I don’t have to tell you, the news is bad. Public school is crumbing, the polar bears are going extinct, and my brain is melting from the heat and the constant interruptions from my children and WFH husband. Also my computer died. And our car broke down. I got my novel back from my agent and I have a lot of revisions. I knew I would have to revise and under normal circumstances, I’d be rubbing my hands together. But now I’m just like, how? When? In what universe? Is anyone even reading books anyway? (Actually, I am! Shout out to reading! It’s a great escape.)
For all these reasons and many more, I’ve been wanting to watch movies with a little sweetness to them, and preferably a happy ending. So, here are some of my favorites from the past few weeks. I included star ratings to temper expectations: most are in the 2-3 range and it’s possible that I overrated a few of them just because I need something light-hearted. The point is, I’m not making any grand claims for their quality. But they might distract you from the news for 90 minutes, and give you a good night’s sleep without any nightmares.
Military Wives (2020) ★★★
Director: Peter Cattaneo
Writers: Rosanne Flynn and Rachel Tunnard
Streaming on Hulu
First up: Military Wives. I had to convince my husband Mike to watch this, but it actually wasn’t that hard once he saw that Sharon Horgan and Kristen Scott Thomas were the stars. That was the selling point for me, too–also the fact that it’s a movie about people singing in a choir together. That, for me, is a cozy subject. Nothing bad is going to happen to people singing together. Actually, some sad things do occur but everyone rises to the occasion and in the end there is a party. Mike aptly described it as “the Great British Baking Show of movies” because everyone is British and very polite and doing their best as they take on creative endeavors.
Fun Mom Dinner (2017) ★★1/2
Director: Alethea Jones
Writer: Julie Rudd
Streaming on Netflix
There’s nothing original or surprising in this movie about four “mom friends” who have a wild night on the town while the dads watch the kids. But I laughed so much. Bridget Everett stole the movie — or maybe Molly Shannon did? I would watch this again to relax or as a hangout movie to have on while folding laundry or paying bills online.
But I’m A Cheerleader (1999) ★★★1/2
Director: Jamie Babbit
Streaming on the Criterion Channel — but leaving July 31 so watch it soon!
I don’t know how I missed this zany satire when it came out in the late 1990s. It’s a romantic comedy about conversion therapy starring a very young Natasha Lyonne and Clea Duvall, who you might recognize from Veep. The costumes and production design are reminiscent of early Wes Anderson. And it has a happy ending. I loved it.
The Half of It (2020) ★★★
Writer & Director: Alice Wu
This is a very sweet romantic comedy set in the distinctive location of Squahamish, Washington. It’s a sly take on the Cyrano de Bergerac story, with a nerdy girl writing love letters for the dumb jock — but she’s secretly in love with the girl that he’s crushing on. As someone who went to high school in a rural place, I appreciated the non-suburban setting, and I also liked that the kids were all basically decent people. I was rooting for everyone in this movie. The director also managed to use the trope of on-screen texting in a genuinely funny way, and the soundtrack was great, too. This is probably my favorite Netflix rom-com, or a close tie with Set It Up. (Which, now that I think of it, was also a Cyrano de Bergerac story. . . I guess the writer in my likes that conceit.)