The American indie film is alive and exciting as ever.
The American indie film is alive and exciting as ever, and offers an important chance for unique and interesting voices to be heard alongside the Hollywood money-making machine. The latest contender is The Kids Are All Right, starring Julianne Moore, Annnette Bening and Mark Ruffalo, out in UK cinemas this week. With that in mind, we look down the top 10 indie comedies of the last decade…
Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church are two old friends who take a disastrous trip around the vineyards of California in master of everyday awkwardness Alexander Payne’s fourth film. A brilliant look at male friendship and the anxiety of reaching middle age, and more importantly a film that makes you want to drink loads of red wine.
Ellen Page was robbed in the Best Actress Oscar race for her role as a pregnant teen in this sharp, snappy comedy. The real stars of show however are Diablo Cody’s fantastic script, which is sharper than a freshly sharpened samurai sword, and the achingly cool indie rock soundtrack from Kimya Dawson of New York über-hipsters The Moldy Peaches.
Based on the cult comic book by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World stars Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson as two disaffected teenage girls whose prank on oddball loner Steve Buscemi leads to bizarre friendship. One of the few films to portray the alienation and awkwardness of teenage life without getting all whiney and emo.
Little Miss Sunshine
Dysfunctional families are ten-a-penny in the world of US indie comedies, but this Sundance hit delivers both the funny and the pathos. A superb cast, including Steve Carell , Toni Collette and Alan Arkin, star as the family force to road trip across the US in order for their young daughter to compete in the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ beauty pageant. It all culminates in tears, tantrums and the best use of ‘Super Freak’ since MC Hammer.
Youth In Revolt
Michael Cera can be a very divisive actor, but in this under-seen gem he escapes his comfort zone and really excels. He stars as Nick Twisp, a typically Cera-style wallflower, but the twist comes when he adopts the identity of François Dillinger, a nefarious French alter-ego in order to woo the girl of his dreams. Kind of like an indie Fight Club, if Brad Pitt had a French accent and a killer moustache.
After an oversaturation of unfunny impressions of Napoleon and ‘Vote For Pedro’ t-shirts, it’s important to remember just how odd this film is. It’s very thin on actual plot or redeeming characters, it looks like it set in the 80s, and is actually quite shoddily made. But with Hollywood constantly churning out predictable sequels and remakes, it no surprise that something this fresh, and more importantly funny, was such a crossover success.
The Royal Tenenbaums
You couldn’t have a list of the best indie comedies without an appearance from Wes Anderson, and this is undoubtedly his masterpiece. A sprawling family saga, it’s almost a Magnificent Ambersons for NME readers. Full of fantastic turns from a cast too full of legends to list here, it has the exact scientific level ‘quirkiness’ required, something Anderson’s imitators tend to OD on.
(500) Days of Summer
This non-linear romantic comedy, detailing the failed relationship between Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom and Zooey Deschanel’s Summer, may not be quite as a departure from the rom-com formula as it wants to be, but it’s so funny, sweet and enjoyable it’s impossible to dislike. It’s also the film that got director Marc Webb the gig on the new Spider-man film, and not just because his surname is ‘webb’.
Zach Braff’s semi-autobiographical tale of a failed actor returning home to New Jersey perfectly captures the uncertainty of being in your twenties. Shockingly, it was sitcom star Braff’s first time behind camera, and even more shockingly for such a successful debut he’s yet to produce a follow up. Hurry up and get on with it, Zach!
The Kids Are All Right
The hit of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Lisa Cholodenko’s film stars Julianne Moore and Annette Bening a lesbian couple with two children whose lives are thrown upside down when their kids manage to track down their biological father. Warm and touching, but also very funny, the film is quite rightly being tipped for Oscar success.
The Kids Are All Right is in cinemas from 29 October 2010