There are always two types of films that get the “Five Star” rating when you finish watching them. There are the films that actually deserve the praise and then are films that you initially love but look back upon and say, “Yeah, I’m going to drop that down a peg.” So I decided to pull a handful of films that I’ve rated on Netflix and see if they still stand the test of time. My only rule was that they were films made within the past ten years. Everything else pretty much has enough time between it’s release. And of course there are some films that I stand by rating five stars (i.e. There Will Be Blood) so they will not be here.
Away From Her
Sarah Polley’s directorial debut tells the story of a man dealing with seeing his wife lose her mind to Alzheimer’s and how it changes both of their lives. This was actually one of the first films I rented when I got my Netflix account. I really like Sarah Polley as an actress and wanted to know what she could bring to the director’s chair. For me this one is still a great film. Polley got such brilliant performances from Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent providing beautiful and heartbreaking moments throughout.
Yeah, that film where Ryan Reynolds was buried in coffin and ransomed by terrorists. I’m a sucker for films that take place in a single location. It shows how a strong director and cinematographer can use limited resources to convey a tone. Reynolds actually got to prove his acting chops were still strong and there were some pretty tense moments. This one though definitely got bumped down to four stars. While I still think Buried is a great film I acknowledge it’s a “gimmick film” and it doesn’t really shake that feeling.
Another actor’s directorial debut this time Josh Radnor (yeah, Ted from How I Met Your Mother) gets a chance to take his script and bring it to life. In a nutshell the story explores how kindness can create strong emotional connections between strangers. It’s a fun and heartwarming film, but it pales in comparison to his follow-up, Liberal Arts. Worth watching as it shows his promise, but it’s definitely a four (possibly three) star film.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
Set in Communist Romania in 1987 this film tells the story of a pregnant college girl helping her roommate procure a backroom abortion. Not exactly the most easily digestible film, but it tells a very personal and important story. No matter what your thoughts are on the subject it’s an issue that needs to be talked about. Seeing the lead take on so much it’s harrowing. I stand by my five stars on this one and still can not believe it didn’t even get nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. It’s a bitter film to watch, but worth it if you can handle it.
Following up Little Miss Sunshine was going to be a tough road for directing duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Armed with a script written by Zoe Kazan (who also played the title role) the film tells the story of a debut novelist trying to duplicate his previous success. While doing so he writes a character named Ruby Sparks who ends up coming to life. It’s a cute little idea and as always Paul Dano plays self-doubting nerd well (how is it that he either plays that or a complete asshole in everything). In the end it’s cute, but not great. So yep, this one is four stars.
Tom McCarthy has always been a phenomenal director (well, with the exception of The Cobbler) and pairing up with Paul Giamatti made Win Win a fantastic dramedy. Much in the same vein as The Station Agent and The Visitor, Win Win is a small personal film. And sometimes telling a story that doesn’t have the safety of the world hanging on the shoulders of your lead is important. Instead the film is built around how doing the right thing for selfish reasons can come back and bite you in the ass. In the meantime you’ve got a struggling lawyer/wrestling coach taking in an elderly man and his grandson to earn a stipend. Seeing the potential in the young man he begins to coach him in wrestling. It may not sound like a substantial story, but it’s great. And if you haven’t guessed, it’s five star worthy.
As usual, what are your thoughts? Do you ever go back and re-evaluate films you’ve watched? Did you like any of the films talked about in this article?