Films by Women: Five Movies to Watch in June

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Films by Women: Five Movies to Watch in June

The “52FilmsByWomen” hashtag isn’t a new invention, but in the last few years, and especially 2017, it’s gained increasingly urgent relevance. Created and disseminated by Women in Film, a nonprofit outlet established to “achieve parity and transform culture,” the tag translates into a simple pledge: Watch one movie directed by a woman each week for an entire year. Most years, completing that pledge would be a show of respect. Today, it’s a means of pushing back against rampant gender bias in the film industry.

To help those interested in putting their viewing habits to good use, Paste is highlighting some of June’s best new movies in theaters, as well as on home video, directed by women.

In Theaters:

Release Date: June 15, 2018
Director: Christina Choe
What’s the value of identity in a culture that allows us to manipulate identity so easily? Nancy, the first feature by Christina Choe, quietly suggests that typical signifiers for identity—names and histories—matter less, perhaps, than character. Online, and even in person, you can change details of your backstory, but you can’t change your stripes. The film, like its protagonist, and like the actress who plays her (Andrea Riseborough), is slippery in intention and in meaning. What you take out of it likely equals what you bring into it. Is Nancy, a compulsive liar who concocts fake vacations and fake pregnancies to marry with her many pseudonyms, a victimizer or a victim of her isolated circumstances? Is she just lonely, or is she much worse than that, willfully and remorselessly deceitful? You’ll ask as many questions about Nancy as you will about Riseborough, not so much a chameleonic actress as an ineffable changeling, but the questions are essential to Choe’s exercise. Whatever one thinks of her lead, her film’s hypnotic, tragic power is undeniable, its grip inescapable. —Andy Crump

year-spectacular-men-movie-poster.jpgThe Year of Spectacular Men
Release Date: June 15, 2018
Director: Lea Thompson
“Bubbly, clear-eyed sex comedy” is the last pitch a studio would expect from a writer shopping around a movie about depression, but The Year of Spectacular Men has a nifty hook: It’s a family affair, authored by and starring Madelyn Deutch, co-starring her younger sister Zoey and directed by their mom, Lea Thompson, focusing her daughters’ raucous sibling banter through paralytic sadness. Family is all about taking the bad with the good, the giddy, wisecracking banter and sororal love with the behavioral health troubles and personal tragedy. Paying for the lows alongside the highs feels like a bargain. Madelyn plays Izzy, older sister to Sabrina (Zoey), the adult children of Deb (Thompson). Their story isn’t totally unhappy. Sabrina is hitting her career stride and passionately committed to her boyfriend, Sebastian (Avan Jogia), while Deb has found love with a much younger woman, Amythyst (Melissa Bolona), years after the death of the girls’ father. Madelyn, in contrast to Sabrina and Deb, flounders, scraping through college by the skin of her teeth and exiting her relationship with her boyfriend Aaron (Jesse Bradford) by falling flat on her ass. The Year of Spectacular Men is a film about imperfection and the beauty of failure. It’d be a stretch to say the Deutch sisters and Thompson embrace or advocate for failure, but more that they, and the movie they’ve made, understand that nobody knows who they are, where they’re going, or what they want out of life when they’re in their 20s, newly sprung from an upbringing predominantly spent in school. Narratives about the world’s Izzys tend to look at them unflatteringly, writing them off as brats or know-nothings, or generally treating them like disposable punchlines. The Year of Spectacular Men wants us to laugh at her, no doubt about that, but as the film builds we realize we’re laughing with her. —Andy Crump / Full Review

westwood-movie-poster.jpgWestwood: Punk, Icon, Activist
Release Date: June 8, 2018
Director: Lorna Tucker
Vivienne Westwood is a fashion designer—and a punk, an icon and, yes, even an activist—but seen through the lens of filmmaker Lorna Tucker she’s something else entirely: A prickly pain in the ass. But prickly pains in the ass are good documentary subjects, as Tucker’s movie, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, ably demonstrates. Westwood, from the film’s outset, shows open disdain for the project as an abstract idea. Put more generously: She doesn’t understand the point of erecting a biography around her. However one reads her body language (slumped in an armchair, face resting upon her fist) and her dialogue (“I think what you’ll have to let me do is not ask me, ‘Is that the first you went to America?’ or anything like that. I think you just let me just talk and just get it over with,” she says in resignation, eyes aimed off-camera), Westwood is never less than compelling. At just over 70 minutes, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist feels as if it’s just barely drilled down beyond the surface, but all the same, Tucker’s portrait has dimension and borrows Westwood’s own self-possessed vigor for narrative momentum. (If nothing else, it’s worth seeing what the real Westwood is like after getting Helena Bonham Carter’s Westwood-inspired performance in Ocean’s 8.) —Andy Crump



At Home:

set-it-up-movie-poster.jpgSet It Up
Release Date: June 15, 2018 (Netflix)
Director: Claire Scanlon
One can never have enough Zoey Deutch in their moviegoing diet. She’s a treasure, multi-layered, ever hilarious. Want her to throw snark at you? Want her to project confidence without haughtiness? Want her to pull off “awkward with a side of charming” without tipping the scale too much in one direction or the other? She can do all of that. If you have room for just one Deutch movie this month, go for The Year of Spectacular Men, but if your schedule’s open, fit in Claire Scanlon’s Set It Up, a delightful, zippy, corny-and-loving it rom-com about beleaguered office assistant Harper (Deutch) teaming up with as-beleaguered office assistant Charlie (Glen Powell) to get their horrible bosses (respectively, Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs) into bed with one another. Maybe they’re horrible only because they’re undersexed; maybe they’re just horrible. Set It Up isn’t exactly a hard read in that regard (or any, really), but it’s a hoot all the way through, and Scanlon’s smart to hang the film on Deutch and Powell’s chemistry. —Andy Crump

oh-lucy-movie-poster.jpgOh Lucy!
Release Date: June 5, 2018 (blu-ray)
Director: Atsuko Hirayanagi
Office drone Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima), unconsciously looking for an escape hatch from her two-faced coworkers and the overall doldrums of her life, begins taking English lessons at the behest of her niece, Mika (Shiori Kutsuna)—which is a nice way of saying that Mika badgers Setsuko into enrolling on her behalf. (Mika paid for the classes herself but needs money more than she needs English.) Upon meeting her teacher, John (Josh Hartnett), whose unconventional style includes hugs and smiles, Setsuko falls so hard in love with him that she immediately jets out of Japan for California when he absconds with Mika. As fish out of water narratives go, Oh Lucy! stays doggedly grounded in its cultural specificities: Even when director Atsuko Hirayanagi moves locations, the loneliness with which she paints Japan lingers, in part because Japanese social isolation is of concern to her, in part because loneliness is a universal human experience. Still, Oh Lucy!’s melancholy is balanced out by warmth, a knack for acute human observations and thoroughly layered performances, particularly Terajima’s, which nimbly alternates from pitiable, to spirited, to jaded without losing the thread binding them all together. We can see Setsuko’s internal pivots as she slowly, cautiously reaches beyond the confines of her personal life, and as she reverts to those confines when life proves too fraught. It’s a great performance anchoring an equally great, if a tad drawn out, film. —Andy Crump

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