May 21, 2024

Eclipse Festival

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Best Movies in Theaters Right Now (Top 10)

Movie theaters are officially back. As the cinematic offerings slowly return to the big screen compared to the streaming services and various digital rental retailers, we’re here to sort out what’s actually the best bang for your buck at the box office.

A new year and a new COVID variant are in full swing, so now might be a good time to exercise restraint even if there are bigger budget offerings hitting the big screen.

Of course, use your judgment when choosing whether to go back to the movies or not, but there’s an ever-growing percentage of vaccinated moviegoers who are champing at the bit to get back in front of the big screen. And I’m very happy to say that we’re back, here to help.

That said, things in theatrical distribution are a little strange right now, so apart from some big recent blockbusters, there’s a mix of Oscar-winners, lingering releases, indies and classics booked—depending, of course, on the theater. But thankfully, there’s been enough good movies actually released recently this year that you should have no problem finding something great to watch.

Check out the 10 best movies in theaters right now:

10. Creed IIIRelease Date: March 3, 2023
Director: Michael B. Jordan
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Mila Davis-Kent, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 117 minutes

Creed III is bravely taking its chances without Rocky or his accompanying emotional baggage (or, no small thing, his theme music). Creed II took a baby step away from its parent franchise, developing Creed’s world while leaving time for a Rocky subplot (and a Stallone co-writing credit that seemed, frankly, like the result of a miscommunication, given that he didn’t write the first one). This time, Rocky is mentioned briefly but unseen, and Creed’s big opponent is a sui-generis figure from his past, not Rocky’s. (Creed II featured Viktor Drago, son of Rocky IV’s supervillain Ivan.) Stallone may grumble, but the spinoff process is complete. The series belongs to Creed now. Which also means that it fully belongs to Michael B. Jordan–not least because he takes a Stallone-like step into the director’s chair with this third installment. That weird alchemy between autobiography and self-mythologizing that makes the Rocky sequels fascinating even as they fail to live up to the magic of the original is very much active here, as Donnie feels the tension between his traumatic childhood and the luxury he now enjoys as a retired boxing champ. That tension tightens when Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a friend of Donnie’s from his group-home days, emerges from a multi-year prison sentence and asks for some help starting a belated boxing career. As Damian, Majors gives the scary, wounded, funny, charismatic performance he was supposed to have delivered in that Ant-Man movie; this time, he’s in a movie that understands how to coax out a range of emotions in dialogue scenes, and how to frame its actors, together and separately, to catch the flicker-like gestures that signal those shifts. Indeed, some of the most riveting scenes between Jordan and Majors downplay macho fireworks, like their reunion over lunch, driven by Majors’ pained menace. Did Jordan study Heat for this scene? The shots aren’t cribbed from it, but the patience and unshowy strategy could be. Elsewhere, Jordan takes bigger swings from behind the camera. He’s spoken of his anime fandom (something else he’s gifted to his character; young Donnie has an anime poster in his bedroom), and how that influenced some of his directorial choices. That’s most evident in the film’s climactic boxing match, which features such bold stylizations — graphic-panel closeups, backgrounds that switch to dreamlike symbolism — that it’s hard not to wish for similar adventurousness in the other fights and training montages. But even when Creed III treads familiar ground, this series feels like the ideal outlet for the on-screen persona Jordan is building: a resilient man who needs to better understand the power he’s fought so hard for.–Jesse Hassenger


9. AirRelease Date: April 7, 2023
Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Viola Davis, Matthew Maher
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

