Pretty Bird

Director: Paul Schneider
Screenwriters: Paul Schneider

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


There is something supremely classic about Paul Schneider’s Pretty Bird that makes it very American, very theatrical, and almost timeless in its setting. A play in more ways than one, it invokes almost-iconic figures of theatrical and filmic lore, while simultaneously modernizing a story of hucksters, dreamers, and inventors that defines the entrepreneurial spirit that is at America’s core.

Curtis Prentiss (Billy Crudup) is the archetypal American dreamer: the rainmaker. He arrives in town with big ideas, a fervent sales pitch, and a set of blueprints in hand. Curtis also has a wealthy old acquaintance who’s susceptible to his incantations. He finds, by chance, an out-of-work aerospace engineer (Paul Giamatti), whom he recruits with a vision of building "the rocket belt," a personalized flying machine. They embark on their mutual missions—to raise capital and solve the conundrum of flight—but their relationship quickly deteriorates. When unexpectedly they find success, everything really goes out of control, and a struggle begins that will change their lives.

Minimalist and metaphorical, cerebral yet witty and engaging, the film depicts a certain symbolic geometry to the interplay between these men that transcends their human flaws. With Pretty Bird, Schneider takes us to a stage that isn’t limited to psychology; the film speaks ultimately to the pursuit of the American dream, the quixotic quest for success, and the folly of human ambition.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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