Aubrey Plaza at the Los Angeles premiere of Life After Beth. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / WireImage
Nate von Zumwalt
Last night’s Sundance NEXT FEST opener at the Theatre at Ace Hotel felt more like a reunion of old pals than a glitzy Los Angeles premiere. Perhaps that’s what you get when Aubrey Plaza and Father John Misty take the helm as your unofficial co-hosts. The versatile pair was on hand for the Los Angeles premiere of Plaza’s zombie romance Life After Beth and a post-screening performance from indie crooner – and all-around droll entertainer – Father John Misty.
Director of Programming Trevor Groth shared a curt note about the conception of the festival before handing the night off. “We wanted to do something very different in terms of our programming. We wanted to pair films with music as a double bill, and tonight you are in for a real treat.” Director Jeff Baena then introduced his phenomenal cast, made up of Plaza, Dane DeHaan, Molly Shannon, and Matthew Gray Gubler, before dimming the lights for his part-zombie thriller, part-poignant romance.
After rolling the credits, Plaza entered back on stage to introduce her longtime pal, occasional collaborator, and inscrutable musician Father John Misty. “The person I’m about to bring on stage is a very dear friend of mine, and [creator of] one of the only music videos I’ve ever performed in. He’s a magical wizard from another dimension,” quipped Plaza, as her companion twirled his way on stage, indulging the actress’s mystic description. “His name is Josh Tillman, but tonight he’s Father John Misty.”
Often noted for his eccentric but invigorated performances, Father John Misty took on the less familiar task of performing without a backing band, and instead stationing himself under a lone stage-light with a pair of acoustic guitars. Come to find out, he operates quite effectively with the bare necessities. Tillman (as we’ll refer to him for clarity’s sake) barreled through crowd pleasers “I Love You, Honey Bear” and “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” the latter for which he casted Plaza as a deranged young woman in the music video – and a role not entirely different from her unstable character in Life After Beth. But the brilliance of Tillman rests in his acumen as an entertainer – a talented singer and songwriter, yes, but also a performer with sharp enough wit to insert one-liners and extemporize throughout his set.
Tillman riffed on the ornate confines of the Theatre at Ace Hotel – a stunning renovation of the United Artists Theatre originally opened in the 1920s –joking that he had expected “exposed walls” and “a typewriter under every seat.” He continued, “but this is a pretty classy place.”
A pretty classy place, indeed, and the talent wasn’t too shabby either. Screenings and performances continue through Sunday, August 10. Click here for tickets and additional information.