If someone had told me just two months ago that one of the most engrossing and adrenaline-pinching new films would center around a pair of sneakers, I simply wouldn’t have believed you. But then Air—the latest directorial endeavor from Ben Affleck, who emerges every once in a while to helm an unexpected masterpiece like The TownGone Baby Gone or Argo—came along and proved me wrong. Air chronicles the true story of sports marketer Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), and his bid to convince an 18-year-old Jordan to wear a pair of Nikes on the basketball court. Vaccaro’s idea initially sounds conceivable enough–that is, until we learn that Nike was something of a laughingstock in the sneaker community at the time, and that Jordan was already dead-set on signing with the infinitely cooler Adidas. Thus commences a deft, nail-biting look into one of biggest deals in sports history. Much of this has to do with the fact that, like any good sports movie, Air isn’t really about sports. It’s a wholly relatable and surprisingly sharp tale of grandiose risk-taking and myth-making. Affleck isn’t remotely afraid of interrogating the brutality of celebrity culture, cleverly going out of his way to avoid showing Jordan’s face whenever he appears in a scene in an effort to emphasize the pedestal the basketball star has existed on since he was a teenager, as if to say that no mortal actor should dare portray such a God-like figure. Other subtle moments—such as the perfectly timed implementation of Bruce Springsteen’s oft misinterpreted rock anthem “Born in the U.S.A.”–have a similarly ironic effect. Affleck’s extraordinary grip on the challenging topics of fame and idolization also shines through in his framing of Air’s dialogue. With a nimble script from Alex Convery, Affleck confidently allows his characters to mull over and pick these themes apart in protracted monologues, giving each fleeting thought ample room to breathe, whether it be the minutiae of a sports business deal, the implications of a being a teenage prodigy, or something as seemingly trivial as the real meaning behind a popular song. Air brings together a dream team. It’s a movie with heart, a movie that’s not afraid to be saccharine and heartfelt about friendship and family values, and isn’t overly trite with regards to topics that are usually cliched, such as the art of taking a chance and trusting your gut. Plus, it made me want to go watch basketball–at least for a few whimsical moments–and that, to me, constitutes a slam dunk.—Aurora Amidon


8. Blind Willow, Sleeping WomanRelease Date: April 14, 2023
Director: Pierre Földes
Stars: Kwon Hae-hyo, Lee Hye-young, Park Mi-so, Song Seon-mi
Rating: NR
Runtime: 100 minutes

There are already several wonderfully meditative, carefully realized adaptations of Haruki Murakami short stories – namely Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s Burning and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s 2021 Oscar-winning Drive My Car – yet many of the Japanese literary icon’s most famous works have long been deemed unfit for cinematic translation. This likely has to do with Murakami’s penchant for employing elements of magical realism. The vivid, often fantastical scenes he creates through prose could easily come off as awkward, incongruous or simply unsatisfying on the screen, even within the seemingly limitless capabilities of modern VFX technology. By adapting several Murakami short stories with particularly surreal elements via animation in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, writer, director, animator and composer Pierre Földes is able to evocatively distill the mystical streak that permeates loosely connected plotlines, unfolding in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that hit Tokyo in 2011. The film incorporates six of Murakami’s short stories from three separate collections: The Elephant VanishesAfter the Quake and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. Even casual Murakami readers will recognize that The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the (slightly altered) first chapter of which was originally published as The Elephant Vanishes, is a major component of this film. It’s not the sole focus, but it lushly conjures many specific details, from Komura’s missing kitty-turned-vanished wife to the inquisitive teenage neighbor who allows him to camp out in her backyard. Though the film only delves into the first chapter of the novel as it appears in Elephant, it’s difficult to imagine another film tackling The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and succeeding in capturing the hazily idyllic yet overwhelming foreboding atmosphere that Blind Willow does so effectively. The triumph and allure of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is owed to the specific animation style that Földes utilizes, which is a visually intriguing combination of motion capture and 2D techniques. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a refreshing take on a popular author’s oeuvre. It’s also ambitious in its own right, especially as it arrives on the heels of the aforementioned Murakami adaptations that have received substantial acclaim.—Natalia Keogan


7. Of an AgeRelease Date: February 17, 2023
Director: Goran Stolevski
Stars: Elias Anton, Thom Green, Hattie Hook
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes

