The best comedy movies on Hulu

The best comedy movies on Hulu

Clockwise from top left: Booksmart (Annapurna Pictures);  Super (IFC);  Sorry To Bother You (Annapurna Pictures); Palm Springs (Hulu); Tragedy  Girls (Gunpowder & Sky); Chicken Run (Dreamworks  Pictures); Hitch  (Columbia Pictures)
Clockwise from top left: Booksmart (Annapurna Pictures); Super (IFC); Sorry To Bother You (Annapurna Pictures); Palm Springs (Hulu); Tragedy Girls (Gunpowder & Sky); Chicken Run (Dreamworks Pictures); Hitch (Columbia Pictures)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular movie? Click the author’s name at the end of each slide for some in-depth coverage from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as films come and go.

Some titles on this list also appear on our best movies on Hulu list, but we decided comedies deserved their own spotlight since dramas are often included on our year-end lists far more than comedies. The criteria for inclusion here is that (1) the film is available with the basic Hulu subscription; (2) the film is classified by Hulu as a comedy—a very broad term for them, apparently; (3) The A.V. Club has written critically about the movie; and (4) if it was a graded review, it received at least a “B.” Some newer (and much older) movies will be added over time as Hulu announces new additions to their library. (And we aren’t exagerating about the broad definition of “comedy.” We would not say The Cabin In The Woods or The Measure Of A Man are comedies, but here we are.)

Looking for other movies to stream? Also check out our list of the best movies on Amazon Prime, best movies on Disney+, best movies on HBO Max, and best movies on Netflix list. And if you’re looking to laugh, check out our list of the best Netflix comedy specials and the best comedy movies on Netflix.

This list was most recently updated Oct. 1, 2020.

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2 Days In Paris

2 Days In Paris

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Screenshot: 2 Days In Paris

On paper, Julie Delpy’s 2 Days In Paris might well read like a light French farce, full of wacky characters and playful relationship banter that only turns serious toward the end of the film. The reality is much more raw. Playing a thirtysomething couple making a brief stopover in Paris after a vacation to Italy, Delpy (Before Sunrise) and co-star Adam Goldberg snipe at each other with casual venom, refusing to acknowledge or accede to each other’s calls for comfort or reassurance. When he says she’s special, she shoots back “Like in the retarded way, which is why I’m going out with you.” When she gives him more information than he wants about something, he says “It’s like dating public television.” They both seem a little neurotic and a little self-centered, but mostly, after two years together, they’ve apparently run out of reasons to be kind. And while their give-and-take is almost playful, both actors put an uncomfortable edge on it, fit to keep viewers squirming with alternate waves of sympathy and disgust. [Tasha Robinson]

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3 / 48

Bolt

Bolt

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Image: Bolt

When Disney disbanded its cel-animation unit and went full CGI, its feature cartoons—Chicken Little, The Wild, Meet The Robinsons—began to seem painfully calculated and pandering, more an attempt to catch up with the burgeoning kid-film market than to lead it. Bolt was the studio’s first film since Lilo & Stitch that felt like it was trying to recapture the old Disney instead of aggressively shedding it in favor of something slick and new. And yet it comes with a healthy cutting-edge Pixar flavor as well. It’s tempting to lay both aspects firmly at the feet of John Lasseter, the Pixar honcho who became Disney Animation’s chief creative officer when Disney bought Pixar; in spite of its mostly animal protagonists, Bolt has a humanity rarely seen in the CGI world outside of Pixar’s features. [Tasha Roberston]

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Booksmart

Booksmart

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Photo: Booksmart (Annapurna Pictures

Booksmart manages to be both sensitive to changing social mores and laugh-out-loud funny at the same time, launching a new chapter in director Olivia Wilde’s career while redefining the “one crazy night” teen movie for Generation Z. The film is predicated on upending stereotypes about both popular and unpopular high school kids, and makes a point of establishing sympathy with even its most cartoonish characters. But this isn’t a group therapy session: Sex, drugs, booze, mean girls, and earth-shattering betrayals all still come into the equation. It’s just that in 2019, the kids running off into the suburban night trying to avoid getting busted for underage drinking self-identify as intersectional feminists. [Katie Rife]

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The Cabin In The Woods

The Cabin In The Woods

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Photo: The Cabin In The Woods

Where Scream put a postmodern twist on slasher films, The Cabin In The Woods takes on the whole genre and twists even harder. Director Drew Goddard, screenwriter of Cloverfield and a veteran of Lost and Alias, co-wrote the film’s script with Joss Whedon, who worked with him on Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. The script brings to the fore Whedon’s love of subverting clichés while embracing them and teasing out their deeper meaning. [Keith Phipps]

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The Catechism Cataclysm

The Catechism Cataclysm

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Screenshot: The Catechism Cataclysm

Todd Rohal’s gleefully dopey comedy The Catechism Cataclysm opens with bumbling priest Steve Little telling his congregation a funny story that has no real point and no scriptural application. The rest of the movie follows suit. The plot kicks in when Little (best known for playing Kenny Powers’ dim-witted yes-man on Eastbound & Down) emails old acquaintance Robert Longstreet, and invites him to spend an afternoon canoeing. Little remembers Longstreet from high school as a great short-story writer and musician, but since graduation, Longstreet has been working as a spotlight-operator on lame national tours, completely unaware that he’s been such an inspiration to a guy he barely knew. As they float down the river, Little reveals how endearingly ignorant he is about how the world works, while Longstreet enjoys having someone to talk to—even though Little complains that none of Longstreet’s stories have proper endings. All is well until the boys can’t find their exit point. [Noel Murray]

