Two Indy Films Worth Seeing

I don’t often get the chance to watch indy films, but when I do, I usually enjoy it more than I expected to.

That was certainly the case yesterday, when – thanks to Netflix streaming – I was able to catch up on two movies that are absolutely terrific.

The first one I watched was “Safety Not Guaranteed.” It’s a sweet, offbeat romantic comedy that revolves around the burgeoning relationship between a magazine intern and the reclusive loner she’s investigating for a story. Is he a lonely, misunderstood genius who’s actually building a time machine? Or is he just a paranoid, delusional loser? Here’s the trailer.

Every character in the movie is likeable, and their interactions are filled with the kind of awkwardness, missed opportunities, and poignancies that have no place in mainstream studio movies. Behind the scenes, the movie is well directed, but the script is definitely the star of the show. I was surprised to see that, according to IMDB, Derek Connolly, the writer of “Safety Not Guaranteed,” had done virtually nothing in Hollywood prior to this film. I was gratified to see, however, that I was not the only one impressed by his talent. He’s been tapped to write the screenplay for “Jurassic Park IV.”

The next movie in my double-feature Tuesday was “Girl In Progress,” a film that is equal parts dark comedy and heartfelt coming-of-age story. Eva Mendes is perfectly cast as a single mom, careening through life largely disconnected from her teenage daughter, played by Cierra Ramirez (formerly featured – in, I suspect, a less complex role – on “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody”).

Eva Mendes is the perfect synthesis of self-deprecating humor and stunning good looks, and in “Girl In Progress,” she makes her character funny and appealing, even when she’s being a dismal mother.

Now, Cierra Ramirez … Wow, what a find. This kid is terrific! She was completely believable as a brilliant young girl, earnestly trying to follow a pre-determined roadmap to adulthood.

As in “Safety Not Guaranteed,” the acting and production quality of “Girl In Progress” was excellent. Watching both films, I felt as though as I was watching projects that the cast and crew had truly cared about. I don’t remember the last time I got that feeling from a big studio picture.

Independent films went through a period a few years ago when – spearheaded by the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino – every movie was gritty, unpleasant and devoid of any positive redeeming qualities aside from filmcraft itself. It’s nice to see that the indy scene has found its heart again. If you’re looking for something good to watch, I enthusiastically recommend both “Safety Not Guaranteed” and “Girl In Progress.”

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