Admittedly, I was unable to see as many new movies this year as I would’ve liked. But of those I did see, here are the ones that stuck out:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This black comedy crime film, written and directed by the writer-director of In Bruges, is reminiscent of Fargo and other Coen Brothers movies, but with slightly less eccentricities. The plot follows a defiant mother who posts billboard ads outside her town that accuse the local police of not doing enough to solve her daughter’s rape and murder case. I wouldn’t research too much before seeing this movie because certain spoilers would definitely affect the experience. But I will say that the story ebbs and flows with seemingly more, then less, then more complications, and it ends up being an emotional roller coaster. Standout performance from Frances McDormand, who consistently walks that fine line between serious and funny.
One of the most engaging biopics I’ve seen in a while, which is no surprise, considering how wild Tonya Harding’s life was. Even before her involvement with the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, she had overcome an unstable family, poverty, and domestic abuse to become one of the world’s top figure skaters of the early 90’s. This documentary-style movie is darkly comedic, largely due to the sometimes unbelievable situations Tonya finds herself in, but I would consider the overall tone to be quirky, which makes the drama even more fun to watch.
The Big Sick
This romantic comedy is based on the true story of how its writer, a Pakistani-American comedian, and his white-American wife fell in love and struggled with various family and culture clashes before a serious illness ultimately made them realize what was most important. But I hesitate to label this movie as a rom-com because it is actually funny, realistic, and raises awareness of important societal issues. A lot of the humor comes from the couple’s dialogue while they’re goofing around and acting silly, which is relatable. But then there are the scenes in which the comedian’s parents try to set him up with single women or casually assume that he’s going to law school, which are TOO relatable…
This timely comedy-thriller-horror is another film that is funny because it’s just too real. Scenes of racism are instantly recognizable within the satirical situations, and there is truly something for everyone to learn. All I will say about the plot, short of spoilers, is that when a black man meets his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, things take a very dark turn. Props to writer-director Jordan Peele for utilizing the horror genre in a way that can make audiences more uncomfortable and even fearful of systemic racism than of imaginary clowns.
Seriously one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. It was so delightful and moving to watch such a spot-on, accurate portrayal of what it feels like to transition from adolescence to womanhood and also the complicated relationship that daughters have with their mothers–we are often so close and have so much in common, that we sometimes forget that we are still immensely different people (yes, your mom is her own person, too!). The talented Saoirse Ronan plays a high school Senior in the early 2000’s, and her actions, dialogue, and mannerisms all build into this sense of nostalgia that is not simply used as a crutch for emotional reactions, but is warmly welcomed. Writer-director Greta Gerwig can do no wrong (I especially love her in Frances Ha, Mistress America, and Damsels in Distress), and I only wish that this movie had been extended to 472 hours. You’ve probably heard by now the number of times Dave Matthews’ “Crash Into Me” is featured, but I was also pleasantly surprised by Stephen Sondheim’s role.
For more entertainment options, you can find my 2017 top picks for TV here.