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Sundance Review: ‘Downloading Nancy’ Fails to Connect

Nothing clears a room like some graphic sexual deviance… And bad movies.
By  · Published on January 22nd, 2008

Nothing clears a room like some gratuitous graphic sexual deviance. And you would think that with Maria Bello in the lead role, the target of most of the sexual wackiness and abnormal behavior, that at least the movie would be stimulating — but it is not. Downloading Nancy is nothing short of a travesty. An interesting concept that didn’t need anything more than a little more gravitas. Ok, a lot more gravitas.

Downloading Nancy tells the story of Nancy (Maria Bello, Thank You for Smoking), a woman with a brutal sexual history that has lost herself thanks to her broken marriage and her broken sense of self. Desperate to find relief for the pain that plagues her ever waking moment, she constantly cuts herself to feel alive. Not finding salvation in the cutting, Nancy reaches out to a stranger (Jason Patric, Narc) via the internet in order to find someone who will give her some tough love, then help her be released from her treacherous life.

From moment one, the color pallete of director Johan Renck’s film is depressing; so much so that it had me wanting to run to the bathroom and cut myself as well. And that was before I discovered what a tedious bore the film would turn out to be. Maria Bello’s performance was sufficient, but the story itself really had no direction, no purpose and certainly nothing that would accomplish the goal of the film.

Perhaps the goal of the film was to go for shock value — lets show them some really messed up sexual behavior and it will enrage audiences — the only problem there is that by the time the shocking stuff begins to happen, most people have either left the theater, fallen asleep or begun to send emails on their Blackberries. Maybe they wanted us to feel for the main character, a whacked out woman whose scarred past and bland present lead her toward her end. Unfortunately, there is nothing about Nancy to love, thus she gets no pity from the audience. In the end, we won’t feel sorry for her no matter the outcome.

To be as blunt as possible, this is one of those movies that brought much potential into the Sundance Film Festival only to have all the air let out of its balloon faster than film buyers in the industry screening could scamper toward the bright green exit signs. With zero marketability other than to a few sickos on the furthest depths of the interwebs, Downloading Nancy is a complete waste. The only thing it proved is that the only thing that could clear a room faster than graphic sexual deviance is a terrible film.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)