Scene Selections: Now Streaming
Scene, providing you with three obscure and artsy films that you didn’t know you needed.
“Frances Ha” on Netflix
By Ryan Israel, Scene Editor
The 2013 dramedy “Frances Ha” was the first collaboration for Hollywood’s auteur super couple, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. Gerwig co-wrote and starred as the film’s leading lady, Frances Halladay, while Baumbach co-wrote and directed. For fans of either of the stars’ Oscar-nominated 2019 films, “Marriage Story” (Baumbach) or “Little Women” (Gerwig), “Frances Ha” is well worth the watch, full of the elements that made their most recent films shine.
“Frances Ha,” a film set in black and white — so get over it — follows a dancer in her late 20s as she struggles to make ends meet, maintain friendships and find a steady place to live. It doesn’t have a strong narrative drive, seemingly floating from one sequence to another like a French New Wave film, but it’s unified in its focus on the titular character, who’s brought to life by Gerwig’s phenomenal performance. Gerwig keeps the flighty, light-headed Frances from coming across as a complete ditz, bringing out her character’s heart and making it hard to root against her. Although Gerwig hadn’t planned on playing Frances while she was writing the character, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” on Netflix
Jake Winningham, Associate Scene Editor
“This is a dark f—ing period!”
Leave it to Dewey Cox himself to tell you exactly what’s going on, shouting out the above line as he spirals further and further into — you guessed it — a dark period of his life. Played with absurdist aplomb by John C. Reilly in an all-too-rare starring role, the eponymous hero of “Walk Hard” is a one-man take on an entire 30-year stretch of popular music: sending up Johnny Cash, the Beatles and Brian Wilson all in a single performance. A commercial bomb and mild critical success upon its release, “Walk Hard” has nevertheless slowly grown a reputation thanks to periodic Netflix rereleases and a dedicated cadre of Very Online critics and Twitter-heads. The movie has a “so-dumb-it’s-smart“ quality which allows it to aim directly at rock stars and the industry that makes them. A scene featuring Dewey bringing in increasingly exotic animals to help record a single song seems ridiculous, but no more so than the real-life story behind “Pet Sounds.”
Reilly’s pitch-perfect take on “white-guy-with-guitar self-righteousness” is aided by a crack team of comedic supporting actors and one-off cameos. Margo Martindale and Raymond Barry are hilarious as Dewey’s parents, while the parade of stars playing the musical heroes of yesteryear — Jack White as a karate-kicking Elvis! Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly! Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Jason Schwartzmann and Justin Long as the Beatles in one of the best scenes ever put to celluloid! — lends unpredictability to a movie that works better as a set of sketches rather than a closed narrative.
That same improv-heavy feel is what sets “Walk Hard” apart from its peers; even more so than the music biopics that it ostensibly scoffs at, the movie preempts the genre of the music-world farce, simultaneously obviating the affected quirk of “A Mighty Wind” and the brainless febrility of “Popstar.” Among rock parodies, only “Spinal Tap” — in its unparalleled quotability and genuine cinematic excellence — is left unaffected by the long shadow of “Walk Hard.” Packed from frame-to-frame with visual gags and jokes that require multiple rewatches to catch, “Walk Hard” is a movie seemingly built for streaming — whether you watch it all at once in or in chunks, each scene of the film rewards viewers. Even the dark periods.
“In Bruges” on HBO Max
By Nick Brigati, Scene Writer
If one watches the film “In Bruges” expecting just another “vanilla” crime thriller, she/he will be sorely mistaken. This dark comedy crime film from director Martin McDonagh tells the story of a hitman by the name of Ray (Colin Farrell) and his partner Ken (Brendon Gleeson) who, after a job goes awry, must hide out in Bruges, of all places. We soon learn, though, that the two were sent to Bruges by their crime boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) after Ray accidentally murdered a little boy while carrying out a hit (a detail not revealed until a third of the way into the film).
The main entertainment in this fairy-tale medieval town, however, comes from the conversations that occur between the protagonists and the reality that they just can’t seem to fit in. From arguing with obese American tourists to snorting cocaine with midgets, it seems the two have become out of touch with civilian life due to their profession of murder, leading to quite a few laughs throughout the film. The film’s script especially deserves praise, being dialogue-heavy but just as entertaining as any action-packed film. It also effectively ties together the various subplots of the film towards a conclusion which some may find unsatisfying but is ultimately fitting in its ambiguity. Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes do a stellar job of showing psychopathic murders that are more nuanced than one tends to see in film, and Colin Farrell delivers what may be his best performance yet.
“In Bruges” is truly a joyride of a film, capable of both making you laugh and cry while also being on the edge of your seat, and is one you will surely want to come back to.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.