A Collection of Great Hidden Gems on Netflix
By The Pajiba Staff | Streaming | August 30, 2019 |
By The Pajiba Staff | Streaming | August 30, 2019 |
Edge of Seventeen (Watch Here) — Fremon Craig has crafted a completely authentic, three-dimensional teenage character. With her cynicism and disdain for other people, Nadine’s [Hailee Steinfeld] like Daria Lite, if more prone to fits of drama. She’s narcissistic and a little mean. I may have rolled my eyes at Nadine proclaiming “I am an old soul. I like old music and old movies and even old people!,” except that shit is exactly the sort of thing I would have said when I was her age… I can’t speak as to how much other people will relate to Nadine—maybe I’m viewing my particular experiences and emotional foibles of youth as more universal than they really are. Maybe, if you see The Edge of Seventeen, you’ll see it as a standard teen movie that’s funny, yeah, but the protagonist is kind of hard to root for because she’s such a self-involved dick with a massive case of #firstworldproblems. I don’t know. But I do know that I really wish The Edge of Seventeen had been around when I was seventeen.
Enemy (Watch Here) — Enemy is a trippy little mindfuck. It’s a Canadian/Spanish production directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve (who also directed Prisoners) based on the 2002 erotic thriller The Double from Portuguese author José Saramago. It stars an American in Gyllenhaal, a Parisian in Mélanie Laurent, Canadian Sarah Gadon, and Italian actress Isabella Rossellini. It’s a fascinating film, and to give anything away besides the premise would completely spoil it.
The Witch (Watch Here) — A slow-burning, utterly immersive, claustrophobic, chilling little number that sets itself apart from the majority of the contemporary horror landscape by how unabashedly arthouse-y it is. The characters speak in Jacobean English, for fuck’s sake. In going super-traditional in terms of story, [Robert] Eggers has crafted a horror film that’s anything but, at least compared to the quick-n-cheap (and occasionally surprisingly good!) horror films that saturate much of the current marketplace. There is no levity in The Witch. You will not laugh. You might pee yourself a little. The jump scare, aka the favored tool of horror directors who don’t actually know what they’re doing, is used sparingly and well—most of the horror comes less from ZOMG THERE WAS A LOUD NOISE than the real-world fears of English families who packed up their belongings to move out to Bumfuck, Nowhere, aka colonial America. Like, for example: The isolation, the very real possibility of starving to death, and—for Thomasin, the family’s eldest daughter—the extremely limited options afforded to women in that time period.
Laggies (Watch Here) — This Lynn Shelton movie attempts a kind of gender-reversed man-child with Keira Knightley in the lead, and she’s incredible as a woman trapped between youth and adulthood. The pull of nostalgia and loyalty keeps her trapped in her suburban past, but the lure of Sam Rockwell — and his divorced Dad character — gently pushes her into adulthood, even if it means essentially breaking up with all of her high school friends. If you love Rockwell (and Ellie Kemper), Laggies is a perfect heartwarming, well-acted, lounge on the couch on a lazy Saturday afternoon kind of movie.
Obvious Child (Watch here) — Directed by Gillian Robespierre from a story by Robespierre and a small cadre of others, the movie’s focus is, as so many movies are these days, the aimless independence of the twenty-something. While on paper this sounds like it could be either slightly icky or massively unpleasant, Obvious Child manages to navigate these treacherous waters gently and comes out the other side mostly unscathed. To see a film written by, starring, and focusing in on the experiences of women is such a treat, it feels shady to even drum up too many criticisms, (also, ugh, “criticisms” how boring), and the movie does so much so handily that it’s easy to forgive any slight missteps throughout. Jenny Slate’s Obvious Child is worthy of contemplation, for as much as it does not say as for what it reveals about the way we think about ourselves. Also, it’s actually funny, and there’s precious little of real funny in the world these days.
Locke (Watch here) — Given that Tom Hardy has nothing but his speakerphone and a steering wheel to play against, his performance is remarkable. He’s not running all over town, engaging in shaky-cam fight scenes, but he may as well be. Tom Hardy embodies all the turmoil and action of a Harrison Ford ’90s action thriller, but he does it almost entirely internally. Still, as impressive as Hardy’s performance is, the ultimate problem with Locke as a film is pretty much unavoidable given the conventions Knight has set up. We are stuck in this car with the man, made to feel as trapped and anxious as he is. And while that claustrophobia definitely heightens the anxiety of the situation, it also comes with the negatives of any car trip. Eighty-five minutes trapped in a car feels like 180 in any other situation. You will get squirmy. You will want a break from the monotony. This imposed discomfort feels deliberate on the part of Knight, but that doesn’t make it any more bearable. You know what does make it bearable, though? Brilliant acting and utter objectification. Don’t tell me that’s not worth your time.
Win It All (Watch Here) — With Swanberg’s most recent effort, Win It All, the weight of the film rides almost exclusively on star Jake Johnson, who is in virtually every scene. Johnson plays Eddie Garret, a degenerate gambler who regulars at a Chinatown casino. One day he is asked to hold onto a bag full of cash while the bag’s owner does a quick stint in jail. “… This is an interesting opportunity,” Johnson’s Garret says to the bag. And you can see where this is going. Johnson has always been an actor who is both likable and outrageously funny, while always seeming to have some darkness or pathos operating behind the scenes. All of that is in full play in Win It All and as likable as Johnson is when he’s playing the lighter moments, he absolutely kills it when asked to dig into the sadness and horror of an addiction that his Garret knows he needs to walk away from but just cannot.
