We’re in the thick of awards season, i.e. that time of year when you begin desperately searching for ways to stream the nominated films you missed. That obligatory instinct is real, and one that’s forced me to sit through an unprecedented number of long, depressing, and/or anxiety-inducing movies.
I’ve seen most of the films in the 2020 awards dialogue (with the exception of 1917, because self-care), and while I found the bulk of them worth watching, the vast majority also put me in a dark place.
The 132 minutes I spent watching Parasite made me more anxious than reading through my Twitter mentions. And OK, if I didn’t have a fear of commitment before watching Marriage Story, I definitely have one now.
That’s not to say there isn’t value in watching movies that makes us uncomfortable or upset. Some of my favorite films of the year did just that — don’t expect to emerge dry-eyed from a screening of Waves. But, with the running list of concerns that plague us today, it can feel necessary to opt for levity in our entertainment. I mean, I’d gladly sacrifice a bit of perceived “prestige” in exchange for a viewing experience that won’t leave me combing ZocDoc for therapists in my network.
I find the movies below to be both entertaining and well-made. You won’t hit the credits feeling like you’ve purged brain cells, but you’ll still (hopefully) feel a little lighter than you did before you hit “play.”
Jessie Buckley shines as Rose-Lynn, an aspiring country singer in Glasgow striving to escape her troubled past (and sometimes her responsibilities). Co-stars Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo are welcome additions to the mostly-female cast, but this is Buckley’s film through and through — her BAFTA-nominated performance should not be missed.
A good rom-com is hard to find (which is precisely why I’ve included three on this list). Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid give clever, vulnerable, and best of all, authentic performances in this witty wedding season comedy from co-writer/directors Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer. Predictable? Ultimately, sure. But the emotional route Plus One takes to arrive at its conclusion isn’t the one you’d expect — in fact, it’s basically untrodden territory in the rom-com space.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial feature debut is a rare story of friendship that isn’t trying to be anything else. It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s not the “female Superbad,” OK? The film elevated Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever to household names (in my house, at least), and rightfully so. It’s time we start seeing teen movies outside of the traditional boy-meets-girl lens, and Booksmart is leading the charge.
Charlize Theron? Great! Funny! Seth Rogen? Great! Funny! Theron and Rogen, together? The greatest! The funniest! No, Long Shot isn’t reinventing the wheel, it’s a romantic comedy about a beautiful, smart, successful woman who (against the odds!) falls for a goofy pothead (i.e. Rogen in most of his movies). Regardless, Long Shot follows through on the laughs it promises and provides a delightful two hours.
Yes, the premise (a family goes to visit their unknowingly ailing matriarch in China) doesn’t scream “good time!” but Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical film, and star Awkwafina, take on an otherwise upsetting topic with such care and humor that if you leave the theater in tears, they’re probably happy ones.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Before you lose all faith in humanity, remember that Fred Rogers lived to brighten the days of others. And, OK, to a lesser extent, Tom Hanks does this too. Actor-turned-director Marielle Heller’s third feature film explores Mr. Rogers’s impact from an unlikely perspective: That of a cynical journalist (Matthew Rhys) who was sent to interview him in the late ‘90s. Based on the true experiences of Rogers and former Esquire writer Tom Junod, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood will make you nostalgic for your childhood while also somehow hopeful for the future. (Crazy, I know!)
Yes, this is that movie where Julianne Moore dances. That is all the information you need.
Always Be My Maybe
Ali Wong needs to star in every movie, and Keanu Reeves needs to make a cameo in all of them. The Netflix flick is another perfect example of an easy, clever romantic comedy that will put you in a pleasant mood (and have you craving kimchi). And, I cannot stress this enough, KEANU.
This is one of the few Oscar contenders that will make you feel joy! The statute of limitations on Little Women spoilers probably passed around 1870, but I’ll be vague just in case — yes, that one thing does happen in the movie, too, but on the whole, the 2019 adaptation is like a cup of hot chocolate (with whipped cream!) on a cold snowy day. And ooh, a feminist twist …
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