Theaters are still closed, but movies live on. This month, I review three new releases that are all available through different online platforms, including the Denver Film Center at denverfilm.org. Please keep supporting local theaters and new movies!
This darling of Sundance tells the fictional story of real-life writer Shirley Jackson’s (“The Lottery”) encounter with a young couple as she writes a new novel in her Vermont home circa 1950. The couple, engaged by Jackson’s (philandering) husband to help with the housework, become entangled in the affairs of the house as well as the events of the novel. Director Josephine Baker crafts an intricate film of relationships, intrigue, and lies to complement the wonderful acting and visuals. The performances of the ensemble are all excellent: Elisabeth Moss as Jackson, Tom Stuhlberg as her husband, Odessa Young as the young helper Rose, and Logan Lerman as her boyfriend Fred round out the principals. Young and Moss particularly shine as their relationship undulates around the whims of reality and through the gothic horror of Jackson’s writing.
The cinematography is particularly expressive: its close-ups and soft focus draw us in to the characters while filtering out much of the surrounding frame. The net effect is to mirror the artistic process, one in which the outside world exists merely as a foil, or even a muse, to the interior world. Such is the place where Jackson lives, and she pulls Rose in. It makes for a tantalizing mix of reality and gothic horror that allows the film to enter the world of the writer. The film we are watching, in essence, becomes her book.
Now available through the Sie Film Center, Hulu, and/or other VOD outlets.
John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020)
This is certainly one of the documentaries we need right now. A straight-ahead biography of civil rights icon and long-time Congressman John Lewis, it not only delves into this great man’s life, but it also gives us a history lesson in the civil rights movement. Dating back to his start with Martin Luther King in the 50s, the film walks us through the struggle from the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the death of MLK and right up to the present day. Lewis is a walking history lesson and an inspiration to millions. Director Amy Porter uses archival footage, old interviews, new interviews, and recent footage to tell a story that gives us the grounding to contextualize current events. It is captivating.
Starts July 3—Sie Film Center website
I rarely review comedy, but this new film from writer/director Jon Stewart (yes, The Daily Show guy) is perfect for our time. With a stellar cast—Steve Carrell, Rose Byrne, and Chris Cooper—and Stewart’s biting, searing social/political commentary, we get a parable for the political-economic complex of our era. When political operative Carell finds a local hero primed for a mayoral run, he de-camps to the small town to run the campaign. Rival political operative Byrne then arrives to oppose him, and the suddenly high-stakes race is on. While we seemingly get the normal big-city folk vs. the small-town rube set-up, all may not be what it seems. Stay till the end.
Available on most VOD outlets.
Vincent Piturro, PhD, is a Professor of Film and Media Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can follow “Indie Prof” on Facebook and @VincentPiturro on Twitter.