Movies you might like on a cold winter’s night.
Another Year is a movie by director Mike Leigh. Because it is a British movie, the acting is fantastic and the actors actually look like regular people. It’s a year in the life of a married couple and the unmarried people that they take care of (one way or another).
The most prominent single is Mary, Gerri’s past-her-prime coworker and friend of 20 years. Mary is a woman who drinks a bit too much and doesn’t make the smartest choices in life, especially in regards to men. This we are either told or shown, cringingly so when she makes a ploy for Joe, Tom and Gerri’s 30 year-old son. She does not desire to lure him out of pride, but because she is desperately lonely and unhappy. Eve Tushnet said that the movie comes off as smug because it’s about a happy family surrounded by unhappy singles, but the fact is, much of Mary’s unhappiness is due to her own choices. At some point, Gerri tells her “you must take responsibility for your actions!”
In fact it is refreshing to be shown a happily married couple who are warm and hospitable, but who set limits on how much bad behavior they will tolerate. They have sympathy for the singles in their lives, but they are not doormats. They are strong both as individuals and as a couple. No, the movie doesn’t really show much of how happy single people can be outside of romantic relationships, but that’s not what it’s about. Rather, watching it, one wishes all singles had friends like Tom and Gerri in their lives.
I can imagine how Frances Ha* came to be. The writers must have been sitting around, discussing Girls, and wondering what that story would be like if the protagonist wasn’t a total narcissist. The two even share an actor (Adam Driver), surely not a coincidence. Like Girls, Frances Ha is about a young woman (played by Greta Gerwig) in her 20s who lives in Brooklyn and can’t seem to get her life together. Unlike Girls, however, the characters are actually likable.
At its core, the movie is about the holes in Frances’ life. Her best friend gets a boyfriend and Frances feels the sting of being replaced in her best friend’s affections. She is mostly without an apartment throughout the movie. Frances is broke because she is desperately trying to make her career dreams come true.
There is some discussion as to whether the ending was earned or not (it ends on a positive note), and I do think that it was, because things start to change for the better after she begins to take the advice of a mentor, and she is able to be of value to her community (as opposed to hanging on to her fantasies of what her life should be). The resolution of what happens with her best friend feels true, even if the circumstances depend on coincidence.
I also appreciate that unlike Girls, there is a minimum of “celebrated” promiscuous sex, tho certainly the characters do not subscribe to traditional views on the subject.
*Why the weird name? You have to watch the last scene to find out.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a classic, both in regards to the “romantic comedy” category, as well as in the American Orthodox world, since it’s about religious Greeks and contains such scenes as a baptism (played mostly for laughs, but still).
I recently re-watched it and noticed just how silly the romance itself is. When they first start dating, Toula (Nia Vardalos) shows almost no personality or wit and yet the audience is expected to believe that charming Ian (John Corbett) is blown away by her beauty, wit, smarts, and can’t wait to kiss her.
It’s pretty much an ugly-duckling fantasy. Ian goes along with whatever wacky things stand in his way to marry Toula. Join weird family? No problem. Get baptized? Sign me right up. We don’t see any hesitation or understanding from Ian about what he’s doing.
No, the reason to watch this movie is to laugh and fall in love with Toula’s family, who are the stars of the show anyway. Even if you don’t come from an ethnic family, it’s relatable, and it’s clear that Vardalos, who wrote the movie, loves those characters even as she pokes great fun at them.
I definitely recommend watching it just for the sheer quotability.