Newflix is our weekly look at notable new titles available on online streaming sites.
Hot Girls Wanted (2015)
Directed by Ronna Gradus and Jill Bauer
Free for Netflix subscribers on Netflix streaming
Hot Girls Wanted, a new documentary following a group of young women doing amateur porn in Florida, is about as subtle as the industry it criticizes. There’s no mistaking its message: The amateur porn industry is exploitative and often abusive, luring in these women (most only 18 or 19) with promises of cash and freedom, then spitting them out only three months later—if they're “lucky” enough to even last that long. But its lack of nuance doesn’t make it any less powerful or upsetting (though the film does beg for a bit more balance and a bit less judgment). Filmmakers Ronna Gradus and Jill Bauer (Sexy Baby) and producer Rashida Jones have made an important, timely, if blunt-edged film, one that asks viewers to question our culture’s pervasive objectification of women within both porn and popular culture. Though Hot Girls Wanted’s Most Repulsive Character Award goes to Riley—a vacant 20-something who finds 18- and 19-year-olds on Craigslist, invites them to move into his equally vacant home, then proceeds to pimp them out to local purveyors and paw them relentlessly while taking a percentage of their earnings, and describes himself as “technically the shit”—the doc is rife with disturbing anecdotes and troublingly casual quotes from its featured actors. A scene in which a relative industry vet (at 25, she’s already described as a “MILF”) explains that watching a violent type of porn known as “facial abuse” will help dissuade young men from preying on young women is particularly chilling, and indicative of the kind of mass delusion the film accuses much of our society of operating under.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Free for Amazon Prime subscribers on Amazon
Enemy is one weird-ass movie. I believe my exact words upon viewing its ending were, “Wait. What the fuck just happened?” Whether it earns its balls-out crazy and inscrutable ending is still up in the air (at least for me, and I saw this movie many months ago), but the journey to that ending is eerie, mind-bending, bizarre, and pretty damn enjoyable. Enemy follows Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam, a history professor whose life is depressingly rote: wake up, teach a class, come home, broodingly bone significant other, repeat. But when he watches a movie recommended by a coworker, he notices that one of the bit actors is his exact doppelgänger, and reaches out to the man to arrange a meeting. I’ll stop there—it’s better to watch the rest of this film with as little info as possible—but suffice to say that Enemy works (for the most part) thanks to Villeneuve’s moody, tense direction, Gyllenhaal’s playing-against-type-twice performance, and a resistance to easy explanations that’s as infuriating as it totally fascinating.
Two Lovers (2009)
Directed by James Gray
Free for Amazon Prime subscribers on Amazon
Inspired by Dostoyevsky’s short story “White Nights,” Two Lovers is the sort of low-key romantic drama that’s becoming increasingly rare. The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix as, er, two lovers, both of whom are troubled individuals and who are horribly mismatched but can’t keep away from each other. Ah, young love! Joaquin is Leonard, a man whose fiancee left him several years back and who subsequently still lives with his parents; Michelle is the married neighborhood drug addict who catches his attention despite the fact that she’s a married drug addict and he’s just been set up with the sweet, beautiful Sandra (Vinessa Shaw). While other movies might mine this premise for some serious melodrama, Two Lovers doesn’t; instead, it treats the characters gently and non-judgmentally, and rarely devolves into cliche. It’s a quiet story about love, desire, and mental illness, with surprising and generously understated performances from its three leads.
Directed by Elliott Lester
Free for HBO subscribers on HBO Go on May 29
David Oyelowo recently told reporters he was “lonely” filming Nightingale. Makes sense—Oyelowo is the only actor in the film. Shot over three weeks on a single location and with a teeny-tiny budget, Nightingale is the work of first-time screenwriter Frederick Mensch; Mensch submitted his script to the Black List, where it was seen, among others, by producer Brad Pitt. Premiering tonight on HBO, the film is an intense, involving look at a deeply disturbed mind (an accidental theme of today’s Newflix). Nightingale centers on Oyelowo as Peter Snowden, a war veteran and supermarket clerk who lives with his elderly mother and is slowly descending into madness. Oyelowo, by all accounts, gives a completely disorienting and powerful performance, spending the duration of the movie talking to invisible people/entities and burrowing deeper into his own dissolving mind. Happy Friday!
Also new to streaming:
Lose your mind in the jungle in Apocalypse Now (Amazon Prime on June 1)…Audrey Hepburn presses pause on being a princess in Roman Holiday (Amazon Prime on June 1)…All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy in The Shining (Amazon Prime on June 1)…Time travel with teens in Project Almanac ($12.99 to buy on Amazon)…Mae Whitman is The Duff ($13.99 to buy on Amazon)…Pick a side in The People Vs. George Lucas (Netflix)…Cobie Smulders smolders (…sorry) in Results ($6.99 to rent on Amazon)…Get your Criterion Collection on with Breathless and Tokyo Story (Fandor)…