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Chicken Run

Chicken Run

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Screenshot: Chicken Run (Aardman Animation

Beyond the eye-popping visuals, Chicken Run offers an endlessly clever extended riff on The Great Escape, recasting the German POW camp as a Yorkshire coop and allowing plenty of room for Park’s signature schemes and gizmos. Imagining Steve McQueen as one in a flock of rotund chickens with tiny legs and prominent teeth, the story begins with a hilarious montage of failed attempts by the plucky Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha) to escape Tweedy’s Egg Farm. Help arrives in the form of a brash American circus rooster named Rocky (Mel Gibson), who promises to teach the timid, earthbound creatures how to fly. Their plans become more urgent when the farm’s nefarious owner (Miranda Richardson) decides to boost sagging profits by running the fattened chickens through a giant pie-making machine. [Scott Tobias]

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Colossal

Colossal

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Photo: Colossal (Neon

Colossal’s early April release date all but eliminated star Anne Hathaway from the 2017 awards-season conversation, which is a shame because she turns in a witty, sympathetic performance as Gloria, a self-destructive alcoholic who discovers that she has a psychic connection to the giant monster who started ravaging Seoul right around the time she moved back home in disgrace. At first, this high-concept sci-fi drama appears to be pushing a straightforward (and rather obvious) metaphor for alcoholism. But by the surprisingly moving final scene, Nacho Vigalondo, who wrote as well as directed the film, deftly pivots it into a much more interesting statement about toxic masculinity, as well as a character study of a woman taking back her life from the forces, both internal and external, that want to tear her down. [Katie Rife]

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Force Majeure

Force Majeure

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Screenshot: Force Majeure

For a fleeting moment, one could reasonably mistake Force Majeure for a disaster movie. Certainly, its characters might wonder, through their panic and fear, if they’ve somehow stumbled into one. The pivotal scene arrives early, on the second day of a blissful family vacation. Seated for a relaxing lunch on the terrace of a French ski resort, married Swedish parents Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are alarmed by the rapid approach of snow, tumbling down the adjacent slope in their general direction. As the wall of white seems to close in on them, expanding outward with menacing speed, Thomas makes an instinctual flee for safety, completely abandoning Ebba and their two young children. The avalanche, as it turns out, is controlled; what looks like certain doom is just a false alarm, a dramatic billow of powder. But as the smoke clears, so too does any illusion Ebba might have held about Tomas and his paternal instincts. There’s no going back from such a flagrant act of self-preservation, however involuntary it might have been. [A.A. Dowd]

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Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids

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Screenshot: Friends With Kids

While it’s true that most romantic comedies merely make minor tweaks to a rusted-out formula, it’s also true that many critics approach rom-coms with a sense of eye-rolling obligation, while solidly unspectacular movies like Lockout get praised to the skies. There’s formula in Jennifer Westfeldt’s directorial debut, but feeling as well. And anyone who thinks it’s far-fetched to see two friends of opposite gender agreeing to raise a child while they continue to date other people hasn’t touched base with single urbanites in their late 30s recently. (It’s absurd, but only by about 10 percent.) If nothing else, the film deserves endless praise for its bombshell kicker, a final line that blasts through the coy innuendo at the heart of most screen romances. [Sam Adams]

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Greener Grass

Greener Grass

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Screenshot: Greener Grass

Greener Grass isn’t quite at the level of Wet Hot American Summer, but its cracked sensibility has far more artistic ambition than the average cringe-fest. Writer-directors Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe star as suburbanite moms nursing despair and desperation beneath their clenched, forced smiles, and though the plot turns are often surrealistically outlandish (one mother politely gives away her baby, and regrets it; another child seems to turn into a dog), they pulse with a genuine anxiety that goes beyond deadpan subversion of conventional narrative. It may feel a little overextended at 95 minutes, but DeBoer and Luebbe sustaining it so well beyond 10 is a testament to their talent. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Heathers

Heathers

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Screenshot: Heathers

Heathers isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch: The heavily worked-over ending feels frantic and rushed, not the exclamation point it needed to be, and the dialogue occasionally crosses the line between clever and overly pleased with itself. (Call it “The Diablo Cody Threshold.”) Yet coming at the end of the ’80s, Heathers still stands out for questioning the prevailing stereotypes of teen movies rather than accepting them as a given. Two decades later, the Hughes model of teen comedy/dramas is still pervasive, but the goings-on at Westerburg High have only gained in potency, perhaps because so few movies have had the courage (or the approval) to follow Heathers’ lead. “It’s not very subtle,” as J.D. says, “but neither is blowing up a whole school.” [Scott Tobias]

