Before you turn on your television, iPad or laptop this weekend and drown in options, The Globe and Mail presents three best cinematic bets that are worth your coveted downtime – no commute to the movie theatre required.
Well, it finally happened: the unparalleled Laura Dern won an Oscar, her first, for her role as a sexy divorce lawyer in Marriage Story. It was a fine performance, but her win felt symbolic, a statue for her entire career, which has hit a zenith in the past couple years. If you’re new to the Dern-iverse, or primarily associate her with David Lynch or Jurassic Park, I beg of you: watch Enlightened. The HBO comedy/drama that premiered in 2011 stars Dern as Amy Jellicoe, a corporate stooge-turned-whistle-blower. Created by Mike White, who also plays Amy’s meek co-worker, Enlightened is gorgeous and multifaceted – the rare series that manages to be serious without being dark and gloomy. The show kicks off when Amy is sent to a corporate rehab facility after suffering a nervous breakdown, and upon her return to the office (in a demoted position), she stubbornly insists on optimism and idealism in a plainly soul-crushing work environment. Enlightened is beautiful, but it’s a heartbreaker.
Two Lovers (Amazon Prime)
Here’s another opportunity to see a newly minted Oscar-winner in a different light. Joaquin Phoenix may have won for his bombastic performance in Joker, but his efforts in James Gray’s 2008 feature Two Lovers are far more effective. The film centres on a sad sack of a man named Leonard Kraditor (Phoenix) who lives with his parents in Brighton Beach and works in his father’s dry cleaning store. Leonard clearly has problems – the movie opens with a suicide attempt – but Gray declines to name them. Unlike Joker director and co-writer Todd Phillips, Gray doesn’t put mental illness in a frame. Instead, it permeates the atmosphere of Two Lovers, in which Leonard is caught between two women – the lovely brunette daughter of his father’s business partner (Vinessa Shaw), and the volatile blonde who lives upstairs (Gwyneth Paltrow). Isabella Rossellini is characteristically excellent as Leonard’s sympathetic mother. The film is like the anti-Joker: What it lacks in fireworks and fight scenes it makes up for in feeling.
The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
All right, the Oscars are over. Awards season is over. Democracy is over – wait, this took a turn. Seriously though, folks, if your outrage needs an outlet, plug it right into The Good Fight. A spin-off of the long-running CBS drama The Good Wife, this one centres on D.C. lawyer Diane Lockhart (our lord and saviour Christine Baranski) as she slowly spirals into a paranoid rage. The series, which premiered in 2017 and returns for a fourth season sometime in the spring, kicks off with Donald Trump’s inauguration, and it’s the rare show to benefit from its explicit engagement with real-life politics. Plot-wise, The Good Fight is driven by the addlebrained logic of the Trump administration – it veers and swerves into unexpected places and rarely stops to catch its breath. In one season, Diane starts microdosing on psychedelics; in another, she joins the #resistance, literalized as a group of female vigilantes. There are no practical solutions here, but like a good hallucinogenic, it’ll take the edge off.
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