15 Movies My Wife Wants to See This Summer
Plus a few recommendations from her husband the critic.
I don’t mention my wife very often in this space because she’s an actual normal person who values her offline privacy and would just as soon not become a character in anyone’s online narrative (meaning both mine and our children’s, all three of our heads in the Internet clouds more than they should be). But let an exception be made for the list of Summer 2022 movies she has earmarked and texted me because A) she has excellent taste in art and entertainment that is probably a little less outré than her husband’s and more in synch with his readership, B) it’s a fun way to do a summer movie preview (i.e., rather than a sweeping overview of everything, cherry-pick the upcoming releases a reasonably cultured moviegoer might look forward to), and C) she’s okay with it this once.
I will say that the lot of the movie critic’s wife is a curious one (and very unlike being the husband of a business lawyer). I have to watch it all – the good, the bad, and the exceptionally ugly – while she, a normal person, would prefer to stick with the good. That means I see a lot of movies first and she plays catch-up. Allowances are made for those performers with a certain je ne sais quoi, meaning it can be a turkey that stars Viggo Mortensen or James McAvoy, and she’ll be in like Flynn. (Although after I described the plot of the upcoming David Cronenberg film “Crimes of the Future” to her, she begged off from the press screening, Viggo or no.) But when we do watch a great movie together – I’m thinking of “The Shape of Water” at a packed film festival premiere, or a documentary like “Navalny” currently on HBO Max, or a visionary mindblast like the recent “The Northman” -- it’s the kind of heady experience that binds a couple in shared pop-culture bliss. You remember the great times together, whether they’re movies or meals or mountaintops, faraway places or children returning home. That’s the glue of happiness.
Anyway, here’s what my wife wants to see this summer, with some kibitzing from her husband, the movie know-it-all.
“Tahara” -- The hook here is seeing more of Rachel Sennott, the find of last year’s “Shiva Baby” (which if you have not seen, proceed forthwith thereto). Billed as an “acerbic coming of age tale” by distributor Film Movement, it takes an intriguing premise – two girls bond after the death by suicide of a classmate – and heads off in dark and provocative directions. Sennott and co-star Madeline Grey DeFreece are said to be superb, and first-time director Olivia Peace is being hailed as one to watch. (June 10 in theaters)
“Lost Illusions” -- A lavish adaptation of the Honore de Balzac novel about a young writer (Benjamin Voisin) in 1830s Paris who becomes a journalist and gradually sells his soul. As one does. Well-reviewed at its 2021 Venice Film Festival premiere, it’s the kind of sweeping historical pageant they don’t make too often these days, with a cynicism toward the morals and misrepresentations of the media that may strike some modern chords. (June 10 in theaters)
(Ty interjects: Two recent Sundance favorites arrive June 17 on demand, “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” on Hulu, and “Cha Cha Real Smooth” on Apple TV+. I’ll be writing about them both in a few weeks.)
“Jerry and Marge Go Large” -- (June 17 on Paramount+) Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening play a retired couple who get rich when the husband figures out how to game the Massachusetts lottery. Based on a true story. Bening and Cranston – that’s all you have to say, my wife’s in and so am I. (Also: Props for keeping my mother’s name alive in the culture. Aside from Marge Gunderson of “Fargo,” Marge Simpson, and this lady, there has been far too little Marge representation in recent decades.)
