Where: New York and Los Angeles; expands nationwide on September 14.
What: Joaquin Phoenix stars as a troubled war veteran who stumbles into the inner circle of a charismatic religious leader in the early 1950s.
Why Go: Absolutely mesmerizing, emotionally true, and funnier than you might expect, the newest film from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson features three extraordinary actors at the top of their game: Phoenix is stunning as the violence-prone drifter, matched by Philip Seymour Hoffman as the founder of a religious movement known as the Cause and Amy Adams as his warm yet steely wife. It’s a cinematic tour de force that defies easy categorization.
More: Sean O’Connell’s early review from the Toronto Film Festival.
Where: In limited release (197 theaters) nationwide; also available on VOD.
What: Richard Gere stars as a Wall Street tycoon struggling to hold together his business and family life.
Why Go: The film has generated extremely positive buzz, based on what’s said to be a terrific performance by Gere, good support by Susan Sarandon as his wife and Brit Marling as his daughter, and excellent direction by Nicholas Jarecki, making his feature directorial debut. The themes are timely, especially the question of how far individuals are willing to go to maintain an incredibly lavish lifestyle and secure a personal legacy.
Where: New York.
What: Licking romantic wounds, a 35-year-old man (Josh Radnor) returns to his alma mater and strikes up a relationship with a beguiling 19-year-old college student (Elizabeth Olsen).
Why Go: The film, written and directed by Radnor, has won kudos for its accurate portrayal of college life. Our own Jenni Miller acknowledged, though, that it may have limited appeal: “It's about white people who are well off enough to attend a private college and read David Foster Wallace. … [Also], there are still some twee 'go get yourself loved!' type aphorisms. That said, I found it warm-hearted and intensely likeable.”
More: Jenni Miller’s dispatch from Sundance.
DVD Pick of the Week
Beyond the Black Rainbow
What: A troubled woman is confined at an institute founded to help people achieve happiness and contentment through unusual, drug-fueled treatment.
Why See It: The colors! The weirdness! The directorial debut of Panos Cosmatos is set in the 1980s, and, as I noted in my review, “the institute is located in a lonely rural area, starkly designed as an object from the future. … Beyond the Black Rainbow is filled with eye-popping visual delights… a riot of colors that imbue meaning to entire sequences simply by changing from red to blue. It's a heady, healthy trip into the unknown.”
More: My review from Fantastic Fest.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Where/When: In limited release on September 21.
What: Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller star in the big-screen version of a best-selling book by Stephen Chbosky.
Why We Want to See It: Advance word had been very strong even before the film’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the buzz has only gotten better since then. “The real strength and heart of Perks,” reported our own Monika Bartyzel, “is that it is much more than any one thing. It is a light, magnetic teen movie just as much as it’s a gritty revelation of many darker teen experiences.”
More: Monika Bartyzel’s early review from Toronto.