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High-Rise

High-Rise

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Photo: High-Rise

High-Rise, a darkly funny adaptation by cult English director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field In England) of the J.G. Ballard novel of the same title, preserves the book’s ’70s setting, steeping its vision of a toppling society in retro decadence. Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston, very good), a bachelor physiologist from apartment 2505, watches as the titular building regresses into a Mad Max-esque wasteland of garbage barricades, raiding parties, and literal class warfare following a few blackouts and a problem with the trash chute—a descent into collective madness that High-Rise underplays and elides to surreal (and audience-defying) effect. Wheatley’s use of ellipses and his overall refusal to do anything that might suggest a point of view or invite identification skirt incoherence. As in Ballard’s novel, the building isn’t just a dystopian microcosm of alienation and stratification, with the wealthiest living at the top. It also seems to create a new reality of its own: a killer cocktail of claustrophobia, stylishness, and oblique irony. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Hitch

Hitch

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Photo: Hitch

Hitch mainly it sells the formidable brand that is Will Smith, who produced the film and stars in a role that expertly exploits the immense likeability and non-threatening charm that’s made him an icon. He’s also found the perfect partner in Stuck On You’s Eva Mendes, a radiant combination of nuclear sexuality and unforced sweetness. By making Smith a professional cupid of sorts, the filmmakers have pushed the mechanics of romance to the forefront, a move that pays off in a lively early Smith/Mendes exchange that doubles as flirtation and a sort of meta-commentary on flirtation. Smith’s professional wisdom seldom transcends the kind of advice found in the average women’s magazine, but there’s precious little mystery to love in romantic comedies, where the path to romantic bliss generally runs a course as predictable as a mathematical equation. The real mystery in Hitch is how a comedy so formulaic can be so seductive. The answer has a lot to do with intangible qualities like chemistry and charisma, as well as the gullible heart’s strange power to override the strenuous objections of the skeptical mind. [Nathan Rabin]

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Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Hunt For The Wilderpeople

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Photo: Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Hunt For The Wilderpeople, an enjoyably goofy adventure that manages to bring some freshness to the moldy “cantankerous adult reluctantly bonds with adorable kid” subgenre. Starring Sam Neill as the cantankerous adult, the film plays a bit like Jurassic Park minus Lex and dinosaurs, mining humor from the incongruity of its odd-couple pairing and basic fish-out-of-water elements, plus some Flight Of The Conchord-ish wit. [Mike D’Angelo]

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I, Tonya

I, Tonya

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Screenshot: I, Tonya

From the opening minutes of Craig Gillespie’s unreliably narrated, glibly entertaining biopic I, Tonya, it’s clear that Margot Robbie has disappeared into the role of disgraced figure skater and pop culture punching bag Tonya Harding. It’s not a precise imitation: However hard the wardrobe and makeup teams have worked to deglamorize this glamorous Hollywood star, she still doesn’t look much like the person she’s playing—a truth reinforced by the obligatory, closing-credits appearance by the real Harding, conquering the ice in archival footage. But as she wraps her mouth around a cigarette, a cornpone accent, and some well-delivered profanity, Robbie channels the antagonistic, take-no-shit attitude of her infamous “character,” while adding notes of disappointment and even dignity missing from every headline or Hard Copy treatment of The Tonya Harding Story. In the process, the actor wrestles a rare role worthy of her abilities from an industry that’d just as soon keep her in bubbles. [A.A. Dowd]

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Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West

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Photo: Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West begins in media res, as Ingrid Thorburn (Aubry Plaza), her face stained with tears and her long dress covered with a dirty oversize sweatshirt, barges into a wedding to pepper-spray the bride, a woman we later find out she barely even knows. After a brief detour to the mental hospital, Ingrid is back home and back to her routine of stuffing limp convenience-store food into her mouth while obsessively scrolling through Instagram in her pajamas. Ingrid’s M.O. is mistaking social media likes for actual human connection—something she sorely lacks—and so it doesn’t take long for her to zero in on a new obsession, faux-hemian “influencer” Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). An innocent reply to a comment on Instagram later and Ingrid has cashed in her modest inheritance to move to L.A. and obsessively remake herself in Taylor’s image. This all happens within the first 10 minutes of the film, which devotes much of its running time to skewering the pretentious unpretentiousness of Taylor and her bearded and boat-shoe-clad husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell). The cast is uniformly strong, although Plaza does a lot of the dirty work as the desperate Ingrid, whose unnerving smile suggests that she could fall back into psychosis at any moment. [Katie Rife]

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The Interview

The Interview

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Photo: The Interview

Because many of the best jokes in The Interview have nothing to do with North Korea, it’s worth recapping the ancillary mayhem that the Sony hackers would have suppressed. Franco stars as Dave Skylark, the foppish, airheaded host of a celebrity gossip program. He scores a coup when Eminem, on camera, makes an offhand announcement that he’s gay, prompting elation in the control room. Another of Dave’s scoops involves Rob Lowe’s coming-out as a secret bald person (“His head looks like somebody’s taint!” someone from the booth exclaims). But Dave’s producer, Aaron (Rogen), yearns for credibility. A larky call lands them an interview with Kim Jong-un (Veep’s Randall Park, a worthy foil to his better-known co-stars), supposedly a Skylark superfan. Soon, the CIA turns up with a request that the two assassinate him. Much of the film is devoted to the hit-and-miss (but strangely moving) riffing between the leading men. [Ben Kenigsberg]

