I’m in a summery mood. The high on my weather.com app reads above 70 degrees and the air outside is charged with that characteristic humid stickiness. And, if I’m being honest, indulging in the crash-bang fun of Avengers: Age of Ultron made me feel as though the summer movie season has officially begun!
Though there will be plenty of high-octane, action-adventure sagas smashing their away across megaplexes in the coming months, our theaters won’t be completely devoid of well-developed characters and unique narratives. We can also set our sights on a few indie favorites that premiered wayyyyy back in icy January.
Three critically-acclaimed crowd-pleasers from the Sundance Film Festival are making their way to a city near you—or at least New York and L.A.—within two weeks of each other this June, and I am thrilled. Their subjects couldn’t be more different, the characters drawn from disparate subsets of American popular culture, and the narratives bending in wildly divergent trajectories. But they all seem to share a vivacity and energy particular to the summer season, a la Sundance predecessor-turned-Oscar-favorite Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Will these garner the same sort of attention? Rumor has it that the young stars of Dope and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl could stand a chance come Oscar season. But really they, along with the sex-charged couples in The Overnight, are here to entertain. And entertain they shall!
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon), June 12
It’s difficult to describe Me and Earl and the Dying Girl without this Grand Jury and Audience Award-winning film sounding like an after-school special. But from what I can gather, that is precisely the sort of genre Alfonso Gomez-Rejon eschews here, telling the story of a boy, his best friend, and their forced friendship with a girl who is dying of cancer. What better way to cheer her up than by creating extremely low-budget, semi-surrealist spoofs of famous films?
The cast here is killer: Connie Britton, Nick Offerman, and Molly Shannon headline the adult roles. But everyone is really in it for the youth performances, and with Olivia Cooke—who consistently shows up Vera Farmiga as supporting character Emma on Bates Motel—in the role of “the dying girl,” I truly couldn’t be more excited. The trailer is sarcastic, biting, and poignant, and if I’m tearing up already, then I know that I’ll be sobbing by the end of the film. Get out your Kleenex and join me for what is apparently an acid-tongued, good-humored bit of coming-of-age nostalgia.
Dope (dir. Rick Famiyuwa), June 19
It may not have gotten the awards attention of Me and Earl, but Rick Famiyuwa’s Dope still received great notices out of Park City, UT. Critics were high on its specific sense of place, the frenetic cinematography and editing that aid in that visual tone-setting, and especially newcomer Shameik Moore’s performance as Malcolm. Joined by his two loser friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori, so wonderful in Grand Budapest Hotel), Malcolm just wants to survive senior year in gritty Inglewood, CA and make his way to Harvard. When an appearance at an underground party goes awry, Malcolm’s backpack winds up being filled to the brim with, well, dope! He, Diggy, and Jib have to deliver the goods, but with college interviews and girl-crush Nakia (Zoë Kravitz) looming, who knows what could happen.
The trailer is full of odd characters, witty visual flourishes, and the sunny, SoCal setting that distinguish Dope as a true summer film. A goofy flight of fancy brushed with harsh tinges of impoverished reality, this one looks to be a winner.
The Overnight (dir. Patrick Brice), June 19
I’ll admit that The Overnight, an adult sleepover sex comedy that will leave you feeling surprisingly introspective, is the real reason I wanted to write this post. Unlike the other two films—which will no doubt impress when I get around to seeing them—I already caught this 80-minute doozy at a press screening and fell in love. While I won’t be writing a full review until closer to its release, I can at least fill you in a little bit. The film focuses in on Emily (Taylor Schilling of Orange is the New Black, just as lovely here) and Alex (Adam Scott, spectacular), a couple who recently relocated to L.A. with their son RJ. These two are desperate to make friends, so when Kurt (Jason Schwartzman, playing the most warm-hearted douche ever) invites them over for dinner and a play date for the kids, they jump at the chance. Eventually, the kids are put to sleep, and Kurt, along with wife Charlotte (the fabulous Judith Godrèche), convince Alex and Emily to stay for a night of drinking, weed-smoking, and who knows what else. The tension mounts, and as they two couples get split off into various pairs, the conversation turns increasingly to unknown and unspoken sexual desires.
This one will leave you reeling, folks. Whether the sexual content shocks you or not—there is a memorable scene involving two obviously fake prosthetic penises—the film will undoubtedly take you to unexpected places. The twists are tight and unforeseen, and the actors are all wonderfully game in this raucous late-night romp!
What indie films are you looking forward to this summer? Share your most-anticipated and spread the movie love in the comments below!