Create your own film festival
Have little time to go to the movies? This three-day weekend can be a good time to catch up on movies you have missed at the theater, including films that offer four great actresses a chance to shine.
From Juliette Binoche to Blythe Danner, Diane Keaton to Shirley MacLaine, the ease of watching movies on demand or online can give you the makings for a fun film festival. And you can celebrate how good movies can be when fine actresses play interesting roles.
Take a look at what’s available.
Clouds of Sils Maria
Like a novel that slowly reveals its narrative, this film captivates with the layering of its story. On the surface it’s a simple tale of a famous actress who travels to visit her mentor, a respected director who created some of her most famous roles, and pay tribute at a ceremony in his honor. But, when he dies as she travels, she begins to examine what it would take to restore balance to a life out of control. With the grand Juliette Binoche as the actress, and the sublime Kristin Stewart as her multi-tasking personal assistant, the film challenges us to consider what it takes to remain authentic in an increasingly artificial world. This complex look at a woman facing the realities of age, career and relationships gives Binoche the chance to deliver what may be the performance of her career.
(2015, 124 minutes, Rated R.)
I’ll See You in My Dreams
Without wide-screen explosions or computer-generated effects that fill too many movies, this touching story about the choices people make as they age is generous, tender and wonderfully entertaining. Blythe Danner perfectly captures a widow who is content with her dog, golf, friends and daily glass (or two) of wine. But she hasn’t challenged herself in her routine or relationships for years. So when she faces surprising situations, from a rodent in the house to new men in her life, she wonders if she can make the most of the unexpected or if, at this later age, she has lost the ability to experience the joys. Danner uses her extensive theater experience to create a compelling woman who refuses to acknowledge how interesting she can be. And she delivers a splendid interpretation of Cry Me a River at a karaoke bar.
(2015, 92 minutes, Rated PG-13.)
Two Days, One Night
Of the movies mentioned at this year’s Oscars, this story was easy to miss. Marion Cotillard won a well-deserved acting nomination as a woman with one weekend to convince her coworkers to let her return to work. In a series of conversations — each requiring a different approach to secure a positive response — we learn what can make a seemingly ordinary lady so special. Because she is proud, she refuses to beg; because she is smart, she listens as carefully as she speaks. We see, through her conversations, what economic reality can force people to say and do and how, no matter the intentions, some conditions are too severe for people to absorb. Without makeup, and in natural light, Cotillard brings depth to a fascinating woman who simply hopes to survive. She reminds us how good an actress she can be without the trappings.
(2014, 95 minutes, Rated PG-13. Subtitled.)
Five Flights Up
If you follow New York City real estate, savor any opportunity to watch Diane Keaton on screen, or melt when you see a cute dog in a movie, you should enjoy this gentle look at how people who age consider where to live. In the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Keaton and Morgan Freeman play senior citizens wondering if they should sell their walk-up apartment where they have lived for 40-some years. And, if so, where will they go? Within this slight story, Keaton brings her strong instinct and intelligence to a woman who, long ago, decided to live outside the expectations for convention. And she shows us — some 38 years after Annie Hall — that she is still one of the most capitvating women ever to fill a screen. If the film tells us less about real estate, aging or pet care than it offers a chance to savor this fabulous actress, then it’s well worth the 92 minutes.
(2015, 92 minutes, Rated PG-13.)
More choices for weekend watching
If you get in the mood to watch movies this weekend – and want to savor more recent films showcasing some great actresses at work – check out at these offerings on demand and on line.
Woman in Gold
Since winning an Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II, Helen Mirren has created a strong later career of memorable portrayals of interesting women. In this drama, based on a true story, Mirren is well case as a determined refugee who fights to resolve complicated questions about the true ownership of a great work of art. Even though the storyline is predictable, Mirren brings spontaneity and truth to each moment. And she makes us anxious to see who she will play next.
(2015, 109 minutes, Rated PG-13.)
Maps to the Stars
In addition to winning an Oscar earlier this year – for Still Alice – Julianne Moore hit the screen with this wacky comedy from director David Cronenberg. As an aging actress with an active imagination and a massive ego, Moore creates a fabulous caricature that suggests some of the great divas of the silver screen. And while she gets limited screen time, she makes the most of every opportunity to, as they say in the business, chew scenery. And she has an insatiable appetite.
(2014, 111 minutes, Rated R.)
Years after delighting television audiences on Friends, Jennifer Aniston reminds us that she is more than a tabloid headline in this turbulent film about a woman’s efforts to confront mental illness. As she carefully submerges her natural energy and ebullient personality, the actress creates an interesting look at the devastating impact of medical situations that go undetected and untreated. And Aniston proves again that, as appealing as her presence may be, she is an actress with more to offer.
(2014, 102 minutes, Rated R.)
Elsa and Fred
The challenges of senior citizens adjusting to change sets the stage for another delightful characterization by Shirley MacLaine. This Oscar winner – after comedies and musicals in the 1950s and 1960s – reinvented herself as a commanding character actress in Terms of Endearment, Postcards from the Edge and Steel Magnolias. As a senior citizen learning to get along with others, MacLaine adds another colorful woman to her catalog with a delightful interpretation of someone who is more with it than she lets others see.
(2014, 97 minutes, Rated PG-13.)
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
On stage, this glorious performer could light up any room with her precise sense of timing, appealing warmth and unique speaking and singing voice. Thankfully, near the end of Stritch’s life, documentarian Chiemi Karasawa captures the essence of what makes this lady so endearing. When the movie premiered a couple of years ago, at the Tribeca Film Festival, Stritch played down the attention. “Oh,” she said, “anyone who lives this old deserves a movie.” Not quite, Elaine. You are one of the few.
(2013, 81 minutes.)
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Making a movie sequel can be tricky. If this story of senior citizens spending their golden years in India may not deserve a second film, at least its actresses give us a great show. Judi Dench radiates as a woman hoping to change her future, Maggie Smith touches as a lady trying to cope with her present, and Celia Imrie appeals as a survivor trying to create one more magical moment. If the movie lacks that sense of discovery of the first film, it’s great to see seasoned actresses on screen at a time when superheroes fill too many movies.
(2015, 122 minutes, Rated PG-13.)
Yes, it’s great to see these actresses on screen. Even a smaller one at home.
See you at the movies.