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It’s A Disaster

It’s A Disaster

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Screenshot: It’s A Disaster

An unusually eventful “couples brunch” among a neurotic group of bright, colorful friends is rudely interrupted by news of imminent apocalypse in It’s A Disaster, a droll social comedy about a party that takes a number of strange turns. It’s a smart, dark, tonally tricky affair about what happens when the bonds that hold civilization together come apart, whether through the impending divorce of a couple whose union helps keep a disparate group of friends together, or through some manner of dirty bomb or zombie attack. [Nathan Rabin]

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Lowlife

Lowlife

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Screenshot: Lowlife

This black comedy is set in the fleabag motels and greasy taco stands of working-class L.A. You can tell it was written by several people (a sketch comedy group, to be precise), but director Ryan Prows unites the film around its colorful characters, including standout performances from Nicki Micheaux as morally conflicted motel owner Crystal and Jon Oswald as Randy, the most lovable ex-con with a swastika face tattoo ever committed to film. (It makes sense when you see the movie, I promise.) [Katie Rife]

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Lucky

Lucky

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Photo: Lucky

It’s almost as if Harry Dean Stanton deliberately timed his death at 91 to coincide with the release of Lucky, a film expressly about coming to terms with the prospect that you will soon no longer exist. The directorial debut of ace character actor John Carroll Lynch (Marge’s husband in the movie Fargo, the creepiest suspect in Zodiac, etc.), this lightly eccentric, virtually plotless meditation on mortality would likely have attracted attention under any circumstances—indeed, even had it turned out to be terrible—simply because it offers Stanton his first leading role in a feature film since 1984’s Paris, Texas. (First-time screenwriters Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja reportedly conceived it with him in mind; it’s hard to imagine who else they might have turned to had he said “No.”) So it’s a remarkable gift to fans and cinephiles that Lucky serves as a first-rate showcase for its star as well as an ideal swan song. The man couldn’t have gone out any better. [Mike D’Angelo]

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The Measure Of A Man

The Measure Of A Man

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Photo: The Measure Of A Man

The Measure Of A Man’s French title has nothing to do with gender, in fact—the film was originally called La Loi Du Marché, which translates as The Law Of The Market. None too forgiving, that law. After being laid off from the factory where he’d toiled for decades, Thierry Taugourdeau (Vincent Lindon), who’s in his early 50s, spent more than a year completing a training course that doesn’t actually qualify him for anything, and he’s perceived as both too old and too financially needy for the sort of entry-level positions that are available to him. He finally manages to get hired as a security guard for a gigantic department store, but the victory is decidedly pyrrhic, as he now spends 40 hours per week busting people who are every bit as desperate and mortified as he had been prior to donning his uniform. Standing in the store’s back room, watching the interrogation of fellow employees who he’s caught tapping the till, he looks even more uncomfortable than he did waiting for that Skype interview call. Watching this passionate scrapper die inside after finally achieving his hard-fought goal is heartbreaking. For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the minimum wage, and lose his own soul? [Mike D’Angelo]

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Missing Link

Missing Link

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Image: A Mighty Wind

Now that every major studio produces big-screen computer-animated movies at least semi-regularly, it’s a small but appreciable miracle that stop-motion animated features still occasionally appear on thousands of screens nationwide. This doesn’t make them automatically good, but it does make them automatically different; has a stop-motion feature ever been described without using the word “painstaking”? This is not to say that Missing Link, the new stop-motion feature from the masters of the form at Laika, is a study in stillness. There are slapstick bar fights and actual cliff-hanging. There are celebrity voices, including Zach Galifianakis in full (if genteel) rambling mode. Even the animation itself is noticeably smoother than some past stop-motion classics, with animators’ fingerprints less visible just outside (or sometimes fully inside) the frame, as Laika continues to push forward with its own medium-specific technological advances. But the movie also has the freedom of its constraints. It operates on its own little wavelength, rather than broadcasting itself loudly. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Morning Glory

Morning Glory

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Photo: Morning Glory

Few actors have a narrower range than Harrison Ford. He doesn’t do accents. He doesn’t emote. He can’t be expected to display any real exuberance. Yet within that range, he can be immensely appealing: irascible yet charming, with a rogue’s smile. It’s been a while since Ford has been cast properly—or, let’s face it, has looked engaged in what he’s doing—but as a grizzled Dan Rather type in the smart, generously entertaining comedy Morning Glory, he reconnects to his inner Han Solo, accessing the loveable bastard that made him a movie star in the first place. And he has the perfect foil in Rachel McAdams, who stars as a TV news producer whose unflagging positivity and stick-to-it-iveness chip away at his defenses like a battering ram against a fortress wall. [Scott Tobias]

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Mortdecai

Mortdecai

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Photo: Mortdecai

Look, comedy’s highly subjective, and Johnny Depp’s aggressive onscreen quirkiness wore out its welcome about four Tim Burton movies ago. That’s all fine. Still, the violently negative reaction to director David Koepp’s adaptation of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s cult pulp novels seemed wildly out-of-proportion to the actual quality of the film, which is an uneven but mostly genially wacky globe-hopping adventure. The same critics who rightly pegged Koepp’s similarly hyperactive Premium Rush as a must-see somehow weren’t willing to extend the same goodwill to Mortdecai, even though it has the cinematic flourish and distinctive sensibility so often missing from modern movie comedies. Although it’s not exactly a criminally neglected masterpiece, this picture does stand a good chance of being a flop that gets an Ishtar/Hudson Hawk-style reassessment in the decades to come. [Noel Murray]