Melancholy memories of old flames—and the palpable romantic intrigue they first conjured—are thrusted to sensually cinematic heights in Of an Age, the sophomore feature from Macedonian-Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski. A somewhat unexpectedly tender and sensual follow-up to his folk horror debut You Won’t Be Alone, this film further expands on themes of coerced assimilation, adolescent growing pains and the act of constantly presenting different faces to the world. Of course, the queer experience is in itself a state of ceaseless shape-shifting until one lands in the right skin—a near-impossible task for a teenage boy in ‘90s Melbourne, Australia who lives with homophobic members of his extended Serbian immigrant family. The year is 1999, and 17-year-old competitive ballroom dancer Kol (Elias Anton) rises early to prepare for the long-awaited finals tournament later that afternoon. Hopes for a relatively stress-free morning are unceremoniously dashed when he receives a frantic call from his best friend and dance partner Ebony (Hattie Hook), who blacked out after a rough night of partying and has no idea which beach she’s woken up stranded on. Frantically consulting a map while trying to sort out a game plan, the two eventually decide to enlist Ebony’s older brother Adam (Thom Green) for clandestine aid without alerting their mother. He picks Kol up in his appropriately boxy sedan, and after getting to know each other on their drive, they eventually find a damp, sandy Ebony sitting in a far-flung phone booth. Kol has virtually no hope of making it back in time for his dance competition, but he has appeared to acquire a much more handsome consolation prize. The film is suffused with the kind of nostalgic attitude that has a tendency to skew toward cringe-worthy sentimentality, yet here allows for the relationship between Kol and Adam to feel all the more realistic and rooted in the director’s lived experience. While the film’s ending feels a bit abrupt and cheesy, Of an Age boasts phenomenal performances and a salient (if somber) central truth. It’s never wise to anticipate a life-altering revelation from haphazard homecomings, particularly when you’ve been yearning for a connection that was fleeting from the offset. In the end, however, reason seldom prevails over romantics. Even after witnessing this cinematic exercise in maintaining hindsight, I’d wager that no viewer will successfully eliminate their own tendencies to ruminate on the infinite possibilities of past passions.—Natalia Keogan


6. Smoking Causes CoughingRelease Date: March 31, 2023
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Stars: Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Lacoste, Anaïs Demoustier, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Oulaya Amamra, David Marsais, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Grégoire Ludig, Doria Tillier, Jérôme Niel, Blanche Gardin, Alain Chabat, Benoît Poelvoorde
Rating: NR
Runtime: 80 minutes

After half a decade focusing on high-concept silliness, like the giant-fly tragicomedy Mandibles and the leather-jacket thriller Deerskin, Dupieux follows his more ridiculous impulses by letting the midnight horror anthology stay up until Saturday morning, blending gore and guffaws in an amiable, breezy comedy. The Tobacco Force, a supergroup of “avengers” empowered by carcinogens, composes the film’s framing ensemble. A Power Rangers-like tokusatsu parody, they are like Dupieux’s Danger 5—a retro satire of form that revels in how desperately adult so much of its juvenile source material is. Where Danger 5 made running gags of the sexism and repetitive plotting of the spy/adventure serial, Smoking Causes Coughing utilizes eye-popping colors and frequent splashes of blood for its heroic team. But Smoking Causes Coughing avoids repeating The Boys or The Suicide Squad’s self-aware jabs at skin-tight costuming, empowered immaturity or mad villain plots by avoiding awareness altogether. Instead, it leans into the low-fi pulp aesthetic of cheapy TV and the bumbling clownishness particular to Dupieux’s brand of comic incompetence. Harmless stupidity is where Dupieux thrives. Smoking Causes Coughing plays to these strengths, being both sublimely silly and unpredictably, addictively light. The comedy flows into and out of its nested stories without a care in the world, feeling like a loose showcase for all the goofy, horror-adjacent ideas Dupieux had over the pandemic. Because the superheroes spinning these tales are themselves odd, stunted cartoons, their horrific fables are decidedly more absurd than anything else; think Drunk History but for turning the ramblings of a little kid into bloody short films. One centers on a thought-enhancing helmet that drives its wearer to, logically, attack her doofus friends. Another, told by an inexplicably talking barracuda, involves the best wood chipper joke since Fargo. The common thread linking these tales from the dorkside is slangish, intentionally undercooked dialogue that emphasizes the discord between the gruesome content and childish delivery. Naturally, Smoking Causes Coughing is too laid back to be much more than a feature-length smoke break from the heavier nonsense on the factory floor. But for those with a surreal sense of humor, hang up the “gone to lunch” sign and enjoy your union-mandated, 80-minute dose of French comedy.—Jacob Oller


5. Avatar: The Way of WaterRelease Date: December 16, 2022
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton, Trinity Bliss, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Jack Champion, Jemaine Clement, Joel David Moore, Brendan Cowell, CCH Pounder
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 192 minutes

