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Tribeca Struggles to Find its Breakout Feature

It’s never been a good venue for films still seeking distribution — 2010 is no exception

Every year it’s the same story at the Tribeca Film Festival: the documentaries are amazing, while the narrative features — at least the ones looking for distribution — not so much.  

At this year’s festival, which runs through May 2 in New York City, there are plenty of worthy feature titles, such as "Please Give" and "Get Low."  But most of these have screened already at earlier festivals, such as Toronto or Sundance, and have distributors. Their inclusion in Tribeca allows the festival to show quality movies with name casts, and the releasing companies to garner additional pre-opening publicity.

Harder to find at Tribeca is the gleaming new gem, one ripe for acquisition by a savvy distributor. There are plenty of would-be contenders, many boasting marquee-worthy stars, but the festival’s track record is scant when it comes to having been first with a movie that eventually turned into a breakout hit along the lines of Sundance showcasing "Little Miss Sunshine" or "Precious."

Hoping for the magic on a rainy Sunday, I sat through four films at the festival, none of which yet have a distributor: "Every Day," "Meet Monica Velour," "Monogamy" and "Zonad."

The first two shone and latter two were disappointingly lightweight. Here’s the report:

"Every Day, "  a domestic drama, would be easy to dismiss as a contemporary version of "thirtysomething," but there’s a specificity and truth to many of its scenes and a generousness of spirit that makes this one worth catching. Ditto for the solid performances by leads Liev Schreiber and Helen Hunt. They play a suburban New York couple whose marriage is tested as they confront such issues as an ailing parent, a gay teenage son and romantic temptations at the workplace. Richard Levine, a veteran of TV’s "Nip/Tuck," wrote and directed the film, his first. "Day’s" sales representative is Brian Kavanaugh-Jones at CAA.

"Sex and the City" vixen Kim Cattrall gives a powerful, vanity-free performance in "Meet Monica Velour," an off-beat comic drama that winningly plays like "Napoleon Dynamite Meets a Porn Star." The film is about a dorky 17-year old youth who travels to meet his idol, Monica Velour (Cattrall), a former X-rated movie star who is now close to 50 and can barely get hired at a strip club. First-timer Keith Bearden wrote and directed. The film is being repped by The Film Sales Company.

"Monogamy" is one of those movies you come out of shaking your head, going, "I wouldn’t spend two hours with those boring people in real life, so why did I just do it watching them on a movie screen?" It’s a plodding, self-conscious drama about a wedding photographer (Chris Messina) who, with his own wedding date fast approaching, finds himself beset by ever greater doubts about whether he and his fiancĂ© (Rashida Jones, who’s better than the movie) belong together. Dana Adam Shapiro, who directed the terrific, Oscar-nominated documentary "Murderball" (2005), co-wrote and directed "Monogamy." It is repped by Submarine Entertainment.

"Once" lucky, twice doesn’t happen. "Zonad" is co-written and co-directed by John Carney (with Kieran Carney), whose last film was the Irish charmer, "Once."  This wee comedy, about a porky petty criminal who escapes from rehab and is mistaken, because of a bright red, skin-tight costume he’s wearing, for a space alien by the residents of a small Irish village, seems more suited to a 5-minute "Saturday Night Live" sketch than a 78-minute movie. (Full disclosure: I walked at the 50-minute mark because the screening I saw had started late and I had to make another movie.) "Zonad" is repped by Cinetic Media.