As the summer movie season continues to expand beyond the traditional months of the period and grow in the quantity and breadth of the offerings, it can become increasingly difficult to sift through the good and the bad to find the lower profile releases and independent Sundance pickups that get lost in the shuffle.
Jason Segel, the latest comedian to make a surprisingly effortless shift to dramatic acting, has a chance at grabbing an Oscar nomination for his performance as David Foster Wallace in “The End of the Tour,” directed by James Ponsoldt. The film follows David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), a Rolling Stone writer who shadows Wallace during the last few stops of his “Infinite Jest” book tour. Wallace is shown as a modest, deeply insecure figure, as nervous about the way he will come off in the article as Lipsky is about interviewing one of his idols. Little happens beyond their riveting conversations about celebrity and self-doubt, but the dynamic shifts in their relationship are fascinating as Lipsky’s jealousy grows and evolves. This is a powerfully acted, intimate film about the desire for fame and the loneliness of the top when it is reached.
“The Look of Silence,” a companion piece to one of the best films of 2012, “The Act of Killing,” has director Joshua Oppenheimer returning to Indonesia to find answers about the Indonesian anti-communist genocide in 1965-66. However, instead of focusing on the killers as he did in 2012, this documentary centers on the victims. Oppenheimer follows an optometrist whose brother was killed in the massacres as he confronts neighbors, perpetrators and family members about their participation or silence during the horrible events. It’s a harrowing film but it is crucial viewing.
“Grandma,” starring Lily Tomlin as Ellie, a retired poet and feminist, thankfully steers away from a Betty White style comedy about old people doing and saying crazy things, in favor of an emotional journey as Ellie reexamines the relationship with the women of her family after the death of her long-term partner. When her granddaughter Sage comes to her asking for money for an abortion, Ellie takes her on a road trip to get the necessary funds. Tomlin shines in plenty of laughable moments as she confronts Sage’s boyfriend and a coffee shop owner, but the film primarily functions as a subtle and nuanced character study. Here’s hoping that this film and last year’s “Obvious Child” are the beginning of a new wave of female-focused comedies that treat abortion with a progressive and feminist perspective.
Finally, “The Overnight” stars Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling as a couple new to the neighborhood who are invited by neighbor Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) to a dinner party that gets gradually more uncomfortable as the night progresses. A very liberal view of sexuality and masculine identity gives this film an edge usually unseen in raunchy adult comedies.
Email Zach Martin at [email protected]