February 07, 2000 12:00 PM

Sundance

It was 9:45 on a Monday morning, but the theater was packed. Word was out that Girlfight, an inspiring drama about a high school girl from Brooklyn who finds meaning to her life after taking up boxing, could be a contender at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The word was right. Girlfight, the debut film by writer-director Karyn Kusama, packs a wallop and boasts a gloriously fierce lead performance by newcomer Michelle Rodriguez.

Discovering new filmmakers and actors is what Sundance is all about. The festival focuses on low-budget independent films and in previous years served as the launching pad for The Blair Witch Project and sex, lies and video-tape. Movies at Sundance this year that were either hotly anticipated or deserve attention include:

American Psycho, director Mary Harron’s audacious adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s controversial 1991 novel about a yuppie serial killer. While Psycho, starring Christian Bale, succeeds as a satire in its early reels, its preoccupation with making fun of ’80s excess wears thin fast.

Committed, an appealing romantic comedy by director Lisa Krueger (Manny & Lo). Heather Graham glows as a woman determined to stick to her marriage vows.

Two Family House, a winningly sweet film about chasing one’s dreams, with Michael Rispoli and seemingly half the cast of The Sopranos. Rispoli plays an Italian-American factory worker who wants to open his own bar.

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