Stream it on Netflix.
Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’s micro-budget New York drama is everything indie movies are supposed to be: keenly observed and modestly executed, telling us a story and showing us a world we don’t usually see in mainstream cinema. In this case, it’s the world of Feña (Lío Mehiel), a transgender man and a semi-desperate pseudo-hustler whose life goes momentarily topsy-turvy when he accidentally reconnects with a former boyfriend from before his transition. Every performer is on point, natural and credible, and the screenplay is lived-in and mostly devoid of histrionics (Feña gives a big speech to his dad about how difficult it all is, and it’s the single false note, the only scene that feels like a scene from a movie instead of a scene from real life). This is a small film, but a mighty one.
Stream it on Max.
When this Max original debuted in 2020, its story — of a young woman (Haley Lu Richardson, “The White Lotus”) inviting her former BFF (Barbie Ferreira, “Euphoria”) on an impromptu road trip to a state that doesn’t require parental consent for an abortion — felt a bit less urgent. In this post-Dobbs world, in which such journeys have become necessary even for some adults, the picture’s light tone and comic beats could seem to make light of a serious situation. But the co-writer and director Rachel Lee Goldenberg balances these trick tones with aplomb, primarily focusing on the splintered (but repairable) friendship between these disparate women, without trivializing the motivation for their reunion. The result is a sharp but likable road movie, and a fine showcase for two charismatic performers.
The filmmaker Sammi Cohen, who had a popular hit on Netflix with last year’s Adam Sandler (and family) vehicle “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah,” directs this delightfully frisky queer teen sex comedy. Rowan Blanchard is Paige, split between two potential romantic interests: the popular Gabriela (Isabella Ferreira) and the introverted AJ (Auli‘i Cravalho), who also, inconveniently enough, happen to be sisters. Though contemporary in its setting and sexual politics, “Crush” betrays Cohen’s love for ’90s teen comedies of the “Clueless” ilk, borrowing their candy-colored aesthetics as well as their knowing and occasionally adult-oriented sense of humor. Blanchard is a charming anchor, Ferreira a memorable counterpoint and Cravalho, currently brightening up “Mean Girls” and best known to younger viewers for voicing “Moana,” is one of the most exciting young actors on the scene.
‘In Fabric’ (2019)
Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.
Peter Strickland directs deliciously strange movies, valentines to the genre cinema of eras past with a modern sensibility and anything-goes spirit. This feature, his fourth, takes a premise that could’ve been played as high camp — the evil doings of a cursed red dress — and approaches it … well, not exactly seriously, but not as a joke, either. Strickland’s work (which includes the earlier “Duke of Burgundy” and the more recent “Flux Gourmet”) walks a perpetual tightrope of tones, winking in one moment and shocking us the next. Here, he slyly casts Marianne Jean-Baptiste (best known to American audiences for the ultrarealism of Mike Leigh’s “Secrets & Lies”) in the leading role, grounding the picture’s wild, supernatural elements in a deceptively down-to-earth cloak.
The New York City-set stalker thriller was a mainstay of late-20th-century moviemaking (see “Fatal Attraction,” “Single White Female” and many more); this recent take updates the technology while keeping the throwback pleasures intact. Isabelle Huppert is the title character, a piano teacher (a nice nod to one of her most iconic roles) who strikes up a friendship with Frankie (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young Boston transplant who she senses is in need of a maternal influence. Frankie gets that — and much more besides. The director and co-writer is Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”), a filmmaker who, like Strickland, is skilled at balancing the silly and the sublime, and while “Greta” sometimes threatens to veer into goofier waters, Jordan and his gifted leading ladies never let us forget that they’re in on the joke.
‘Radical Wolfe’ (2023)
Stream it on Netflix.
This documentary profile of the storied writer Tom Wolfe is based on Michael Lewis’s 2015 “Vanity Fair” article, and it feels like a cinematic magazine piece: brief (75 minutes, including credits) and succinct, more an introduction than an in-depth study. But the director Richard Dewey uses his time wisely, chronicling the man, the times he so skillfully captured and the literary revolution, pushing back against the longtime standard of the objective and neutral voice, which he helped define. Adroitly juggling talk show footage, archival interviews and new readings of his work (by Jon Hamm), Dewey also pokes around in the origins and reception to some of Wolfe’s most beloved pieces, and some of his more controversial ones (which frequently overlapped). We see not only the development and careful cultivation of Wolfe’s public persona, but also the ways in which it may have limited his voice.
Any thorough examination of systemic racism in the United States must devote much of its energy to the role of policing, and the vast chasm between how police treat white citizens and the way they treat Black ones. This insightful and incisive documentary from the directors Stanley Nelson and Valerie Scoon catalogs those variances, now and throughout American history, patiently and meticulously detailing precedents and analogues, and analyzing the media influences that keep these systems running. Nelson and Scoon pack plenty of information into a fleet running time — but shortchange nothing, paying due attention to immediately apparent historical markers (the “red summer” of 1919, Rodney King, George Floyd) while shining a welcome spotlight on less-discussed incidents and insidious influences.