Every month Philly film critic Piers Marchant shares his picks for the best recent releases on Netflix Instant streaming.
March is in like a lion and hopefully out like a lamb (or, as the great John Belushi said it once on SNL, it comes “in like an emu and out like a taper, and they don’t even know what that means!”) Here are our picks for five of the most worthy spots on your streaming queue for March.
Breakdown: A young woman has her first adult romance — with a college-age woman — and experiences all the highs and lows therein.
What’s the Rumpus? Winner of the ultra-prestigious Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes festival, the French film was controversial both for its frank — and extended — sex scenes, and because, in the aftermath of its greatest success, director Abdellatif Kechiche and his two female leads (Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos) absolutely went after each other in increasingly truculent press interviews. Nevertheless, it’s a sharply made film with very strong performances.
Netflix Streaming Link: Blue is the Warmest Color
Breakdown: A female detective living in Australia returns to her native New Zealand small town and gets embroiled in a complicated case when the daughter of a prominent drug lord goes missing.
What’s the Rumpus? Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) brings a dynamic energy to Jane Campion’s seven-part miniseries, which is also powered by Campion’s uniquely (oft slightly disturbing) vision. The series is less about solvable mysteries, though it certainly has a few of those, and more about watching the inevitable collisions between disparate factions in a remote small town whose physical beauty is matched by its oddball population of misanthropes and iconoclasts.
Netflix Streaming Link: Top of the Lake
Breakdown: A documentary about a long-standing Japanese couple living in New York, both striving for artistic expression.
What’s the Rumpus? For 40 years, Ushio Shinohara, a prolific and under-appreciated painter/sculptor, and his wife Noriko have been staples on the New York and Tokyo art scene. But as Zachary Heinzerling’s much-celebrated (and Oscar-nominated) documentary examines, Noriko wants to branch out from her role as her husband’s assistant and find her own artistic voice. A portrait of two deeply idiosyncratic people whose relationship endures its own brand of chaos, the film plays like a kind of hipster love sonnet.
Netflix Streaming Link: Cutie and the Boxer
4. Frances Ha
Breakdown: A young woman, recently graduated from college, struggles to find her way into the next phase of her life.
What’s the Rumpus? While I can acknowledge Greta Gerwig can be something of an acquired taste — and the same can be said for filmmaker Noah Baumbach, I suppose — I have no truck with the critics who found this movie unmoored and cloying. Baumbach is an expert at mining small moments that reverberate through his characters’ lives, and co-writer Gerwig is at her best when she digs deep into the uncertain psyche of her protagonists. One could see the film as a black and white excursion into twentysomething ennui and uncertainty, but I think it speaks to a more universal truth about the growing pains of moving on to the next stage of our development.
Netflix Streaming Link: Frances Ha
5. A Hijacking
Breakdown: After a ship is hijacked by Somali pirates, the tense negotiations between the CEO of the shipping company and the Somali liaison drag on for week after week as the crew and pirates get more and more antsy.
What’s the Rumpus? Yet another brilliant Danish film (you go, Danes!) from last year, this one does involve Somali pirates, but unlike the highly decorated Captain Philips, this film is far more concerned with the process of the negotiations between the cool, collected company CEO (played with convincing rigidity by Søren Malling) and the sweaty, increasingly frustrated Somali negotiator (Abdihakin Asgar), stuck on the boat with his crew and their hostages for months. The film is absolutely engrossing and enervating, despite the fact that it tones down the melodrama and plays itself totally straight.
Netflix Streaming Link: A Hijacking