That the PR people gave Bethany Jean Clement after the press screening of What If. The Stranger

What If

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So it's hot young people, but not hot-hot—quirky-hot. Love triangle, one that deals with the real, complicated relationships that real, young, quirky-hot people have today. Totally hipster, all the hipster things: vinyl records, ping-pong, knitting. She's an animator! Throw in some indie-feel animation at random intervals! Yes! Canadian director, Michael Dowse! Yes, Canada, set it there! Dialogue that's relentlessly clever but, you know, real. Think Miranda July meets Girls meets rom-com. The quirky-hot tall guy from Girls—get him! And maybe, like, Harry Potter—he's quirky-hot now, absolutely. For the girl, someone relatable, cute but not too cute... what's her name, Zoe Kazan, sure. High production values, but an indie look—you know, indie-mainstream. Needs a food tie-in, completely, but nothing serious—say Kazan and Daniel Radcliffe eat fried pickles at a cool Toronto diner while talking about how much feces was found in Elvis's dead body, and the dead bodies of other famous people! Edgy—like Girls! Then they also talk about Elvis's peanut butter, jelly, and bacon sandwiches! And we have the PR people give out peanut butter, jelly, and bacon sandwiches at the press screenings! Perfect. Yes! (The sandwich was better than the movie, which is not saying much.) BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT


This documentary is too intimate, too beautiful, and too sad. It's about Elena Costa, a young Brazilian actress and dancer who committed suicide in 1990 in New York City. She was born in 1969. Her parents were Marxist radicals who fled Brazil during a crackdown on leftist artists. Her younger sister, Petra, was born in 1983, long after her parents had returned to Brazil and become members of the upper middle class. Petra Costa is the director and narrator of Elena, which has footage of the sisters when they were young, when they danced in the sunny living room of their big house, and when they lived in New York City in the late '80s. Their mother, as a young woman, also had the dream of becoming a movie star; after the dream came to nothing, she married a man who had dreams of creating a new society, and that dream also came to nothing. These political and artistic failures were eventually joined by the failure of the marriage. Elena seems to have handled this break badly. She also seems to have never been fully alive, but always something of a ghost. She knew her time in this world of people, cities, theaters, and painful auditions and rejections was not long. Elena was, like the film, too beautiful and too sad. CHARLES MUDEDE

Happy Christmas

If this movie were a Buzzfeed list, it would be "15 Things That Twentysomethings Do That Piss Thirtysomethings Off." An illustrative scene: Drunk twentysomething puts a frozen pizza in the oven and conks out after smoking a bowl. Responsible thirtysomething wakes up to a house engulfed in smoke, wondering, is my house on fire? Is my baby on fire? Is my life burning down? Things like this happen throughout Happy Christmas, Joe Swanberg's latest comedy, and we're invited to wonder how, why, and when the carelessness of youth is exchanged for the stability of adulthood. Kelly and Jeff, played by Melanie Lynskey and Swanberg himself, are a young couple who recently became parents and are working on the humbling task of assembling the structures of a nuclear family. The agent of interruption is Jeff's 26-year-old sister, a lively Anna Kendrick, who just broke up with a boyfriend and is coming to stay "for a while, I think. I don't actually know how long." It's a nice little people-figuring-stuff-out movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. It has the sense to not be longer than it needs to be, and the music is good. The stakes are low, but it wins. KRISHANU RAY

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Who told Hollywood that food has the power to defeat racism? I'm pretty sure it doesn't. The Hundred-Foot Journey is the latest to doggedly insist that food heals all, offering the audacious premise of an Indian family emigrating to a tiny town in France and opening a restaurant across the street from a Michelin-starred outpost of classical French cuisine. Helmed by Lasse Hallström in a clear bid to recapture some of that ol' Chocolat magic, Journey focuses on Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), a bee-yoo-ty-ful young Indian man with near-mystical skill in the kitchen. He Is the One Whose Divine Culinary Gifts Will Bring Michelin Stars to Us All; Lo! Gaze upon His Glory as He Transforms a Humble Pan of Béchamel Sauce into Exotic Béchamel Sauce Simply by Adding a Hitherto Mysterious Dust Called "Coriander"! Soon enough, he falls for the trés French sous chef at the restaurant across the way, much to the chagrin of her boss, Helen Mirren. The food and love stuff is harmless enough, but Journey's a fairy tale with pretenses to a social conscience that are worse than no conscience at all. When "La France aux Francais" is scrawled on the front wall of Maison Mumbai, all the audience knows is that something racist is happening for the purpose of providing conflict in this dumb movie—but that's an actual slogan, used by actual French racists. In Hundred-Foot Journey, though, racism just needs a good rap on the knuckles from Helen Mirren's wooden spoon. ALLISON HALLETT