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The Overnight

The Overnight

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Photo: The Overnight

New to Los Angeles, where they don’t know a single soul, young parents Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are eager to make friends. So when they’re approached at the park by a fellow parent, the politely bohemian Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), the two accept without hesitation his friendly offer to have them over for dinner, where they can get to know each other while their sons enjoy an arranged playdate. Best case scenario, Emily figures, is that they expand their social circle. Worse case, they’re bored and go home early. There are, of course, multiple shapes an evening with strangers can take, and The Overnight, a sharp comedic export of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, counts on its audience to recognize famous last words when it hears them. The pleasure of the movie lies in the way it both rewards and subverts expectations, delivering on the risqué possibilities of its premise while also coming up with something smarter and a little deeper than a log line might suggest. [A.A. Dowd]

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Palm Springs

Palm Springs

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Photo: Palm Springs

Andy Samberg stars as Nyles, a slacker doofus stuck at a destination wedding in Southern California, which he’s attending as the date of a bridesmaid. Blithely wandering the reception in a loud and very informal short-sleeve shirt, Nyles clearly doesn’t have any fucks to give. But he also seems to have a suspiciously premonitory sense of how the night will play out. And before long, Palm Springs reveals the reason for both: He’s stuck in a time warp, waking up every morning to find himself still in Palm Springs on the morning of the wedding. The film employs its magical conceit as a multi-purpose metaphor for a long-term relationship. The flip side, of course, is that monogamy can leave you feeling as stuck as the characters, living the same day over and over again, with only your significant other for company. But Palm Springs wears all that baggage lightly. It’s a sadly rare thing: a sweet, madly inventive, totally mainstream romantic comedy, buoyed by inspired jolts of comic violence (some of them provided by J.K. Simmons as another wedding guest with a very big bone to pick with Nyles). [A.A. Dowd]

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Parasite

Parasite

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Photo: Parasite (Neon

The last time Bong Joon Ho made a parable of class warfare, he set it aboard one hell of a moving metaphor: a train looping endlessly around a frozen Earth, its passengers divided into cars based on wealth and status, upward mobility achieved only through lateral revolution. Parasite, the South Korean director’s demented and ingenious new movie, doesn’t boast quite as sensational a setting; it takes place mostly within a chicly modern suburban home, all high ceilings, stainless steel countertops, and windows instead of walls, advertising the elegant interior decoration within. But there’s a clear class hierarchy at play here, too; it runs top to bottom instead of front to back, vertically instead of horizontally. And though we’re watching a kind of warped upstairs-downstairs story, not a dystopian arcade brawler, Parasite races forward with the same locomotive speed as Snowpiercer, with plenty of its own twists and turns waiting behind each new door. [A.A. Dowd]

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Person To Person

Person To Person

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Screenshot: Person To Person

A sweet, light puff of a movie, Person To Person succeeds on the strength of its affection for shaggy-dog stories and the personalities who waltz in and out of them. In theory, it’s the sort of indie that’s already been done to death: an ensemble-cast love letter to the prickly character of New York. (Even worse, it’s shot on fuzzy Super 16mm.) But writer-director Dustin Guy Defa, a prolific director of short films making his first feature since 2011’s Bad Fever, has developed a feel for American eccentricity that brings to mind Jim Jarmusch and Richard Linklater in its best moments, albeit in a scruffier style. Taking its title from a superb, more or less unrelated short that Defa directed in 2014, the movie follows several stories, which are set over the course of a single day but don’t always overlap. It’s a film of ephemeral pleasures, adorned in a rich variety of voices, non-verbal gestures, and speech patterns: unfussy, unrushed, at times very funny. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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The Pirates! Band Of Misfits

The Pirates! Band Of Misfits

The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
Photo: Aardman Animations

Aardman Animations’ stop-motion releases like the Wallace & Gromit shorts, Chicken Run, and Shaun The Sheep are instantly recognizable for the almost exaggerated sense that every aspect of the production has been formed by hand, with the caricatured distortions of children’s drawings mixed with the fussy craft of a crocheted doily. That fussiness also extends to the studio’s house brand of humor, a precisely tuned blend of maiden-aunt primness and broad, goofy absurdism. All these familiar flavors are again front and center in The Pirates! Band Of Misfits, the feature that returns Aardman to theatrical stop-motion after the CGI of Arthur Christmas and Flushed Away. It also returns Aardman co-founder Peter Lord to the director’s chair for the first time since 2000’s Chicken Run. But it doesn’t feel like a return to form—or a new direction, though it’s Aardman’s first book-to-film adaptation, Hugh Grant’s first animated film, and the studio’s maiden foray into 3-D stop-motion. It still feels like a comfortable visit with an old friend. [Tasha Robinson]

