August will bring a new comedy series starring out gay actor Neil Patrick Harris as a newly single man, along with several romantic and dramatic films that deal with various forms of love and loss. Here is a rundown of what to watch.
Now on Netfilx, “Uncoupled” has New York realtor Michael Lawson (Neil Patrick Harris) thrown for a loop when Colin (Tuc Watkins), his BFF (boyfriend forever), leaves him without notice after 17 years. Now uncoupled, gay, and in his 40s, Michael is coping with an unexpected breakup and relying on his single gay friends — Billy (Emerson Brooks), a weatherman; Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas), an art dealer; and his work colleague, Suzanne (Tisha Campbell) — to help him as he lets go and tries to move on. Harris certainly manages the quippy dialogue well, and he is best when Michael is happy, rather than neurotic, manic, or depressive. (The show tends to get slapstick-y with its physical humor.)
But as he bonds with Claire (Marcia Gay Harden), a client who has been left by her husband, or starts dating guys such as Luke (Dan Amboyer), Michael settles into a rhythm in his new single life, and the series becomes more engaging. Yes, there are gay stereotypes, as well as dick pics and dick jokes, but “Uncoupled” does have some heart. It is sweet that Michael is both new to Grindr and concerned about condoms as he navigates the brave new world of dating — even if he really just needs time to be alone and learn to love himself. The supporting cast members each get fun moments and storylines that showcase them well. The series isn’t groundbreaking, but it is a pleasurable binge.
“As Long as I’m Famous”
On VOD now and DVD Aug. 16, “As Long as I’m Famous” is writer/director Bruce Reisman’s ambitious film about Broadway and Hollywood. Set in 1948, the story, “inspired by real events,” has a young Sidney Lumet (Aaron Fors) meeting Montgomery Clift (Gavin Adams) in New York City. They strike up a friendship that turns sexual — even though Sid claims he wants to be “just pals.” Their relationship is the most interesting part of this film, which also includes vignettes featuring Richard Rodgers (Eric Lutes) and Theda Bara (Tracy Nelson), as well as Gene Tunney (David Chokachi), who is having an affair with Nedda (Camille Montgomery), the wife of Joshua Logan (Nicholas Luna).
It is largely a hangout film, which gets most interesting when Sid and Monty have a threesome with Hannah (Chelsea Jordan), only to later couple up without her — much to Hannah’s dismay. One of the best sequences — which shifts in and out of color — has Sid and Monty boxing (they are coached by Tunney), to prepare Clift’s audition for “The Heiress.” An argument the lovers have later in the film about the future of their clandestine relationship, forms most of the drama. Purists may scoff, but whether Lumet and Clift were lovers ultimately doesn’t matter, for “As Long as I’m Famous” only shows what might have been. Fors is particularly strong as Sidney, who conveys both savviness and sexiness; he and Adams, who is adequate as Clift, look good together. This modest film should be of interest for the curious.
Now on HULU, “Not Okay” is a tragicomic morality tale about Danni (Zoey Deutch), who wants to be “seen, loved, and to matter.” But this would-be writer is tone deaf. She tries — and epically fails — to bond with her queer coworkers Harper (Nadia Alexander, writer/director Quinn Shephard’s real-life partner) and Larson (Dash Perry) because she claimed she once kissed a girl.
Depressed and desperate (she is jealous of Harper), Danni invents a Paris writer’s retreat and posts fake photos on social media. However, when terrorists bomb the City of Lights, she is branded a survivor — except she’s not. Milking the popularity, and to further her scam, she connects with Rowan (Mia Isaac), a real-life trauma victim, at a support group she attends. Danni soon coopts Rowan’s thoughts and emotions for a story she writes that goes viral. The lies soon breed contempt. Shephard nicely controls the film’s sour tone, telling Danni’s arc in a series of chapters that go from breezy to brazen to broken. “Not Okay” makes salient points about trust and trauma — especially when Harper confronts Danni with the truth.
Available via Film Movement Plus, DVD, and Digital 8/9, “Cocoon” is a tender teen film from Germany about 14-year-old Nora (Lena Urzendowsky), who mostly hangs out with her sister, Jule (Lena Klenke). When an errant game of “whack the finger” puts Nora’s arm in a cast, she must stay home from her planned summer class trip. After some playful intimacy in a pool with Jule’s friend Aylin (Elina Vildanova) awakens Nora’s same-sex desires, she soon becomes fascinated by Romy (Jella Haase), a new girl. “
Cocoon” uses the metaphor of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly to depict Nora’s coming-of-age, and writer/director Leonie Krippendorff focuses on Nora getting her first period as well as trying to tell a teacher at school that she thinks she is a lesbian. It is all very sensitively and realistically presented, but this compelling film is a marvelous showcase for Urzendowsky’s luminous performance. Watching Nora quietly smile when Romy suggests they meet for a night swim — a beautiful sequence that turns into a sleepover — is what makes this perceptive film magical.
“Nothing But Flowers”
On VOD 8/9, “Nothing But Flowers” is a slight drama about Los Angelenos Max (August Medina) and Ash (Hayden Vaughn), whose relationship hits a snag when Max gets into graduate school in New York City. Ash does not want Max to go, but he also does not want to move across the country with his boyfriend. As they consider their options, neither wants to face reality. On Max’s last day in town, Ash visits his friend Noelle (Nina Kova) and eventually decides to spend time with Max, sharing some last moments together.
“Nothing But Flowers” is very low-key and very low stakes, and the leads (in their screen debuts) give earnest performances. The best moments feature the lovers being affectionate with each other, or having a heart-to-heart where Max tells Ash he is his safety net. Director Nicolas Merrias maintains a mumblecore vibe, which can feel a bit amateur, but there are nice moments, such as a sequence featuring Max and Ash’s first date, which puts their current situation in bold relief.