Friday, July 1, 2016

Netflix This Movie! Vol. 184

by Patrick Bromley
Our Netflix picks return to normal with some alternatives to current releases.

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!


  1. "While You Were Sleeping" has the distinction of being the only movie with a filming location of "Portage Park" on IMDb." It was weird because they went in and renovated somebody's house to look the way they wanted it to look. I still haven't seen the movie and I don't know if the kitchen in that house still looks the same either.

  2. While you Were Sleeping is my favorite romantic comedy and probably the one movie I've seen more times than any other film.

    And that's my confession folks.

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  5. Just listened to the Watchmen podcast. Patrick, I think the movie's inherent limitation as a cultural event was (and remains) the fact that the book was the Dr. Strangelove of graphic novels: Alan Moore wanted to write about the horrific potential of nuclear war, and the Cold War turning white-hot, and he did so with a superhero story, because that was the medium's dominant story framework.

    Movies, however, have historically been dominated by adults talking to each other. And by the time Watchmen the movie came out, the movies had produced not only Dr. Strangelove but also Fail-Safe, the Cameron Terminators, Miracle Mile, the TV movie The Day After (which Reagan watched in the White House and was shook by), War Games, Thirteen Days, and no doubt many more. Not to mention the fact that the book took place in (an alternate) present, but the movie was a period piece, released a full generation after people largely stopped worrying about Global Thermonuclear War. Given such real-world context, how could it have made anywhere near as big a relative splash as the book?

  6. I can see a few recommendations for future Netflix columns coming from this small collection of gems. Netflix becomes exclusive streaming home of Albert Brooks' entire directorial filmography (at least in the US).

  7. Speaking of Bill Pullman comedy performances (and questionable role choices)....what does everyone think of the last great homage to stalking, "Mr. Wrong"?

    1. It's been a while, but all I remember is almost a perfection of miscasting, with both him & Ellen (her less so, certainly) creating a black hole of weird yuck. Or - can you call it miscasting when the whole movie shouldn't have been made?

  8. I just rewatched Zero Effect for the first time in years and was delighted by how it held up; even Ben Stiller's overexposed mug didn't bother me much, since Kim Dickens and Bill Pullman are doing much more subtle stuff with their characters. It feels like a perfect Pullman role, he gets to be very contained and then very silly by turns.