When bad numbers happen to good movies.
Now, you’ll notice we didn’t say these movies were “flops.” Several of them were on Video on Demand at the same time as their limited theatrical runs and might very well have made millions that way. (Or they might have flopped there, too. No way of knowing, since studios don’t usually release VOD numbers. I’d be happy to update this article with VOD stats if any of the distributors submit them.)
But just looking at the box office, we see that the number of people who left their homes to watch these movies was disappointingly small. Plenty of films deserve their lousy revenue (see you in hell, All I See Is You! Nobody did, I Do… Until I Don’t!), but not these.
Set in the mid ’90s for nostalgia purposes, this comedy stars Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn as the daughters of a couple (Edie Falco and John Turturro) who are losing interest in each other, while the daughters have romantic problems of their own. Did you see Obvious Child, about an unexpectedly pregnant Jenny Slate? This is by the same director, Gillian Robespierre, and her producer/co-writer, Elisabeth Holm.
SNL‘s Kyle Mooney wrote and stars in this odd, surprisingly sweet comedy that has a lot going on: he was abducted as a baby and raised in a doomsday bunker, where his only entertainment was a TV show called Brigsby Bear — which was fake, produced just for him by his fake parents — which he wants to turn into a movie once he’s back in the world with his real family. Bonus: kidnapper dad is Mark Hamill.
What if someone made a film that used cannibalism as a metaphor for sexual awakening? Now someone has! (Julia Ducournau, specifically.) You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cringe. This unholy offspring of John Hughes and David Cronenberg is not for the faint of heart, though it’s not as graphic as it could have been, and it has a surprising, er, tenderness about family relationships and the things we do for those we love.
Aw, this was a lovely little biopic that I’m surprised didn’t do better. Directed by Andy Serkis, it stars Andrew Garfield as Robin Cavendish, who was paralyzed from the neck down by polio and required a respirator but refused to stay cooped up in a hospital or even his own home. It’s the sort of inspiring movie where conflicts are met with optimism and overcome before you have a chance to despair over them.
Eliza Hittman’s intimate drama follows a young Brooklyn hooligan who hooks up with men online while dating a girl and being a bro around his friends. His barely expressed inner turmoil leads him to reckless behavior with heartbreaking potential. The movie has a strangely retro vibe — the guy’s furtive behavior and attitudes feel like the late ’90s, not 2017 — but Harris Dickinson’s sensitive lead performance is aces.
Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally play an artsy L.A. couple who are frustrated creatively and maritally and find a solution to both problems: start a band and turn all of their petty recurring arguments into silly songs. Peppered with funny dialogue, the film (which Lister-Jones wrote and directed) also offers insightful details about personal growth and making relationships work, without getting too heavy.
Christopher Gorham directed and stars in this cheerful, gently satiric PG comedy about a shy man who has written a bestselling series of Twilight-ish novels under a pseudonym and now wants to kill off his fictional author so he can get back to his “real” writing. The film arrives at the pleasant conclusion that even piffle like Twilight serves a purpose, and that you should enjoy what you enjoy.
Rami Malek is a beleaguered family man working the graveyard shift at a motel. He’s also a heavily bearded mountain man living off the grid. Same person at different times in his life? Different versions of reality? Something else? Writer-director Sarah Adina Smith delivers a surreal mystery that I found compelling and frustrating both times I watched it. I wouldn’t rule out a third time, either. Malek isn’t far from his paranoid, Fight Club-y Mr. Robot character.
Named after the chromosome, this all-female-directed horror anthology is, like most anthologies, hit or miss. “Horror” is pretty loosely defined, too — but that’s an observation, not a criticism, because this assortment of shorts (totaling just 80 minutes in length) offers a variety of approaches and some killer moments. And hey, funny thing about a horror anthology made by women: there’s no rape or torture. Weird.
Quick, while there’s still a hint of Christmas spirit in the air, feast your eyes on this dark horror-comedy in which a babysitter and her two adolescent charges find themselves in a home-invasion situation. Chris Peckover’s twisty story comments on toxic masculinity and recreates one of the booby traps from Home Alone. What more do you need?
Eric D. Snider lives in Portland, makes less than $1 million.