See it in theaters: 'Dear Evan Hansen'
Over the course of his career, writer-director Stephen Chbosky's perspective on art has shifted. "When I was younger, I was interested in what art could give me, and as I'm getting older, I'm much more interested in what I can give art, or what art can give people," Chbosky recalled in an A.frame feature this week. "The one-way street completely turned around." Therein lies what he hopes to achieve with Dear Evan Hansen, a story he thinks can help young people feel "that they are seen, that they are understood, and that they are not alone, especially with everything we've all been through the last year and a half." An adaptation of the 2015 stage musical of the same name, the film follows the socially anxious Hansen, played by Ben Platt, on a very unusual journey on his path to self-discovery, revolving around a case of mistaken identity Hansen takes advantage of following the suicide of one of his peers. Also stars Kaitlyn Dever, Julianne Moore and Amy Adams.
PLUS: Check out Chbosky's picks for his top five high school movies.
In select theaters and VOD: 'El Planeta'
Argentinian artist and filmmaker Amalia Ulman made her feature film directorial debut at Sundance this year with El Planeta, a droll comic drama set in her childhood home of Gijón, Spain. Ulman also wrote the film and stars in it as Leo, a fashion student who returns to town to live with her mother, María (played by Ulman's real-life mother, Ale Ulman), following the death of her father. Facing increasing financial hardship, Leo and María attempt to scheme their way back into solvency with a number of gambits—everything from shoplifting to not paying for fancy meals to María lying shamelessly about her daughter's international Instagram prowess. Ulman was apparently inspired by the true story of "Las Falsas Ricas," an infamous mother-and-daughter tandem of scammers in Gijón who hustled their way into upper-class Spanish society. El Planeta is an assured first feature from the already established artist Ulman, and bodes well for her future as a distinctive voice in film.
Stream it on Netflix: 'The Starling'
Longtime onscreen partners Melissa McCarthy and Chris O'Dowd—this is their fourth appearance together, the first being the classic Bridesmaids—play a married couple dealing with the loss of their child in this off-kilter tragicomedy from director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent). The rest of the cast also impresses, with Timothy Olyphant as McCarthy's bully of a boss and Kevin Kline as her quirky but well-meaning therapist. Oh, and there's the titular Hitchcockian bird that obsessively attacks the grieving McCarthy. Matt Harris—a 2002 recipient of the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting—penned the screenplay.
Pick it up on Criterion Blu-ray: 'Love & Basketball'
Now a cult classic, Love & Basketball marked another promising directorial debut—this one by Academy member Gina Prince-Bythewood, who's gone on to direct three more, including her most recent, The Old Guard, from 2020. Produced by Spike Lee, Love & Basketball stars Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps as childhood sweethearts and budding basketball standouts who navigate their mirrored careers—and the different challenges that come attached for each of them—as they move in and out of each other's lives. With its unabashed examination of gender roles and other well-drawn social themes, it's a coming-of-age romance unusual in its depth and maturity—and this beautiful Criterion package provides a great reason to pick it up again, or see it for the first time.