Debuts and Documentaries

Hello! This is the sixth edition of the Thelma & Alice newsletter. I still haven’t set foot inside a real live movie theater, but I’ve got five fresh recommendations for you, including a new movie that came out a few months ago and is now available to rent. If you’re ready to venture out to the theater, I reviewed Holler, which is coming out this weekend, over at The Common. On my blog, I wrote about Together Together, Land, and By The Sea—three movies which I will probably never recommend on this newsletter, though I did find something interesting in each of them. Thanks for reading and please pass this on to a friend if you like it!

The 2020 Indie You Probably Missed Last Year

Miss Juneteenth (2020)
Streaming on Kanopy; $2.99 rental on Amazon Prime

This was one of those movies that really deserved a theatrical release last year. Written and directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples, it tells the story of a former Miss Juneteenth pageant winner who pushes her daughter to enter the same pageant, even though her daughter isn’t that interested.  This isn’t your typical cliche pageant story, with a toxic stage mother and a lost daughter. Instead both mother and daughter treat each other with kindness as they navigate a difficult transitional moment in their relationship. Set in East Texas, it’s a debut feature with a lot of regional specificity and wonderful lead performances. IMDB * REVIEW * TRAILER

A Documentary Short by the Filmmaker Behind Girlfriends

Joyce at 34 (1971)
Streaming on Criterion and Vimeo

My friend Edan Lepucki suggested that I watch this documentary short after I recommended Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends last month. It’s a half-hour film about Joyce Chopra, a filmmaker who was friends with Claudia Weill. The two women collaborated, documenting Chopra’s life after she has her first baby. Chopra thought it would be a film about her changing relationship with her mother after becoming a mother herself, but it turned into a document about balancing work and motherhood. Long story short, not much has changed. IMDB * REVIEW * VIMEO

Sobering Weeknight Watch

Athlete A (2020)
Streaming on Netflix

This is not an easy documentary to take in, and I put off seeing it for a while, but it wasn’t as depressing as I thought it would be. Instead of dwelling on the sordid details of abuse against young gymnasts, it instead focuses on the athletes, journalists, and prosecutorial team who successfully rooted out decades of corruption in USA Gymnastics. The investigation into women’s gymnastics feels like a part of an ongoing conversation about bullying and manipulative coaching methods, especially in women’s sports, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in elite athletes. (If you leave this wanting to know more about the history of women’s gymnastics, try ESPN’s podcast series Heavy Medals about Bela and Martha Karolyi.)  IMDB * REVIEW * TRAILER

Netflix Hidden Treasure

Pariah (2011)
Streaming on Netflix and Criterion

Dee Rees’ debut film is getting the Criterion treatment this month, with a special tenth-anniversary edition Blu-ray disc and DVD. But you can also stream it on Netflix, along with her two other films, Mudbound and The Last Thing He Wanted. Even though her follow-up movies have bigger stars, Pariah is still my favorite. It’s a coming-of-age story centered on a 17-year-old Brooklyn girl, Alike, who is trying to embrace her lesbian identity, but is having trouble coming out to her parents, who are clearly uncomfortable with it. As Alike begins to express her more authentic self outside of her home, the tension between her and her parents grows. There’s something universal in this story about reaching toward your adult self and letting go of familial expectations. IMDB * REVIEW * TRAILER

If You’re Nostalgic For Your Chaotic Twenties

Shiva Baby (2021)
$3.99 on Amazon and other VOD platforms

This impeccably written debut comedy by Emma Seligman centers on Danielle, a college senior who moonlights as a sugar baby. When Danielle joins her parents for the shiva of a family friend, she is horrified to realize that her sugar daddy is attending the same shiva—with his wife and baby. Hilarity ensues, sort of. Shiva Baby looks and sounds like a cringe comedy before veering into a claustrophobic horror movie about being in your twenties. It’s short, around 80 minutes, with a surprising vein of emotion. IMDB * REVIEW * TRAILER

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It’s hot, the adults are all drunk, and nobody’s watching out for the kids.