All this week, Indiewire will be rolling out our annual Summer Preview, including offerings that span genres, a close examination of various trends and special attention to all the new movies you need to get through a jam-packed summer movie-going season. Check back every day for a new look at the best the season has to offer, and clear your schedule, because we’re going to fill it right up.
“Dark Horse,” May 6
Louise Osmond’s touching documentary has already played very well across the pond, picking up a British Independent Film Award for best documentary last year, and it’s finally set to open stateside for a limited theatrical run. Osmond’s film has already shown a bit around the States, including a Sundance premiere where it was nominated for the grand jury prize in world documentary and ultimately picked up the audience award in the same category. And it’s no wonder that Sundance audiences went for it, because the true story of a bunch of pals who decide to breed themselves a racehorse is a major crowd-pleaser. Inspirational, funny, dramatic and uplifting, the film is heart-warming even as it makes the so-called sport of kings very accessible to a crowd and shines a light on big-time racing snobbery. Osmond has long chronicled compelling true stories for her documentaries, including such topics as Richard III and filmmaker Ken Loach (her next feature on deck), but “Dark Horse” is easily her most charming offering yet.
“Money Monster,” May 13
Jodie Foster’s fourth directorial outing will first screen at Cannes before going wide mere days later. It’s certainly her most splashy feature yet, and that Cannes inclusion should only bolster the prestige already surrounding the picture, thanks to its stellar cast (George Clooney, Julia Roberts and rising star Jack O’Connell) and buzzy, timely plot (Clooney plays a Jim Cramer-type whose money management show, produced by Roberts’ character, that is taken over by a gun-toting O’Connell). Foster hasn’t yet found her signature voice as a filmmaker, vacillating between the heart-stopping emotion of “Little Man Tate” and the off-kilter humor of “Home for the Holidays” (an overlooked classic of the “my family is crazy, let’s holiday” genre) and the misbegotten Mel Gibson vehicle “The Beaver.” If “Money Monster” heralds a new era in her career, the thinking viewer’s blockbuster, Foster may have finally found a satisfying way to really move forward.
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“Maggie’s Plan,” May 20
Rebecca Miller’s festival mainstay has been hopping around the circuit since it debuted at TIFF last September, and it’s finally, finally set to hit theaters with a prime summer date. Don’t let its basic plotline fool you – indie sweetheart Greta Gerwig (as Maggie, of course) falls in love with a married Ethan Hawke, then reels from the consequences – this isn’t another feature about ill-fated romance done up in quirky style. Well, maybe it is, but don’t expect Gerwig’s Maggie and Hawke’s John to lead that particular charge. Instead, “Maggie’s Plan” is more concerned with Maggie’s recognition of the mistakes she’s made and her plan (chortle) to set them right, even if she’s the one on the losing end. It’s a mature, funny and wholly unique feature, and it’s a wonderful return to form for Miller, who has been missing from our screens for far too long.
“Chevalier,” May 27
“Me Before You,” June 3
“Call the Midwife” director and lauded theatre director Thea Sharrock makes the jump to the big screen with a splashy telling of Jojo Moyes’ best-selling novel of the same name. Fans of Moyes’ many works of fiction already know what to expect – a dramatic love story capped off with some huge twists – but the feature could serve as a big step forward for Sharrock and her stars Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, along with the seriously ailing romantic dramedy market at large. Clarke plays a home health care aide who unexpectedly falls for (it’s always unexpectedly, isn’t it?) her crotchety new employer, the recently paralyzed Will Traynor (Claflin). It’s a small, intimate story that could make for some hugely tear-jerking moments, and the possible introduction of a director who is equipped to give emotionally heavy plots the proper care and attention.
“The Fits,” June 3
Anne Rose Holmer’s staggering Venice debut tackles the insular world of teenage girls with the kind of gusto and spirit that few filmmakers are able to conjure from such fraught material. Toplined by the copious charms of newbie Royalty Hightower, “The Fits” follows scrappy young boxer Toni as she decides to redirect her athletic prowess into a spot on the very popular (and very serious) dance team that dominates her social sphere. As Toni starts changing, so too does the dance squad, though not for the better, with numerous members falling prey to some sort of strange physical ailment (a fit!) that threatens their brutal competition schedule. An artful blend of female troubles, inventively physical set pieces and unexpected character study, Holmer’s debut is one of the very best of the year.
“Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,” July 22
British television mainstay Mandie Fletcher – she’s directed series after series, including stops at “Only Fools and Horses” and “Clatterford,” and yes, even “Absolutely Fabulous” – is bound for the big screen with the much-hyped and long-anticipated “AbFab” feature, a sure-to-be-riotuous reunion of stars Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders. The new, booze-filled adventure will reportedly imagine what happens to Patsy and Edina when they biff and bomb a super-celebrity-filled launch party (which is why the film’s cast list is kitted out with so many famous names), prime “AbFab” material that should allow Fletcher to show off her comedic chops to a much larger audiences. Comedy still needs more women – especially more women directors –and Fletcher’s voice is just screaming to break out.
“Equity,” July 29
Menon already had a hell of a coming out with 2013’s charming, sexy and funny “Farah Goes Bang,” but her latest film (which premiered at Sundance in January) attempts to show off a new side of the filmmaker’s abilities. A slick thriller set on Wall Street, the film notably follows a female lead (Anna Gunn, in an impressively tense performance) as she navigates a complicated corporate culture during the most difficult time of her career. Menon excels at world-building, and the result is a taunt and snappy financial thriller that argues for her multi-faceted talents as a filmmaker.
“A Tale of Love and Darkness,” August 19
Natalie Portman’s directorial debut has quietly been making the festival rounds since it debuted at Cannes last year, and the deeply personal film is finally hitting limited theaters this summer. Based on Amos Oz’s autobiography of the same name, Portman reportedly worked on the script (entirely in Hebrew) for nearly a decade before she was ready to tell the story of Oz’s early years in the late era of Palestine and then the State of Israel, all filtered through stories about his own family. The film is Portman’s passion project, and it will be compelling to see how all that emotion lands on the big screen.
“The Intervention,” August 26
Clea DuVall’s Sundance premiere is a wickedly funny mix of the expected and the unique, pulling together a strong cast of indie-leaning actors (from Cobie Smulders to Jason Ritter, Alia Shawkat to DuVall herself) for a new spin on “The Big Chill” that yields some surprising results. The film follows a group of friends who hit upon the (not-at-all) genius idea to stage an intervention for a pair of their pals whose marriage has turned (in their minds) unbearably sour. Of course, that wild idea yields some shocking results, and the film is bolstered by DuVall’s strong ability to blend big laughs with even bigger emotions. The film’s secret weapon? Star Melanie Lynskey, who shines so brightly in a tricky role that she won a special jury prize at Sundance for her work here.