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Playing It Cool

Playing It Cool

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Photo: Playing It Cool

The romantic comedy gets little love these days, and with understandable reason—its happily-ever-after formulas have grown so stale that it’s difficult to find much life amidst its predictable, robotic twists and turns. Playing It Cool does not dispense with the genre’s favorite clichés, and in fact, it embraces them wholeheartedly, from the charming hunk who’s more comfortable with one-night stands than commitment, to said protagonist serendipitously discovering his one-true-love, to the off-color banter with a group of wisecracking friends (in this case, Anthony Mackie, Topher Grace, Martin Starr, Aubrey Plaza, Luke Wilson, and Philip Baker Hall). Justin Reardon’s film is, on the face of it, just like the many other rom-coms that flood the multiplex each year. And yet despite its wholesale familiarity, it’s that rare effort that properly delivers the funny-and-amorous goods, thanks in large part to two headliners—Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan—with enough winning charisma, spot-on comedic timing, and natural chemistry to help invigorate its commonplace material. [Nick Schager]

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Plus One

Plus One

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Photo: Plus One

Ben (Jack Quaid) and Alice (Maya Erskine) are longtime friends who are both facing down a full summer’s worth of weddings, kicking off with the nuptials of a mutual friend. Because they’re both single—Ben bumbling (some might say picky) in his dwindling relationships, Alice still smarting from a major break-up—they cook up a plan to serve as each other’s plus-one, whenever necessary, throughout the season. They’re willing to double their wedding attendance if the arrangement can provide a trusted wing-person, as well as a commiseration partner for when their potential hook-ups inevitably misfire. Plus One isn’t much more than consistently amusing and sweetly romantic, but in the right hands, those qualities can still feel like a lot. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Puzzle

Puzzle

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Photo: Puzzle

In Puzzle’s opening sequence, the marvelous Argentinean actor María Onetto’s meek housewife is frantically overseeing a party at her house, cooking, serving, and tamping down her obvious exhaustion to make small talk with whoever intercepts her. As her husband (Gabriel Goity) talks business and makes toasts with the men, while her college-aged sons discuss their future plans with relatives, Onetto ferries a lavish feast from the kitchen, culminating with a cake whose candles she blows out herself—the celebration is for her, to mark her 50th birthday. In the aftermath, she discovers that one of the presents left for her is a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle featuring a picture of Nefertiti. It pulls her in; her speed in assembling it reveals a previously undiscovered skill. That leads her to an ad posted by a genteel man (Arturo Goetz) searching for a partner for puzzle competitions. Though the film reaches a seemingly artificial either/or scenario with regard to the competitive puzzling, its conclusion is pleasing and not at all pat, a portrait of a woman who’s learned she deserves to keep some things for herself. [Alison Willmore]

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Results

Results

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Photo: Results

After making a movie about contract law (Beeswax) and another about a computer programming convention (Computer Chess), writer-director Andrew Bujalski continues his adventures in seemingly uncinematic subject matter with Results, a relationship comedy set around a strip-mall fitness club in suburban Texas. Aussie expat Trevor (Guy Pearce) is the founder and proprietor of Power 4 Life, a fitness club he runs on the outskirts of Austin with a small staff of personal trainers, including customer favorites Kat (Cobie Smulders) and Lorenzo (Tishuan Scott, the creepy cult leader from Computer Chess). Enter Danny (Kevin Corrigan, Walken-esque), a schlub with seemingly bottomless reserves of cash, who lives in an empty rented McMansion on a diet of pot and pizza. Lurching through the aftermath of a divorce, Danny shows up at Trevor’s wanting to get into shape, writes a check for two years’ worth of personal training with Kat, and buys himself a franchise gym’s worth of exercise equipment. On a fundamental level, Results is about people trying to navigate each other’s personal space, with the sweaty physical intimacy of personal training as a contrast to emotional anxiety. It’s an easygoing comedy about different kinds of unease, with subtleties giving shading to broadly drawn characters. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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A Simple Favor

A Simple Favor

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Photo: A Simple Favor

Gallons of ink have been spilled on Paul Feig’s female-focused approach to comedy, so why isn’t one of the year’s best vehicles for women getting more press? Starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively in a twisted tale of suburban intrigue, A Simple Favor pioneers the subgenre of mommy-blog noir. But while it lives in the mundane realm of play dates and PTA meetings, the film also recognizes that, while they might spend a lot of time with kids, its characters (and target audience!) are still intelligent adults with sophisticated tastes, from dry gin martinis to designer menswear. [Katie Rife]

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The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers

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Photo: The Sisters Brothers

When Quentin Tarantino coined the term “hangout movie,” he was describing one of the greatest Westerns ever made: Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks’ 1959 masterpiece, which kills most of its running time just laying low with a small-town sheriff and the motley posse he’s assembled to guard a jailhouse, eavesdropping on their conversations as they dig in their spurs and chew the cud. The film, talky and at times nearly plotless, brought the Wild West to life in a different way: These weren’t just mythic archetypes we were watching but complicated people, with personalities and hang-ups and whole interior lives. The Sisters Brothers, a Western directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Dheepan) and adapted from the acclaimed novel by Patrick DeWitt, spans a larger geographic radius than Rio Bravo—it’s a kind of road picture, ambling across two states, instead of plunking us down in (basically) a single locale. Nevertheless, there’s a strong whiff of Hawks’ classic in the movie’s conception of its titular outlaws as neurotic chatterboxes. It’s something of a hangout Western, too, and its pleasures mostly come down to the company we get to keep with the characters and the actors easing into their eccentricities. [A.A. Dowd]

