Newflix is our weekly look at notable new titles available on online streaming sites.
Two Days, One Night (2014)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
Free for Netflix subscribers on Netflix streaming (Ed. note: Netflix was supposed to have this up this week, but it’s been moved to August; it’s also available on Amazon for $6.99)
I’ve never been more in love with/blown away by Marion Cotillard than I was watching Two Days, One Night. As Sandra, a woman who’s just come out on the other side of a debilitating depression to find that her coworkers have opted to dismiss her rather than forgo their yearly bonuses, she’s a brittle branch in a strong wind, a profoundly sympathetic raw nerve of a woman trying to find the strength to crawl back to the surface. It’s her best work yet—it garnered her an Oscar nom—and it’s utterly heartrending. Sandra has exactly one weekend to convince her coworkers to save her job, and the Dardennes film each and every interaction with slightly shaky, verite-style camerawork that captures Sandra's desperation, waffling resolve, and unending struggles with the demons that still threaten to overcome her. It’s a simple film on its surface, but a wholly affecting one that meditates on everything from mental illness to community to social and moral obligation. As Mike put it in his 4 1/2-star, Essential-tagged review, it’s “an odyssey that, while never leaving a single small Belgian city, will cover just about the entire spectrum of human nature, at least as it relates to this particular moral dilemma.”
While We’re Young (2014)
Directed by Noah Baumbach
$12.99 to purchase on Amazon
I agree with Keith that the last act of While We’re Young—in which 40-something married couple Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts befriend the younger Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried and see their lives rapidly changing in ways they didn't expect—isn’t great. As he put it in his 3 1/2-star review, “Writer-director Noah Baumbach’s latest is a comedy of cross-generational exchange that’s smart, lively, and beautifully observed—until it sours in a final act that undoes much of what precedes it.” But let’s focus on the smart, lively, beautifully observed stuff, of which there’s an abundance. The performances of each of the leads are among their best—I’ve never been more charmed by Naomi Watts, more impressed by Amanda Seyfried’s restraint in a part that could’ve gone full-on cartoon, more suspicious of the generally open-hearted Adam Driver. Stiller seems something of a cipher for Baumbach to express his plentiful frustrations with the younger generation, which would be fine except for, you know, that whole final act thing. But on the whole this is an intelligent, funny, and moving film full of truths about the difficulty and beauty inherent in navigating intergenerational relationships—or really, just relationships in general.
Gett: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem (2015)
Directed by Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz
$3.99 to rent on Amazon
Gett: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem is the third in a series of films about Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz), an Israeli mother of four trapped in a loveless marriage with her long-time husband, Elisha (Simon Abkarian). As Noel explained in his 4-star review, it’s not essential to have seen the first two films to appreciate this one, almost all of which is set inside of a courtroom where people weigh in on the main characters’ relationship in order to help a group of rabbis determine whether to force Elisha to grant Viviane the divorce she's so desperate for. The film aims to showcase the problematic nature of orthodox divorce law, a patriarchal system that gives all agency to the man in the relationship, and it succeeds, with a touch of melodrama that feels earned—this shit is totally infuriating. Thanks to Elkabetz’s nuanced performance, title cards that indicate how much time is passing as Viviane waits for her freedom, and the innate unfairness and absurdity of the web she’s cau ght in, as Viviane begins to slowly unravel, you as the viewer start to feel like you’re losing it, too.
High Fidelity (2000)
Directed by Stephen Frears
Free for Netflix subscribers on Netflix streaming
Perhaps this pick seems a little obvious, but this past week, I found out my brother hadn’t ever seen High Fidelity, so there exists a contingent of humans who haven’t seen the early-aughts classic. If you’re one of them, here’s your chance to rectify that. High Fidelity stars (and was co-produced by) John Cusack as Rob, a Chicago-based used-record-store owner who’s just been dumped by his girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjelje). Cue existential crisis. Rob spends much of the movie in monologue mode, addressing his audience as he makes top five lists for everything from girlfriends to records to things he misses about Laura. It’s a quirky, strange, heartfelt, and self-aware film; it’s also a primarily happy one that still remains pleasantly cynical, a sort of British sensibility that comes from both its source material—Nick Hornby's 1995 novel—and director Stephen Frears. High Fidelity is a film about obsession for obsessives, people who burrow and bury themselves in pop culture to distract themselves from–and help heal—their pain. (So, all of us.)
Also new to streaming:
Get to know the badass women behind the ski masks in Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (Netflix)…Find out what you’re made of (Backstreet Boys, maybe?) while watching Backstreet Boys: Show ’Em What You’re Made Of (Netflix)…Get your weekly dose of David Lynch with Eraserhead (Fandor)…An American man joins freedom fighters in Libya in Point And Shoot (Netflix)…Follow six convicts at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in the unflinching doc The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison (Netflix)…Philip Seymour Hoffman is wonderful, as always, in A Most Wanted Man (Netflix)...Don’t forget to say the full title of Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Netflix)…