Each month, the Indie Prof reviews a current film in the theater and a second film or series available on DVD or an instant-streaming service.
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Little Men (2016)
Director Ira Sachs makes the kind of intimate character studies that make their way from Sundance to art-house theaters and then quickly into oblivion. His films don’t strain the speaker systems in theaters but they certainly illuminate corners of the world that tell us much about ourselves and the people in our orbit. His sixth feature, Little Men, is yet another in a string of well-crafted films that premiered in Sundance and is now about to hit the art-house circuit. With the kids now back in school, set up the babysitter and check out this wonderful little film from a talented artist.
The story centers on two young boys—Jake and Tony—who strike up an unlikely friendship in the middle of New York City. Jake’s grandfather just died and his family moves into the Brooklyn apartment they just inherited. Jake’s father (Greg Kinnear as Brian) finds that his father had been renting the storefront below for far below market rate. That store is rented to Tony’s mother Leonor, and when Brian informs her that the rent will be tripled, she is eventually evicted when she can’t afford it.
The situation puts an obvious strain on Jake and Tony’s friendship. Jake is a reserved, quiet, sensitive young artist, and he takes the conflict very hard, pleading with his father to let the family stay. Tony is an outgoing, aspiring actor. The juxtaposition of the budding friendship vs. the rent crisis speaks to the different worlds of young adults and their parents. While one group has to live in the real world, the other still lives in the world they think it to be. And there is a disconnect between the two.
The film is shot very simply, keeping the focus on the writing, the characters, and the subtle performances throughout the cast. Sachs, an openly gay man, understands how people see themselves and think of themselves, especially when you find yourself wholly different than most around you. The characters are rich and inviting. We find ourselves wanting to know more about them; this is real life, and we get to watch as it plays out. It is absolutely worth the economical 85-minute run time. Get out and see it on the big screen this month.
Starts 9/2 at the Sie Film Center.
You will like this film if you enjoyed The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Stand by Me, and/or Love Is Strange.
Jessica Jones (Netflix)
The second show in the Netflix arm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Ironman, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers), Jessica Jones is a worthy companion to Daredevil and closer to it than its cinematic cousins.* With a few more Netflix shows in development, these two have set a strong foundation for the small-screen universe. This iteration follows the eponymous superhero as she attempts to give up her former life and start anew as a private detective. Played with searing ferocity by Krysten Ritter, Jones is a hot-tempered, short-fused, ill-mannered loner who leaves a path of destruction wherever she moves. And it is all so beautiful to watch.
The brilliant first season is similar to Daredevil in its dirty and Noir-esque aesthetic, but it takes an even darker tone. The biggest difference is in the lead character—while Daredevil’s Charlie Cox is a solid Matt Murdock, Ritter’s Jones is a much more compelling and interesting character. She is a loner with a troubled past that seeps back into her life at every turn. And the turns are fascinating. Executive Producer Melissa Rosenberg is a veteran of TV production, most notably Dexter, and her team crosses over nicely with the Daredevil production team. A winning show means a winning production team, and they star here.
The first season finds Jessica pitted against former boyfriend Kilgrave, a man who can control minds and make people act how he wishes. David Tenant gives a strong turn as the evil nemesis intent on getting Jessica back. The other secondary characters are also very solid and compelling: Mike Colter as Luke Cage is strong and alluring, and Rachael Taylor is quirky and surprising as Trish Walker. All of the characters are well drawn, round, and real.
In addition to the first-rate production, crisp writing, compelling characters, and spot-on acting, the show tackles a number of difficult issues along the way: PTSD, rape, sexuality, family relationships, and difference. This is a dense show with many layers that rewards you for your attention. It is also violent, graphic, and downright disgusting at times. Beware. And enjoy.
Season 1 is available on Netflix.
You will like this if you enjoyed Daredevil, Game of Thrones, and/or Orange is the New Black.
*Note: the latest entry into the Netflix Marvel Universe is Luke Cage, opening on Sept. 30. Finish Jessica Jones by then and get ready for Luke.
Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Cinema Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.