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Sorry To Bother You

Sorry To Bother You

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Photo: Sorry To Bother You

It’s hard to imagine a cinematic depiction of Oakland, California as grabby or arresting as Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You. Though it uses real locations from the city, Riley’s version depends less on particular landmarks or geography than the filmmaker’s eye for which quotidian details can be nudged into the realm of absurdity—and how to pull them back down to the ground. It’s a push-pull best depicted by the movie’s visualization of a job at a rundown call center: When Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) places a cold call, the movie briefly throws him and his workstation into the personal space of whoever he’s speaking with, sort of a physicalized split-screen that thrusts him back into the bleak office space when the conversation ends. It’s a neat trick that emphasizes both the intrusiveness of cold calling and the discomfort the caller might feel, all while keeping the scenes of call-center drudgery from becoming as dull as the actual work. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Spaceballs

Spaceballs

Spaceballs
Spaceballs
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Spaceballs wasn’t one of Brooks’ great successes, but it’s endured in the shadow of Star Wars as a lone “official” parody version. In retrospect, its comic deconstruction of the most successful movies of all time looks more respectful than Lucas’ own prequels, which ultimately seemed to understand less about the appeal (and pitfalls) of their source material. Certainly, George Lucas had good intentions when he tried to redo his own greatest hits, but as Spaceballs teaches us, good is often very, very dumb. [Adam Nayman]

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The Square

The Square

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Photo: The Square

The centerpiece moment of Ruben Östlund’s The Square pits a dining hall’s worth of self-proclaimed art lovers against the evening’s “entertainment”: a performance-art stunt that pushes way beyond the outer limits of their comfort zones. It’s an exaggerated version, perhaps, of what audiences might experience watching this super-sized cringe comedy, awkward enough to get Larry David hot under the collar. Another savagely funny savaging of male ego, à la Östlund’s Force Majeure, the film takes place behind the scenes of a museum, where a pretentious curator (Claes Bang) grapples with personal and professional crises of his own making. But far from just poking fun at a hypocritical modern art world, the Swedish writer-director casts a wide satirical net. His biggest catch: the withering insight that there’s often a giant gap separating values from actions, flattering self-image from reality, “helping” from helping. Thankfully, Östlund wants to make us laugh as well as squirm; scene for scene, The Square is often gut-bustingly hilarious, provided you can see the humor in foibles that might mirror your own. [A.A. Dowd]

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Super

Super

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Photo: Super

Over the span of just five years, there were four films—Kick-Ass, Defendor, Special, and the psycho-comedy Super—about ordinary people who decide to fight crime in silly homemade costumes. (And in each one, there’s inevitably a scene where the hero asks, “Why hasn’t anyone thought to do that before?!”) For as long as its thin conceit can hold out, Super stands out from the pack for its brash, spiky, horrific real-world violence, which provides a welcome antidote to the more conventional, comic-book-y (yet still grotesque) mayhem found in the equally irreverent Kick-Ass. It’s ugly to the core. Importing his Dwight Schrute pallor from The Office, sans the false bravado, Rainn Wilson stars as a lowly short-order cook who can count two great moments in his life: marrying a woman (Liv Tyler) above his social station and aiding the cops in chasing down a fleeing criminal. That heroism and heart come together when a sleazy drug dealer (Kevin Bacon) takes his wife away from him for good. Using comic books as a guide, Wilson decides to reinvent himself as a superhero called Crimson Bolt, whose crude crime-fighting technique involves waiting behind a dumpster for a crime to happen and then clocking the perpetrator in the head with a pipe wrench. When the clerk at the local comic bookshop, played by Ellen Page, catches wind of his activities, she forces him to bring her on as Boltie, his enthusiastic and sexually aggressive sidekick. [Scott Tobias]

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Superbad

Superbad

Michael Cena and Jonah Hill
Michael Cena and Jonah Hill

The winning new teen romp Superbad was written by Evan Goldberg and Judd Apatow’s protégé Seth Rogen, and directed by The Daytrippers’ Greg Mottola, but it still feels like the concluding film in Apatow’s trilogy of raunchy, big-hearted, improvisation-heavy comedies about man-children torn between the pleasures of eternal adolescence and the relentless pull of adult responsibility. The stars and sensibility get younger with each successive film: The 40-Year-Old Virgin’s middle-aged Steve Carell gave way to twentysomething Knocked Up star Rogen, and now teenagers Jonah Hill and Michael Cera step in as co-dependent buddies facing the end of high school and scary/exciting college careers pulling them in separate directions. [Nathan Rabin]

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Support The Girls

Support The Girls

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Photo: Support The Girls

So many movies perform grotesque contortions (or extraordinary acts of denial) to avoid showing their characters at work, at least if their jobs aren’t cop, lawyer, or secret agent. And who can blame them, really? A lot of work is a soul-crushing slog, something that Support The Girls understands intuitively—so intuitively that writer-director Andrew Bujalski doesn’t need to sink his characters into a swamp of misery to acknowledge the drudgery of working at Double Whammies, sort of a poor man’s Hooters in the Texas suburbs. Applying a one-crazy-day structure to a day that isn’t all that crazy, Bujalski follows Lisa (Regina Hall), the restaurant’s manager, as she plays boss, dutiful employee, counselor, and mother, depending on which crisis she’s addressing. Hall, in exactly the kind of performance that’s too grounded and true to receive the awards attention it deserves, shows deft command of the subtle differences between our various selves—work, family, uncomfortable fusions of the two—that so many working people are forced to navigate. Yet for all of its dead-end realism, this is also a warm and funny movie, with boundlessly charming supporting turns from Haley Lu Richardson, Shayna McHayle, and Dylan Gelula. Workplace drudgery doesn’t preclude glimmers of humanity—and humanity doesn’t guarantee a happy ending, as the movie’s perfectly open final shots indicate. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Tangerine

