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Originally published Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 1:17 PM

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Lynn Shelton, Paul Eenhoorn score hits at Sundance 2014

“Laggies” and “Land Ho!” were both warmly greeted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Both have Northwest connections.

Special to The Seattle Times

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A passel of Seattle filmmakers and fans came to Park City, Utah, for this year’s 10-day Sundance Film Festival (Jan. 16-26). They saw movies and had their movies seen. And so far, they’ve conquered.

The biggest success was no surprise: Seattle director Lynn Shelton’s sixth film (and her fourth at Sundance), “Laggies,” was one of the festival’s first films picked up for national distribution. After a classic late-night Sundance bidding war, A24 paid an estimated $2 million for North American rights and is planning a summer theatrical release.

Seattle moviegoers will recognize some of the locations in the film, shot in Seattle and Bellevue with a local crew and local actors in supporting roles. Reviews praised Shelton’s handling of the story about a woman in her late 20s (Keira Knightley) who’s stuck in a rut she’s been digging since high school. She forms a friendship with a teenager (Chloë Grace Moretz) as she tries to avoid adult responsibilities.

During a festival news conference, Knightley (who speaks with a completely believable American accent in the movie) said she got her wish during 25 days of filming: “The only thing I knew of Seattle was ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ so I wanted a houseboat, and I got a houseboat. It was wonderful.”

Known more for stoic parts and period pieces, Knightley switched gears for a comedic role that allowed her to be more herself — Variety called the performance “delightfully loose-limbed.”

“I was encouraged to use my face, which was great,” Knightley said, laughing. “So thank you, Lynn.”

This was Shelton’s first attempt at directing someone else’s script. She said she’s been offered many but turned them all down until Andrea Seigel’s witty writing caught her attention. “This one really spoke to me,” she said.

Another film winning raves: “Land Ho!” In it, Seattle actor Paul Eenhoorn plays the straight man to his character’s folksy former brother-in-law, played by relative newcomer Earl Lynn Nelson. Introducing the film’s premiere screening on Sunday, Sundance programming director Trevor Groth called the movie “one of the great pleasures of this festival.” (Groth reportedly brought his whole family to see the movie.)

Nelson, a Kentucky physician with a big personality, emerged as one of the festival’s most beloved stars (one commenter called him “the ‘It Girl’ of Sundance”), which didn’t surprise his co-star. “There is no one else like him,” Eenhoorn said.

In the movie, the men embark on a vacation to Iceland, where they hilariously bond and bicker with each other. The audience laughed often during the premiere screening, and many stood to applaud at the end. “There were parts I’d forgotten we’d shot, so I was laughing along with everyone else,” Eenhoorn said later.

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