If you missed Paul Feig’s hilarious, smart, raunchy Bullock and McCarthy two-hander “The Heat” this past summer, fear not. You can now catch up with or even revisit the movie — a box office smash that showed up most of the dummy male demo offerings of the summer — on demand and iTunes. Between this film and “Gravity,” Sandra Bullock, one of our most lovable and down-to-earth movie stars, is having quite a year. And in the spirit of this release, I went in search of other, perhaps more unconventional streaming movies that fit the female buddy bill.
Set in the early 80s at the end of an era, Whit Stillman‘s “The Last Days of Disco” (Netflix) stars Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale as well-off twentysomething socialites who work for a publishing company by day and by night break hearts with their witty banter and coy seduction. Like any Stillman film, this one from 1998 is extra talky, with articulate, flawed characters of affluent social stature who feel more like Gen-Xers in spite of the time period. The 70s were doing the walk of shame into the 80s, and Stillman’s clever, low-key script captures that spirit completely.
Also on Netflix, Nicole Holofcener‘s (“Enough Said”) easy, breezy first film “Walking and Talking” (1996) is the quintessential female buddy movie, and the buddies here are Catherine Keener, a floundering New Yorker down on her luck, and Anne Heche, her best friend soon to be married. Keener is as charmingly neurotic and troubled as ever, especially when she’s unraveling over a romantic obsession with a gawkish video store employee (Kevin Corrigan). In this film, writer/director Holofcener, a keen observer of bourgeois guilt and contemporary social mores (see “Friends with Money,” “Lovely and Amazing”), announced her knack for capturing females in crisis to the world.
Speaking of girlfriends on edge — or sisters, rather, in the strange case of Robert Aldrich’s flamboyant, lurid 1962 Hollywood camp classic “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (Amazon)–poor Joan Crawford doesn’t have much to work with in her Oscar-snubbed role as Blanche, who looms in the shadows of her starlet sister. That’s because Bette Davis as “Baby Jane” steals the show in a flashy, feverish performance. Long nights of drink and desperation bring these two royally screwed up siblings to the edge of madness as they torture each other physically and psychologically. The offscreen antics between Crawford and Davis, who allegedly drove each other crazy during the film’s production, are equally juicy. That kind of rivalry could only have existed in the Hollywood heyday and, for the sake of art, it works marvelously well here.
Another film about sisters, though far less malicious, is Andrew Bujalski‘s “Beeswax” (Fandor). Bujalski, always plugged into the zeitgeist, has only made a handful of films (this year’s weird, wonderful “Computer Chess” among them) but this film about a few days in the life of a pair of rivalrous twin sisters might be his very best. This is pure mumblecore at its sweetest and warmest, with endearing performances by real-life sisters Tilly and Maggie Hatcher, and a wry, understated turn from “Girls” star Alex Karpovsky.
A film for diehard cinephiles, Vera Chytilova‘s not-easily-digested “Daisies” (Hulu) is the most unconventional of female friendship films, a dreamy, enchanting and sometimes off-putting Czech tale of two teenage girls who engage in a series of elaborate pranks for their own amusement. The elliptical, almost robotic editing and garish production design made this one of the most influential Czech films ever, as it has that innate creepiness so many films from that country do.
Finally, and in a completely different spirit, Daryl Wein‘s underrated “Lola Versus” (HBO Go) sizzles with great chemistry between the effervescent Greta Gerwig and comedy ingenue Zoe Lister Jones (who cowrote the film with husband Wein) as romantically challenged best friends. Critics took issue with the film’s rom-com narrative, in which Lola (Gerwig) is dumped by her boyfriend (swoon-worthy Joel Kinnaman) and spends the rest of the movie obsessing over him as her life goes to bits. But “Lola Versus” is also compulsively watchable for fans of that kind of thing (count me among them). Disarming and self-deprecating, Gerwig portrays her frustrating yet relatable character with clumsy awkwardness and even a bit of grace — though her most winsome performance is in “Frances Ha,” another female buddy movie out on Criterion November 12.
Trailers after the jump.