Bad Batch (Watch Here) — With vivid colors, grease and grime, Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) creates a world both beautiful and ugly, brutal yet laced with grace, like a dapper cannibal who sketches soulful portraits, when he’s not butchering yowling outcasts.
Would You Rather (Watch on Netflix) — Brittany Snow stars as Iris, a young woman struggling to support her ill younger brother, without help from parents or other siblings. Iris finds herself invited to the home of the wealthy Shepard Lambrick, a possible benefactor…if Iris wins a game of Would You Rather. Granted, while you may see some parts of the movie coming at you from quite a distance, what you won’t expect is how gifted director David Guy Levy is at capturing the familiar human struggle of money or morals. When you’re done watching Would You Rather, you may need a bath and a bottle of Scotch to lull yourself into thinking you would never do what any of the people in the movie did. Not for any amount of money…right?
Mississippi Grind (Watch here) — Co-writers/co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck lovingly laying out Mississippi Grind with an unhurried hand. The focus here—as Curtis reminds us with crooked smiles and earnest dialogue—is the journey, not the destination. The filmmakers behind Half Nelson have always had an eye for talent. And their trust in Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds is well-founded. The pair weaves a complex and compelling co-dependent relationship that keeps Mississippi Grind entertaining even when nothing much is going on. But once these wanderers separate, the pace slows to a crawl that doesn’t pick up even after they reunite. Though its final act runs out of steam, fans of Mendelsohn and/or Reynolds will relish the electric character work explored here.
Don’t Think Twice (Watch Here) — Don’t Think Twice is a hard movie to watch at times, with these moments that feel so real and true that you squirm, feeling like you should not be watching something so intimately uncomfortable. But Mike Birbiglia’s script smartly does not wallow in these moments of discomfort, balancing them out with uproariously funny scenes. Both poignant and hilarious, Don’t Think Twice is similar to a Judd Apatow film in that way, except that both the emotional and comedic beats feel more realistic than even the best Apatow moments. Fans of improv will love this for the improv scenes alone (which are made up of both scripted and actual improvised moments). But this movie should, and hopefully will be, loved by everyone because Don’t Think Twice is simply a heartbreaking, but hilarious, delight.
Clouds of Sils Maria (Watch Here)— Clouds of Sils Maria is not for the casual moviegoer. It is too abruptly cerebral to please. But if you’re an Assayas fan, you’ll likely be thrilled. If you’re a Stewart fan, you’ll want to see it to add to your evidence that she’s an undervalued actress. And if you think Binoche can do no wrong, her performance here will give you further reason for worship. Just don’t anticipate a jaunty showbiz story. Clouds of Sils Maria has a lot of thoughts on Hollywood, but little patience for its rules.
The Spectacular Now (Watch Here) — As a deadbeat dad to a troubled and disconnected teen, Kyle Chandler obliterates his heroic Coach Taylor image. Rumpled, stubbly and completely absent emotionally, his southern fried take on the embodiment of a Jimmy Buffet concert is heartbreaking to watch. The film is likable enough on its own but doesn’t plumb any emotional depths until Chandler shows up. I hated watching him play a terrible father, but he was damn good at it.
White Girl (Watch Here) — White Girl is dedicatedly deplorable in its decadence and riveting in its rawness. The cinematography, rich with suffocating close-ups, ratchets up the tension through unforgiving proximity. All past tales of girls lost to the terrible big city instantly imbue the film with dramatic weight. But how Wood plays both out to a uniquely unsettling finale is pioneering, thought-provoking, and more than a little haunting.
Blue is the Warmest Color (Watch Here) — At just under three hours, the French film Blue is the Warmest Color would seem, from the outside looking in, to be a journey into the sleepy realms of slow-cooked cinema. Not the case! Offering a surprising lightness (surprising because it’s oftentimes melancholy), the film makes the time investment here well worth it, a finer relationship film you’re unlikely to see all year … If great film is built upon engagement, then this effort must be considered a rousing success. Blue is the Warmest Color is a work of delightfully layered sophistication, a movie you want to follow out even further than the sand and sunshine, all the way out into the deep blue ocean sea.
Swiss Army Man (Watch Here) — On a surface level, Swiss Army Man is an intoxicatingly ludicrous and hilarious comedy, stuffed with pop culture references, scatological gags, and some surprisingly wry observational humor about society and stigma. But beneath this goofy exterior is an inspiring and heartwarming story about human connection and the power of friendship. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe create a complicated and compelling bond that is radiant and rousing.
Slow West (Watch Here) — From The Hateful Eight to Bone Tomahawk to The Salvation to Far From Men, 2015 gave us a lot of Western, and Slow West was the best of ‘em. And not just because of Ben Mendehlson’s amazingly horrible coat, either. Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as a Scottish aristocrat who decides to follow his lady love (Caren Pistorius) out to the wilds of the American West after he accidentally gets her and her father banished. Once there, the well-meaning but clueless teen finds some assistance in the form of a mysterious wanderer named Sias (Michael Fassbender), but still… it’s not a spoiler to say that things don’t exactly go as he expected. Slow West’s pace is pretty, well, slow, but stick with it until the climactic final shootout, which is simply put one of the best scenes of the year. How often do you get a Western with a gag inspired by The Naked Gun 2 1/2?
Header Image Source: STX Films