Screening Room: Flinty, Funny ‘Private Life’ Shouldn’t Get Lost On Netflix

The newest family comedy from Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills, The Savages) follows a literary New York couple in the middle of a years-long saga to get pregnant. The results are often funny, but not pretty.

Private Life opened at the New York Film Festival and is now on Netflix and in some theaters. My review is at The Playlist:

Does it matter that Tamara Jenkins’ newest movie, “Private Life,” is only getting one of those mini boutique theatrical releases at the same time being released somewhere into the unknown algorithm wilds of Netflix for the whole nation to see?…

The trailer is here:

Screening Room: ‘Eighth Grade’

Elsie Fisher in ‘Eighth Grade’ (A24)

My review of Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade is at PopMatters:

Unlike most movies about school-age outsiders, Eighth Grade doesn’t rely on the traditional dramatic tropes of embarrassment and rebellion. Kayla wants desperately to have friends. Like most shy kids, she’s paralyzed in social settings. But unlike most shy kids, she pushes herself past that cocoon of diffident silence. First are her videos, which, you get the impression, are as much for herself as for anybody who might be come across her YouTube channel. This is a girl whose bedroom mirror is ringed with motivational quotes scribbled onto Post-It notes. (“Learn a joke every day!”) But also, instead of always hanging back on the periphery, occasionally she jumps…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Downsizing’

In Alexander Payne’s new comedy, Downsizing, Matt Damon plays a guy who takes advantage of new technology that shrinks people in order to offset their negative impact on the environment; also, leads to a life of luxury that is not as enjoyable as he initially thinks.

Downsizing opens next Friday. My review is at PopMatters:

No, being the size of a dog’s chew toy might not be to everybody’s taste, but it’s certainly a shortcut to a kind of upper middle-class luxury unobtainable for most of humanity. Around $150k in real-world money translates into $12.5 million in the little planned communities of the downsized. That buys a lot of McMansion. As the indelibly happy Dave (Jason Sudeikis) crows to occupational therapist Paul (Matt Damon), “Cheesecake Factory? We’ve got three of ’em!”…

Screening Room: ‘I, Tonya’

In 1994, the world of professional skating was hurled into the burgeoning tabloid TV landscape when an assailant clubbed skater Nancy Kerrigan and suspicion fell on another skater, Tonya Harding. The resulting media firestorm was like a runup to the O.J. trial.

Margot Robbie stars as Harding in the inside-out comedy I, Tonya, which opens next week. My review is at PopMatters:

“This is bullshit. I never did this,” Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) assures viewers in the meta-comedy I, Tonya just after she is seen unloading a blast of buckshot at her fleeing husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan). Not that most of us would blame her. At that point, we already saw Jeff beat her for saying the wrong thing, or just for being there. Before that there was a long stretch of verbal and emotional abuse from LaVona (Allison Janney), Tonya’s cold-eyed villain of a mother. So this is somebody who had good reason to pick up a shotgun and let fly…

 

Screening Room: ‘Battles of the Sexes’

Battles of the Sexes, the serio-comic new movie about that time Billie Jean King played a washed-up ex-tennis champion for $100,000 and the chance to show up the male gender, is playing in limited release.

My review is at PopMatters:

When Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is at the salon and finds herself falling deep into the eyes of her hairdresser, Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough), it’s not as though the married tennis star is free to fling open the closet door. Billie might not be able to shake the electric sensation of that meeting, but there’s a tour to go on, not to mention sponsors and a public who wouldn’t approve…

Here’s the trailer:

Reader’s Corner: ’10 Things I Learned About Literature from Monty Python’

My article ‘Proust, Hardy, and Spam: 10 Things I Learned About Literature from Monty Python’—including many handy and time-wasting YouTube links and a plethora of literary goodies—was just published at The Barnes & Noble Review:

As many gawky teens discovered in their misspent youths, there was comedy and then there was Monty Python. Exploding penguins, a crime-fighting bishop, and Karl Marx struggling to answer questions about soccer on a TV quiz show; it was all surreal grist for their mill. Fully embodying the high culture/low humor synthesis that produced the better countercultural artifacts of the 1970s, their TV series, films, concerts, and books embedded arch literary references inside a dense framework of Dada performance art-pieces, cultural satire, and broadly silly skits in a classically comedic idiom…

And don’t forget Monty Python FAQ, in finer bookstores now.