This week’s crop of uniquely intense and highly varied new releases takes us on an epic cinematic road trip across the United States: We start in New York City with struggling writer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), then head west to Haddonfield, Illinois, for the final showdown between the murderous Michael Myers (Nick Castle) and his most infamous survivor. Then we dip down to the edge of Texas for Mélanie Laurent’s Galveston, before hitting sunny Los Angeles just in time for the summer coming-of-age film Mid90s. Get in! Here we go…
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
From the perspective of this moment looking backward, we can see disgraced celebrity biographer Lee Israel’s desperate scheme — to forge letters written by famous authors — as a kind of conceptual lark. Collected and edited, they’d even make a nice coffee table book. Unfortunately, that is not the way the cookie crumbled for Israel — she died in 2014 at the age of seventy-five, and eventually, people wised up to her creative approach to authenticity.
While it’s admittedly difficult to top Bridesmaids, we’re willing to bet that this is Melissa McCarthy’s best performance yet, and early reviews seem to agree. McCarthy is so likeably unlikeable that she’s approaching Paul Giamatti’s status. There’s just something so charming about a stubborn curmudgeon who won’t go down without a fight! Her Israel is an antihero for postmodern lit majors and eccentric spinster aunts everywhere. Directed by Marielle Heller, who you might know from The Diary of a Teenage Girl, from a script co-written by Nicole Holofcener (Lovely and Amazing, Friends with Money, etc.), Can You Ever Forgive Me? is about a stubborn refusal to be swept aside by the turning tide of taste and fashion, and the willingness to fight tooth and nail in resistance to despair. And you certainly don’t have to be a criminal to benefit from those impulses! It probably doesn’t hurt, though.
Hopped up on Activia and channeling four decades of paranoia and fear, Jamie Lee Curtis has once again taken up the mantle of Laurie Strode, and this time, she’s sporting an arsenal that would make any doomsday “prepper” proud. Like it or not — and uh, we like it a lot — this movie is going to set the new standard for horror sequels. Seriously! We’re beginning to think that there ought to be a mandatory generational waiting period on this stuff, to make sure that it has a proper chance to percolate into the collective cultural consciousness. Though on the other hand, if this newest version of Halloween has committed one sin, it’s a disavowal of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. Surely, director David Gordon Green and co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride could have figured out how to explain the ending away and build from there! And we know Josh Hartnett was available to come back… though we can’t say the same for Michelle Williams. Oh, well.
Elle Fanning’s really been having a year. From playing a punk alien in How to Talk to Girls at Parties to taking on the mother of the monster in Mary Shelley, she’s been everywhere, and she’s not going anywhere anytime soon (she stars in both I Think We’re Alone Now and Teen Spirit, soon to be released). In Galveston, Fanning emerges as one of the few survivors of a heist gone wrong, and soon she and the broodingly intense Ben Foster — who we last saw in the lyrical and heartbreaking Leave No Trace — are on the road together, uneasily allied and aligned. It’s perhaps her darkest turn since starring in Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon. Foster, for his part, takes his tough-guy role as seriously as always but isn’t exactly treading any easy or well-worn territory. Fans of neo-noir with a Southern twist (think Sun Don’t Shine, The Big Easy, or In the Heat of the Night) won’t want to miss this one.
Watch Now: Don’t miss Ben Foster opposite Woody Harrelson in 2009’s The Messenger, and Lubna Azabal in 2011’s Here, which are both available for streaming on Fandor. Likewise, be sure to check out 2014’s Low Down, which stars Elle Fanning as Amy-Jo Albany, daughter of jazz musician Joe Albany.
Somewhat unexpected superstar Jonah Hill is on a whole new “grind” — as a feature director! The mid90s marks his feature debut, and none other than indie-ish powerhouse distributors A24 have thrown their might behind it. We’re most excited to see Lady Bird’s Lucas Hedges shed his “good boy” image and play the older brother and bully of the protagonist (Sunny Suljic, who we last saw in another A24 release, The Killing of a Sacred Deer). Actually, that’s not entirely true — we’re most excited about time-traveling back to an era before motorized scooters and Snapchat. Beep your friends to meet up for a screening and stock up on Capri Sun and white Airheads to enjoy afterward, as you mull the merits of Mid90s (and whether or not you should trade in your motorized scooter for the skateboard still stashed in your parents’ garage somewhere).