomfortable and unable to watch.
But it is a story that is necessary to watch and a conversation that is definitely worth having.
Will Magazine Dreams be the best film to come out of Sundance? That remains to be seen, but Majors’ performance is a guarantee to be what people come out talking about the most.