Movies to Put Your Mind at Ease
This year has been hard and June appears to bring us more difficult times. But when the news is bleak and we’re still supposed to be distancing, we can still take some solace in a good movie.
When you need a break from the stress, try this feel-good lineup for movie night with your family (or via Zoom with a few friends).
Netflix: Groundhog Day
Jaded weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) is sick of his job and resents having to travel to a small town in Pennsylvania every year to cover Groundhog Day. His terrible attitude bleeds into his crew. He ruins takes, he hits on his new producer (Andie MacDowell) and is genuinely pretty horrible to the people around him.
The only solace Phil takes from his horrible day is that he can leave in the morning—or so he thinks. Phil wakes up to find he’s reliving the same day leaving him confused. When he relives the day a dozen more times, he starts to crack and wonder if there’s a way to break the cycle and escape from Groundhog Day.
A comedy classic about learning from your mistakes and using your free time to get some cool new skills, Groundhog Day might be the ultimate shelter-in-place film. Director Harold Ramis combines slapstick comedy and a heartfelt message about improving yourself. Phil is an absolute monster of a man, but eventually he learns that monstrous behavior won’t get him what he wants. Great Comedy * PG * 101 mins.
Lonely teen Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) is a budding mechanic who used to fix cars on the weekends with her dad. Charlie is still in mourning after her father’s death and she doesn’t want to bond with her new stepfather or engage with her family.
The only bright spot in her life is her VW Bug, claimed from a salvage yard. Charlie is convinced she can get the beat-up car running, but is shocked when the car springs to life, literally. It’s an Autobot, a Transformer hiding from both Decepticons and the U.S. government, and now Charlie must protect it.
A charming coming-of-age story about grief, love, and allowing yourself to be emotionally vulnerable, Bumblebee is easily the best of the Transformers movies. Director Travis Knight infuses the movie with a delicate sense of love and robust character development not present in any of the other films. The movie hinges on a terrific performance from Steinfeld, who makes Charlie’s anger and frustration relatable as she tries to navigate the new normal in her life.
Good Family Dramedy * PG-13 * 114 mins.
Prime: Brittany Runs a Marathon
Brittany (Jillian Bell) repeats the same patterns almost every night. She drinks too much, she sleeps with random men who show no interest in her, and she wakes up hating herself just a little bit. When she goes to a doctor and is told she needs to adopt a healthier lifestyle, Brittany balks. But after a good look at her life, Brittany buys some running shoes.
It’s slow going at first. She can’t even make it around the block. But eventually, Brittany likes the way she feels after a run. She starts eating better, running longer, and respecting herself. But all of Brittany’s hangups won’t go away just because she’s running. She struggles with having to commit to becoming a better person.
Hilarious and tender, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a movie that perfectly captures how difficult it is to make a lasting change in life. Bell is wonderful as a childish woman who grows to appreciate herself as she logs miles. But her sense of accomplishment starts to color her behavior and soon she learns that simply being conventionally attractive doesn’t make you attractive as a person. If you want inspiration to make a change or just inspiration to log some miles on the treadmill, this is the film for you.
Great Comedy * R * 104 mins.
Disney+: Queen of Katwe
Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) sells maize to help her mother make ends meet in the Kampala, Uganda. Her goal is to help her family buy a home. When a missionary teacher offers lessons in chess, Phiona’s world changes. It turns out, she’s got a brain for strategy. Soon Phiona is the best player in the village with hopes of competing in international tournaments. Is Phiona ready to compete at international levels and win money for her family?
Queen of Katwe is a rare film that captures the culture of the people and places it portrays. Based on a true story, this is a film about perseverance. Director Mira Nair lovingly portrays the people of Kampala, developing Phiona and her family into fully realized characters. Their lives are not easy, but never does Nair stoop to exploitation. This movie reminds you of the power of community and how important it is for a child to have someone believe in them.
Great Dramedy * PG * 124 mins.
Kanopy: Mon Oncle
Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) enjoys his quirky life. An odd man who loves antiquated things, he is adored by his nephew and despised by his brother-in-law, Monsieur Arpel. While Hulot is content with simple pleasures, Arpel believes in technology and consumerism. His whole house is automated and he has no use for Hulot’s more humble philosophy.
Determined to get Hulot on pace with modern life, Arpel finds him a job in his factory. But Hulot’s bumbling nature and silly mistakes cause disaster after disaster. Can Hulot ever catch up to the pace of modern life? Or should the rest of the world slow down?
The rare foreign film that requires no subtitles or dubbing, Mon Oncle is a charming, hilarious family film about the importance of human connection. Writer/director/star Tati manages to infuse a film with barely any dialogue with a huge amount of heart. M. Hulot is a sweet man who’s being left behind by the world, a fate he’s well aware of. But even as he feels his way of life becoming obsolete, he’s able to connect with his nephew, who adores his more personal approach to life. Tati is also able to pull off satire without ever seeming mean or cruel—it’s a film full of keen observances and no barbs.
Tati was regarded as the Buster Keaton of France, and you’ll see this influence in Mon Oncle.
Great Comedy * NR * 110 mins.