Sundance Now is another streaming service that’s been around for the past year. However, since it’s available to me this year I might as well go check it out. I’m also doing this at a time when staying home is more of a privilege than a necessity. But if you have that privilege, please practice that while watching something from Sundance Now. The service’s has two major selling points.
The first its its must watch series, a name for another section they have. I normally put a cap on the amount of shows I watch. But I might as well watch Park Chan Wook’s adaptation of John Le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl. Florence Pugh gets into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a good hook. The second is their true crime documentaries like Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War. From what I’ve seen so far, it uses as many senses as possible to deliver its message. That film is going on my list.
Speaking of which, Sundance Now have something that they call My List. Subscribers can add or remove whatever they want on such lists, but it automatically adds selections like Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights. Some readers of Emily Bronte’s novel have suspected something about Heathcliff’s racial identity. And Arnold interprets the character similarly by casting a biracial teenager, Solomon Glave, in the role. Here, she adds temperature and texture to the story, putting Heathcliff through fire, rain, and stone.
Wuthering Heights is also in a section that Sundance Now calls Indie Hits, letting its subscribers revisit favorites from the past decade. One of those hits is Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. This is mostly a story about a the titular character (Greta Gerwig), a struggling dancer who chose New York as her home. But revisiting this reminded me that there is an interlude where she returns to her real home, which is, presumably, Sacramento. This second act echoes through both Baumbach and Gerwig’s work, where characters revisit their old memories. Some critics dismissed Frances’ problems as first world ones, but they’re still problems.
They also have a section they call Leading Ladies. Women can do both dramas and comedies, and some critics who first saw Stephen Frears’ The Queen call it the latter. Either way, the titular monarch (Helen Mirren) is the point of conversation for its characters. Specifically, one of Britain’s Prime Ministers, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), and his wife Cherie (Helen McCrory), debate the Queen’s legitimacy. Tony’s defense of the monarchy as an institution made sense to me the first time I saw it. I was young, I didn’t know any better, how could I have known better?
Like every service, they have new arrivals, but they seem to adds this month’s arrivals with the last. That’s fine for me because that’s how I found Thom Anderson’s Los Angeles Plays Itself. It was an interesting experience to watch this with one of my roommates and his girlfriend. The reacted viscerally when the narrator talked about how some neighborhoods had the wrong kind of people. Anderson depicts cinema’s role in displacing innocent citizens. I almost wasn’t going to watch this because of its length, but Los Angeles is a diverse city. And it intelligently comments on racialized communities in LA and how cinema portrays those demographics. It’s a miracle that Los Angeles Plays Itself made it on a streaming service because that’s inherently difficult in archive documentaries. But Sundance Now is where you can watch this film and more.
- Rated: NR, PG-13, R
- Genre: Biography, Comedy, documentary, Drama, History, Romance
- Directed by: Andrea Arnold, Noah Baumbach, Stephen Frears, Thom Andersen
- Starring: Florence Pugh, Greta Gerwig, Helen Mirren, Solomon Glave
- Produced by: Andy Harries, Kevin Loader, Scott Rudin, Thom Andersen
- Written by: John Le Carre, Noah Baumbach, Olivia Hetreed, Peter Morgan