I often worry about watching any independent films, you know, with the lack of MPAA ratings and such. Also, some of them tend to apparently believe that you need to be avant-garde or raunchy and "cutting-edge" to be good. So, I stick to those that are recommended, or you can tell by the trailers will be okay. Speaking of trailers, I've included the trailers as well.
Anyhow, I've recently watched three very different, but all superb indies.
1. "An Education"
Firstly, this has a stellar cast - Carey Mulligan (one of the Bennet sisters in P&P), Olivia Williams (who I loved in Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse"), Alfred Molina, and Rosamund Pike (also from P&P, she's so luminescent!), and the superb Emma Thompson. Those were just the names I recognized.
Carey plays Jenny, a 16-soon-to-be-17-year-old student working toward being accepted into Oxford. You're not quite sure how much of this is because she wants to, or her father (Molina) wants her to.
Then she meets David Goldman, an adventurous man over twice her age. David is played beautifully by Peter Sarsgaard (and by beautifully, I mean it's a nuanced and complex performance). Jenny gets caught up in David's world with his friends Helen (Pike) and Danny (played by Dominic Cooper, who seems to just ooze sex appeal with no apparent effort).
I have to admit, I got concerned that this was glorifying what I saw as a potentially dangerous and very inappropriate relationship, but, without spoiling anything, it's not.
I really enjoyed this and found it very touching.
7 out of 10.
This movie was so fantastically realized! "Twilight" fans will know Elizabeth Reasor, but only by name. She is wonderfully unrecognizable as German immigrant, Inge, who has come as a postal bride for Olaf, a Norwegian farmer in rural Minnesota. The problem is she has arrived post World War I and Germans are viewed with, at the very least, suspicion, if not outright hostility. Alan Cuming is uncharacteristically subdued as Frandsen, Olaf's more outspoken friend. He's married to level-headed Brownie, played by Alex Kingston (who, I guess, was on ER).
Listen, all the performances in this movie are exceptional, from the accents that almost everyone has (American, German, Norwegian, and in between), to the quiet yet compelling realization of their divers characters. But, above and beyond all these is Tim Guinee, who plays quiet Olaf. To have very few lines and have to act almost everything out through looks and reactions, but still get across what you need to is so underappreciated it's almost laughable. His performance is sweet, but strong, a bit naive, but smart. I just can't see enough good things about him - just watch this sweet sweet love story.
Be warned the first 9 minutes are a bit jumbled and a little confusing. Let me save you some headache. An older Lars, at the death of older Inge, remembers when Olaf died a few decades before that Inge told him about how they met. Then you get into the actual story. Get past the first 9 minutes (watch it, it comes around in the end), but just hang in there.
8 out of 10 stars
I cannot say enough good things about this film. Rochel, an orthodox Jew, and Nasira, a Muslim, both work at an elementary school in Brooklyn. We first see them at a meeting where they are all learning how they'll have to deal with many cultural differences in the student body. They strike up a friendship that only strengthens when they both go through their culture's different paths to a somewhat arranged marriage.
It's a quiet movie about two women who want to be strong and also honor their culture, religion, and heritage. If you've ever been on the receiving end of "helpful intolerance" (you know, those people who try to help you escape what they see as an oppresive and unsatisfactory life), you'll empathize when the principal tries to chat with these two teachers and "help" them out. Having said that, there aren't any bad guys (not even the principal) - just people with different lifestyles and viewpoints trying to interact and get along. It does all this without being maudlin, it even pokes fun at it a little when Rochelle and Nasira are at a park and their younger family members are playing and Nasira says, "someone should be shooting a world peace commercial right now."
A beautiful movie! 9 out of 10 stars.