Netflix is amazing. Few people object to that. But as an independent artist, I'm especially grateful for the way that Netflix increases the reach of small-budget films. Movies that only get a limited-release, or only show up in high-falutin festivals, those are the movies that Netflix brings to the comfort of your living room. Or, in more cases, to the comfort of your mattress. Here are 5 films that you may not have heard of, but each one offers something really special. Some of them will make you laugh, some of them will make you cry, and each and every one showcases the beautiful flaws of the human experience.
Girl Most Likely
I saw a trailer for Girl Most Likely back when the Front Row application still existed on Mac computers. I was immediately sold. A film about a failed playwrightess, starring the impeccable Kristin Wiig and the dreamy, musical version of Harry Potter? Sold. One of my favorite features of any film is when the various, seemingly inane details become pivotal, climactic assets, and this film ties everything together in a lovely, touching bow. All of the characters are pretty great, but especially look forward to the comedic stylings of Imogene's mother and her live-in boyfriend. Their one-liners are on point. Also keep an eye out for OITNB’s Nikki, back before she was Nikki. Girl Most Likely is heartwarming, quirky, and powerfully resonant for those of us who do not have our shit together.
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Me and You and Everyone We Know is like the cuter, indie version of Valentine's Day, which is gross and commercial as everyone knows. This ensemble piece is super poignant and full of non-typical characters. It celebrates being different and explores the idea that everyone has things that they’re struggling with, even if they seem to have it all together on the outside. I’m also partial to this one because Miranda July wrote, directed, and stars in the film, which stirs my female writer, director, actress feelings of solidarity. Added bonus: the costuming, color palette, and overall aesthetic here is really different and cool.
If you love down-to-earth, realistic dialog, you will love Nebraska. I was turned on to this film by my dear friend, Chelsea Faber. We have very similar tastes so she thought I'd love it, and boy, was she right. Nebraska is the story of an older gentleman who decides to go on a 750-mile roadtrip to collect his prize from a questionable sweepstakes. He's accompanied by his adult son, and the journey bridges the gap between them. A classic narrative, sure, but in this case it feels totally fresh. This film is a gem. Its humor is totally relatable. Also, it's presented in black and white. Usually that's a trait of uber-artsy films, but in this case it somehow enhances the genuine, emotional material onscreen.
Definitely one of the most interesting movies about making music that I’ve seen. The story follows a band led by the fearless and mysterious Frank, a man who never removes his oversized false head. Literally, never. His band, made up of characters as eccentric as he is, spends several months living in a rented house in the middle of nowhere and writing the perfect album. You would think that having the male lead completely without facial expression would get boring, but it doesn't. In fact, it’s really mesmerizing.
These films are all great, so I don’t want to explicitly ordain that I’ve saved the best for last, but boy do I adore this movie. Another tip-off from Front Row, I went to see this one with my reluctant mom about two years ago. The film is set in a retirement home for professional musicians and vocalists. My mother anticipated that with the setting, and the fact that one of the main characters is plagued by Alzheimer's, this movie would be hard to watch. Quartet seemed like it would be sad, but instead revealed itself to be a full-on celebration of life. The film is Dustin Hoffman’s first work as a director and features Maggie Smith as the most famous of the title’s quartet. Most of the film's soundtrack is diegetic, meaning that the retired musicians are onscreen providing the music that underscores the dialog. A fun fact that my mom and I didn't realize until the end: basically everyone who plays a resident of the home IS in fact a retired professional musician. Look forward to the credits to see pictures of them in their 20 - 30’s next to captions citing their credentials. And prepare to cry, but the good kind of cry. The kind you expect when you go to a Pixar movie, because you know your heart will be aching and warm at the same time. This film lifts you up and makes you feel as if it’s never too late to do anything. Prepare your hearts, prepare your tissues.