Avatar: The Way of Water is a promise—like the titular Way as described by a beatific, finned Na’vi fish-people princess, the film connects all things: the past and the future; cinema as a generational ideal and one film’s world-uniting box office reality; James Cameron’s megalomania and his justification for Being Like That; one audience member and another audience member on the other side of the world; one archetypal cliché and another archetypal cliché; dreams and waking life. Avatar’s sequel can be nothing less than a delivery on everything Cameron has said, hyperbolic or not, he would deliver. What’s less clear is exactly what Cameron’s intending to deliver. The Way of Water’s story is a bare bones lesson in appealing to as many worldwide markets as possible, the continuation of the adventures of Bostonian Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, who’s spent the past decade trying not to sound like an outback chimney sweep) as he raises a Na’vi family with like-warrior-minded Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña, screaming from inside her golden prison) and realizes that Earthlings aren’t going to stop colonizing Pandora just because they had their shit kicked in a lifetime ago. The Way of Water’s true achievement is that it looks like nothing else but the first Avatar, unparalleled in detail and scale, a devouring enterprise all to itself. Watching The Way of Water can at times feel astonishing, as if the brain gapes at the sheer amount of physical data present in every frame, incapable of consuming it, but longing to keep up. We believe that this film will redefine box office success because Cameron presents it—making the absolute most of high frame rates, 3-D, and IMAX, normalizing their use, acclimating our brains in ways Ang Lee could only wish—as the next evolutionary step in modern blockbuster filmmaking. This is immersion for its own sake, moviegoing as experience vaunted to the next level, breathtaking in its completely unironic scope. After so many hours in Pandora, untroubled by complicated plot or esoteric myths, caring for this world comes easy. As do the tears. The body reacts as the brain flails. Avatar has consumed James Cameron; it is his everything now, the vehicle for every story he wants to tell, and every story anyone may want to tell—the all-consuming world he’s created is such a lushly resourced aesthetic wonder that anything can be mapped onto its ever-expanding ecosystems. Pandora is a toolbox and ready-made symbol. No film will ever be this beautiful in my lifetime, at least until the next Avatar.—Dom Sinacola


4. Walk UpRelease Date: April 7, 2023
Director: Hon Sang-Soo
Stars: Kwon Hae-hyo, Lee Hye-young, Park Mi-so, Song Seon-mi
Rating: NR
Runtime: 97 minutes

The social influences of one’s surroundings—namely the various dwellings we inhabit—act as a clever framing mechanism in South Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s Walk Up. Specifically, the film visits each floor-spanning apartment of one particular building, characters neatly shuffling between each residence as they navigate personal employment woes and fluctuating relationship tensions. As Hong makes his way through the building from the ground up, the interpersonal connections between characters shift—romances blossom and fizzle, familial ties strengthen and disintegrate, rental power dynamics sweeten before souring—until they ultimately reset, ready to unfold anew. Filmmaker Byung-soo (Kwon Hae-hyo) and his daughter Jeong-su (Park Mi-so) arrive at a building owned by Ms. Kim (Lee Hye-young), an old friend of the director. Ms. Kim gives the two a tour of the three story edifice, which houses her own work studio on the basement level, her own residence on the first floor, an intimate restaurant owned by a woman named Sunhee (Song Seon-mi) and an apartment rented by a reclusive artist on the top level. After briefly entering each unit (and probably violating a couple lease agreements in the process), the three retire to Ms. Kim’s apartment for an evening of copious wine drinking. As the young woman departs to fetch more wine from a convenience store, the next segment begins with Byung-soo, Ms. Kim and Sunhee eating a meal at the latter’s restaurant, wherein we find the film’s thesis of art, financing and the general impossibility of the two—creativity and capital—coexisting. “For them, a film is purely a means of making money,” Byung-soo drunkenly laments when he reveals that the plug was pulled on his most recent film just weeks before it was set to enter production. “Money is the only standard to judge anything.” Clearly, Hong is working through some personal disappointments as it pertains to his own metric of “success” here. By the time Walk Up comes to a conclusion, all of the characters appear in front of the building. They are either on their way elsewhere, appearing for an overdue visit or returning to perform job duties inside. This set-up mirrors the very beginning of the film, and relationships that have been fortified or abandoned since have miraculously seemed to regress into their original dynamics. Has Hong simply gone full-circle, setting these individuals up to relive the previous events and perhaps make different choices? Or does the suffocation of our small quarters cause us to become callous and self-centered? Does leaving our most intimate spaces allow us to embrace possibilities that we’ve since considered closed-off or impossible? Without the looming pressures of rent, work-from-home set-ups and casual business meetings, Hong suggests that we might just finally be free.—Natalia Keogan


