by Patrick Bromley
While You Were Sleeping (1995, dir. Jon Turteltaub) Bill Pullman is maybe the only thing I liked about the execrable Independence Day: Resurgence, but mostly his performance made me long for the days of the mid '90s when he was regularly cast as a leading man. He's an unconventional pick for a romantic comedy lead, more often cast as the "wrong" guy than the one who gets the girl, which is what makes his casting in the sweet and slight While You Were Sleeping unexpected and wonderful. I've said before that Sandra Bullock is a brown sweater of a person in this movie and I mean it as a total compliment; I'm not sure she's ever been more appealing. I dislike the whole "lying about the guy in a coma" premise of the film, but the characters are so winning and the performances so likable that I end up really liking it as a romantic comedy. Plus it's shot in Chicago during the winter.
The Overnight (2015, dir. Patrick Brice) If you've already finished watching the latest season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix (it's good!), check out Taylor Schilling in last year's indie sex comedy about two couples (Schilling and Adam Scott, Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche) get together and try to prove something to each other and themselves about their sexuality. Brice's feature is uneven, but there are good performances and some truly funny moments, plus some interesting ideas about how kids change our routines and how it can be difficult for grown ups to make new friends once we reach a certain age.
Ned Rifle (2014, dir. Hal Hartley) The third and final film in Hal Hartley's Henry Fool trilogy (following Henry Fool and Fay Grim) finds the son of Henry and Fay Grim (Parker Posey) searching for his father with plans to kill him. Along the way he meets Susan (Aubrey Plaza), an obsessive fan of Henry Fool who accompanies him on his journey. Hal Hartley is not for all tastes, and his most recent work isn't as strong as his earlier stuff, but there's a lot to appreciate about Ned Rifle. I like that each film in his trilogy focuses on a different character in the story. And while Aubrey Plaza has gotten pretty overexposed in a very specific type of role (including the upcoming and seemingly terrible Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) this one puts her brand of deadpan darkness to good use.
The Duke of Burgundy (2014, dir. Peter Strickland) On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from something slight and commercial like While You Were Sleeping is Peter Strickland's romantic drama The Duke of Burgundy, a gorgeously photographed story of a dominant/submissive relationship between two women (Chiara D'Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen). The movie is eccentric and beautiful and unusually adult in the way that it examines love and relationships. It's heavy stuff, but super rewarding. Plus, there's not a single man anywhere in the movie. Take that, boys!