Tangerine

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Photo: Tangerine

Tangerine is Sean Baker’s motor-mouthed, occasionally hyper-active, at times repetitious tour of the street corners, fleabag motels, and back alleys of West Hollywood. Let out of jail on the morning before Christmas, transgender prostitute Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) learns that her boyfriend-slash-pimp Chester (James Ransone, pretty funny) has been cheating on her with a fish—what you’d call a cisgender woman in academic company—named Dana or Desiree or Dinah. Nobody seems 100 percent sure on the name, except that it starts with a D. So off go Sin-Dee and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor), hitting up every corner and soup line, occasionally crossing paths with an Armenian cabbie (Karren Karagulian) and the odd cop or stingy client. Shot on an iPhone outfitted with an anamorphic clip-on adapter, the movie bobs, weaves, and glides down sidewalks, while the soundtrack blasts out semi-obnoxious dance beats in between snatches of Beethoven and Armenian-language holiday song. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Tragedy Girls

Tragedy Girls

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Screenshot: Tragedy Girls

Finally, millennials have a Heathers of their very own. Actually, that’s not quite right: Imagine instead a Heathers that gleefully goes all the way past the point of nihilism, and ends up in a warped funhouse mirror reflection of society that blends camp and satire in equal measure (with a heaping dose of gore liberally applied throughout). Reimagining high school murderers for the age of Instagram, Tragedy Girls casts Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) as social media-obsessed high schoolers who kidnap a serial killer—not to kill him, but to learn how to more effectively stage their own attacks, the better to boost the numbers on their YouTube show. And that’s just the first five minutes of this nastily effective comedy-horror, which takes genre clichés and runs them through a candy-coated ADHD wringer, leaving you bloodied and smiling at the end. [Alex McLevy]

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The Treasure

The Treasure

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Photo: The Treasure

Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu, whose style of comic deadpan is as diligent and specialized as watch repair, offers up another parable of mores in The Treasure, about a man who agrees to help his unemployed neighbor look for a family fortune at a country house. Surreally underplayed, The Treasure turns a wish-fulfillment fantasy (let’s say our heroes aren’t left empty-handed) into a post-Communist monkey’s paw: You can have all the riches you want, but they’re in Romania. Though it almost overplays its hand with a Robin Hood storybook motif, The Treasure manages a tricky balance between low-key social satire and total fantasy. And in between all the uncomfortable conversations and silences is a deceptively upbeat story of two men who barely know each other trying to go on an old-fashioned adventure in a world of stuffed shirts, red tape, and malfunctioning gadgets. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Volver

Volver

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Photo: Volver

A single shot from Volver illustrates what sets Pedro Almodóvar apart from other filmmakers: About halfway through, the film pauses for a long close-up of star Penélope Cruz. For a lot of directors, that would be enough. She’s an arresting beauty, and most of her American roles use her as that, and little more. But Almodóvar worked with her first, and he knows that there’s much more to her than her looks. What’s more, that shot is a close-up tight enough to reveal that Cruz, like the character she plays, has begun to see her ingénue youthfulness fade. There’s makeup on her face and sadness in her eyes, and when she opens her mouth to sing the title song, the voice of flamenco singer Estrella Morente emerges. There’s no small amount of artifice to the art, but to call it artificial is to miss the point. The obvious effort needed to create it becomes part of its beauty. A professional cleaner, Cruz is first seen sweeping the grave of her parents, who died together in a fire. Before long, she’s forced to confront a flurry of unexpected problems, beginning when her shiftless, alcoholic husband (Antonio de la Torre) reveals that he’s lost his job, and continuing when he decides to spend his first day of unemployment making sexual advances to Cruz’s daughter (Yohana Cobo). Almodóvar is still one of the few directors worth watching just for how he uses color on the screen. But the pleasures have always run much deeper, and now they run deeper still. [Keith Phipps]

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Wild Rose

Wild Rose

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Photo: Wild Rose

Country music has a long history of brazen women doggedly persevering over daunting personal and societal odds. As far back as 1952, Kitty Wells shredded the hypocrisy of sexual double standards in her song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” and Loretta Lynn had already given birth to three children when she taught herself to play the guitar in 1953, at the age of 21. Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley), the protagonist of Tom Harper’s new social-realist musical drama Wild Rose, has a life story that’s similar to those of her idols: She’s in her early 20s, fresh off of a 12-month prison sentence on drug charges, and trying—but mostly failing—to reconnect with her 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. Her disapproving mother Marion (Julie Walters) wants Rose-Lynn to give up her dream of becoming a country (not “country and western”) singer. But to Rose-Lynn, country music is “three chords and the truth.” And you can’t deny the truth. [Katie Rife]

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