3. How to Blow up a PipelineRelease Date: April 7, 2023
Director: Daniel Goldhaber
Stars: Ariela Barer, Kristine Froseth, Lukas Gage, Forrest Goodluck, Sasha Lane, Jayme Lawson, Marcus Scribner, Jake Weary, Irene Bedard
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

Andreas Malm’s 2021 book How to Blow Up a Pipeline saw its argument for more climate activism morph into an argument for different climate activism. Money isn’t cutting it. Protests aren’t either. Maybe sabotage will. Its vitality flows like an antidote to the poisonous nihilism surrounding the climate crisis from progressives; its fiery points threaten the crisp piles of cash collected by conservatives. Filmmaker Daniel Goldhaber’s air-punching, chair-clenching, heart-in-mouth adaptation is the best way to convert people to its cause—whether they’re dark green environmentalists or gas-guzzling Senate Republicans. Adapting a nonfiction treatise on the limits of nonviolent protest into a specific, heist-like fiction is a brilliant move by Goldhaber and his co-writers Ariela Barer and Jordan Sjol. In its execution of a carefully crafted plan, held together by explosive and interpersonal chemistry, it thrusts us into its thrilling visualized philosophy. How to Blow Up a Pipeline isn’t naïve enough to rely on optimism, opting instead to radicalize competence. Think of How to Blow Up a Pipeline like a word problem. The most exciting word problem you can imagine, where the two trains leaving the station collide in an explosive snarl of steel, your onboard loved ones saved only by quick thinking and teamwork. How to Blow Up a Pipeline contextualizes its concepts into actions so we can better understand, internalize and identify with them. There’s not a moment lost getting us there. Malm’s chapters (”Learning from Past Struggles,” “Breaking the Spell” and “Fighting Despair”) are elegantly transposed, their high-level arguments humanized into character and conversation. The ensemble—led by student protestors Xochitl (Barer) and Shawn (Marcus Scribner), whose plan organically gathers together surly Native bomb-builder Michael (Forrest Goodluck), horny crustpunk couple Rowan (Kristine Froseth) and Logan (Lukas Gage), terminally ill Theo (Sasha Lane) and her reluctant girlfriend Alisha (Jayme Lawson), and disillusioned landowner Dwayne (Jake Weary)—is colorfully drawn and filled out through savvy, well-cut flashbacks. Everyone has their reasons, and we have everyone’s back. By structuring its simple plot (blow up a goddamn pipeline) as a zigzag, How to Blow Up a Pipeline builds its team without losing steam. It’s as efficient and thoughtful in its planning as its heroes, and the results are just as successful. It’s as satisfying as any good bank job, only it’s stealing a little bit more time on this planet from the companies looking to scorch the earth. Responding to tragedy not with hopelessness but with proficiency, it’s not a dreamy or delusional movie. It knows its sabotage doesn’t take place in a vacuum. It understands that people get hurt. What makes How to Blow Up a Pipeline great, is that it so deftly wins us to its cause anyway. It’s absolutely electric filmmaking.—Jacob Oller


2. John Wick: Chapter 4Release Date: March 24, 2023
Director: Chad Stahelski
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Ian McShane, Bill Skarsgård, Shamier Anderson, Clancy Brown, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rina Sawayama, Lance Reddick, Scott Adkins
Rating: R
Runtime: 169 minutes