“Official Competition” -- It’s always fun to see classy award-winning international stars let their hair down for a farce, and Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas are more gifted farceurs than they’re generally given credit for. “Competition” is a movie about making a movie, in this case the kind that headlines film festivals like Venice and goes on to make a bundle. It headlined Venice in 2021; now we’ll find out about the second part. (June 17 in theaters, August 2 on demand)
“Elvis” – As he has proven in “Romeo + Juliet” (1996), “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), and “The Great Gatsby” (2013), Baz Luhrmann knows no boundary when it comes to excess or overkill; that’s the man’s gift and his curse. But you might argue the same about Elvis Aron Presley. Austin Butler plays The King from hip-thrusting roots to Vegas decline and Tom Hanks reportedly invents a completely new European accent as Col. Tom Parker. Audiences at Cannes were split down the middle as to whether Luhrman’s latest three-ring circus was a masterpiece or a hunka-hunka burning dreck. It’s definitely not for the purists. (June 24 in theaters)
“Both Sides of the Blade” – France’s Claire Denis seems intent on working her way through every movie genre, inverting and subverting each one as she goes. “High Life” (2018) was science fiction reverse-engineered into something far more disturbing, while her new movie takes the romantic-triangle drama and coaxes unsettling performances from Juliette Binoche, Vincent Lindon (“Titane”), and Grégoire Colin. (July 8 in theaters, August 23 on demand)
“Murina” – In the pristine setting of the Adriatic coast, a teenage girl rebels against a domineering father while being drawn to one of his friends. Comparisons to Patricia Highsmith have been bandied about, as has much praise for lead actress Gracija Filipovic and, in her feature debut, director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic. (July 8 in theaters)
“My Name is Sara” -- A Jewish girl flees Nazi-occupied Poland for Ukraine, where she passes as a gentile in a farming community with secrets of its own. Based on a true story. (July 13 in theaters)
“Persuasion” – A new version of Jane Austen’s final novel, starring Dakota Johnson, who’s everywhere these days. Henry Golding (“Crazy Rich Asians”), Cosmo Jarvis, and Richard E. Grant also star. Will it surpass the beloved 1995 BBC adaptation? We’ll see. No trailer as of yet, so this featurette will have to do. (July 15 on Netflix)
(Ty again: A deliciously deadpan documentary called “My Old School” arrives in theaters on July 22. It’s about a high school kid in 1990s Scotland who turned out to be … well, see the movie. Like 2018’s “Three Identical Strangers,” it’s one of those stranger-than-fiction stories that keeps throwing curveballs at the audience’s heads.)
“Nope” – The latest from Jordan Peele, who gave us the brilliant “Get Out” (2017) and the less-great-but-still-really-creepy “Us” (2019). Based on the trailers, it’s about a Black-owned ranch attacked by … aliens? Whatever, we’ll watch. Peele walks a tightrope few other filmmakers know is even there. (July 22 in theaters)
“Vengeance” – A callow radio host visits Texas for a funeral and is pulled into a possible murder mystery. It’s written and directed by and stars B.J. Novak, co-star of “The Office,” pride of Newton, Mass., and a smart, tricky comic personage whose feature filmmaking debut looks promising indeed. (July 29 in theaters)
(Me again: You may have noticed that this list is notably short on sequels, prequels, superhero donnybrooks, kid stuff, and action extravaganzas. If your tastes run in those directions, “Bullet Train,” in theaters August 5, may be your cup of high-octane nonsense, an action comedy that puts hit-man Brad Pitt on the title conveyance with four other assassins. From the director of “Atomic Blonde,” among other forms of celluloid mayhem. It looks socially irredeemable. It also looks like fun.)
“Free Puppies!” -- My wife knows nothing about this movie except the title. I, on the other hand, am required by my profession to perform due diligence and can report that, per the film’s website, it’s a documentary about the “millions of rescue dogs from the rural South [that] have been transported to new homes by a vast, grassroots network of dog rescuers. ‘Free Puppies!’ is the true story of where those dogs come from and the women who save them.” (No trailer. August 5 in theaters)
“I Love My Dad” -- Some people you just show up for, and comedian Patton Oswalt is one. He plays a father who tries to reconnect with his estranged son (writer-director James Morosini) by posing online as a young woman with whom the son proceeds to fall in love. Not surprisingly, the critical response at SXSW in March was split between impressed and horrified. (No trailer as yet. August 5 in theaters, August 12 on demand)
“Resurrection” — Similarly, Rebecca Hall is an actress many of us would follow even into the harrowing dramatic straits of “Christine” (2016) and “The Night House” (2020). Here she plays a single mother who unravels into psychosis when visited by a sinister figure from her past (played by Tim Roth, so you know he’s up to no good). (August 5 in theaters and on demand)
“Mack & Rita” – You know those body-swap comedies where little boys turn into grown men (“Big”) and teenage girls wake up as adult women (“13 Going on 30”)? In director Katie Aselton’s film, a 30-year-old woman (Elizabeth Lail, “You”) finds herself transformed into a 70-year-old woman. Finally. Diane Keaton plays the older version, which means I’ll see you there. (No trailer yet. August 12 in theaters)
(One last extra from me: “Three Thousand Years of Longing” comes to theaters on the last day of August with Tilda Swinton as a lonely scholar of myths, Idris Elba as an ancient genie who regales her with tales, and maximalist filmmaking from George Miller, on vacation from the “Mad Max” cycle.)
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