Early in John Wick: Chapter 4, our titular Baba Yagaplayed by Keanu Reeves after a decade as a near-mute terminator monk, his monastic frock a fine three-piece bulletproof suit and his tonsure a greased-down mane the color of night—is still in hiding following Chapter 3’s cliffhanger. Of course, an ever-increasing bounty on his head hasn’t stopped him from continuing to murder a lot of people, including the Elder (George Georgiou), who’s not the same Elder from Chapter 3, because, as this new Elder explains, he killed the last guy and took over, as the Elder did before that guy, and the Elder before that guy did to the guy before that guy. The convoluted hierarchy of the John Wick Murderverse exists only to multiply and grow more convoluted: In Chapter 2, no one sat above the High Table, except for, as introduced in Chapter 3, the Elder, who sits above and also beside it, but apparently has his share of problems. Just as the membership of the High Table is susceptible to sociopathic sibling rivalry (see Chapter 2), there will always be another Elder to kill, another personal war to wage, another henchman to shoot repeatedly in the face. “No one, not even John Wick, can kill everyone,” we hear said in an awed tone. But no, he must kill everyone. This is what we want and this is how this ends, how John Wick can be free: He kills the whole world. If Chapter 3 began immediately following Chapter 2, rarely letting up from its video game formula as levels grew more difficult and bad guys became more immune to John Wick’s superpower (murder), then Chapter 4 is the franchise’s most deliberate entry yet. With three movies worth of stakes and worldbuilding behind it, Chad Stahelski’s latest hyper-violent opus is a modern masterpiece of myth-making indulgence and archetypal action cinema. Stahelski and Reeves know that their movie must inhale genres, superstars, models, singers, Oscar winners and martial arts icons, DTV and prestige alike; consume them and give them space to be sacrificed gloriously to a franchise that values them. Behold Donnie Yen—who feels absolutely at home in the Murderverse—but also Hiroyuki Sanada and Rina Sawayama and Clancy Brown and Scott Adkins, the latter given a lengthy neck-snapping set piece that’s both scene-chewing madness and an expected physical display from Adkins. It’s all patient and omnivorous and beyond ridiculous. Stahelski wields bodies to push them to god-like ends. Everything on screen is stupendous. This is what we want, to watch John Wick murder the whole world, forever and ever amen.—Dom Sinacola

1. Showing UpRelease Date: April 7, 2023
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Stars: Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, Judd Hirsch, André Benjamin, Heather Lawless, Amanda Plummer
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

Two years after her affecting First Cow hit theaters, Kelly Reichardt doesn’t stray from the Pacific Northwest setting where four of her other films take place. This time, she trades 17th century Oregon County for the present-day Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, where her exasperated lead, Lizzie (Michelle Williams), works as a day job. When she’s not working, Lizzie is crafting uncanny, rigid portraits of women in disjointed poses, whether in watercolor on paper or in tangible clay, the latter of which being the medium she’s chosen to showcase in an upcoming show. But before Lizzie can arrive at her big day, she has to navigate a whirlwind of chaos: Her dysfunctional family; the contentious relationship with her landlord, neighbor and fellow artist, Jo (Hong Chau); and a poor, injured pigeon that her cat, Ricky, tormented one night. In her fourth collaboration with Reichardt, Williams is better than ever. Possibly overdone in beleaguered, regular-woman makeup this time around, Williams still best showcases just how lived-in of an actress she can be in Reichardt’s work. Every sigh she utters feels pulled down by weights, her slouch hurts to look at; her exhaustion bounces off the screen and infects the audience like an illness. And in spite of how done-up she is in order not to look like an actress, it is primarily in the physicality of her performance and the candor of her dialogue that she is believable as Lizzie, struggling artist. There is never a moment where Michelle Williams slips through the performance. But she’s also surprisingly droll, with Reichardt and co-writer Jonathan Raymond penning a number of lines made comic in Williams’ perfect deadpan. Lizzie strikes as the new apex of Williams and Reichardt’s consistently fruitful relationship, each installment since 2008’s Wendy and Lucy another rung reached in which the two have further hewn the synchronicity between artist and muse. Like Lizzie’s patchy figures, Reichardt’s camera fixates on obscured body parts and jerky zooms as it follows Lizzie working towards her opening night amidst a near-comical string of setbacks. However, the throughline humming through all the maelstrom of Lizzie’s life is creative insecurity. It comes across in how Lizzie carries herself, how she speaks about her art and how she speaks to others. It’s the light, minimalist touch of Reichardt’s atmosphere and her nurturing of interpersonal subtleties that engenders an overwhelming emotional intensity as Lizzie finally sets up her work on display in the gallery. One single, small row of figures in the middle of a large, empty space.—Brianna Zigler