I don’t like usual things.
Call me a hipster if you must, but I appreciate the unusual, the bizarre, the little-noticed. It’s not surprising that my favorite genre of film is independent (does that even qualify as a genre?).
Many actors–even the super-rich and famous–dive into indie film now and again. I like to assume it’s because that’s where they actually get to use their talents. So here are a few of my favorite indie films that you may have not heard of that star famous actors.
Bottle Shock (2008) Starring Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, and Bill Pullman
So, Professor Snape and Captain Kirk meet up at a vineyard and argue about wine. No, really. Based on a true story, this film depicts how a Californian winery clawed its way into legitimacy by besting the most established French wines in a taste-test smackdown. (The French are still touchy about this, btw). This film is fun and blusters through a whole mess of cultural stereotypes. BONUS: It costars Cousin It’s surfer brother as Chris Pine’s wig.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007) Starring Ryan Gosling
Ryan Gosling is impossibly perfect, and this film shows how impossibly brilliant he is at acting. The story: Lars (R-Gos) falls in love with a sex doll. Before you close your browser in disgust, it’s not that kind of film. Ryan Gosling portrays a lonely introvert who fabricates a reality and relationship with Bianca (the doll) because that’s what his mind needs to relate with the world around him. Instead of his small Midwestern hometown shunning him, they rally around him and support him as he works through his delusion. It’s a touching story of a community who genuinely cares for each other and will come together to help one of their own.
Saved (2004) starring Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, and Mcaulay Culkin
This film was my high school life. Set in a private Christian academy, the “cool” kids are the ones who fit the ideal Christian mold: clean cut, straight, chaste, and attend church every Sunday. Mary (Jena Malone) tries to “cure” her gay boyfriend with heterosexual sex–because that’s what Jesus would do, right? When she ends up pregnant and single, she finds herself with one option: hide the pregnancy. By doing so, she makes unexpected friends who don’t fit “the mold” either. This film is quirky, it’s moving, and Mandy Moore is a perfectly hateable antagonist.
TiMER (2009) starring Emma Caulfield and Desmond Harrington
When I’m having a bad day, I watch this film. It’s a guaranteed pick-me-up. Set in a universe where a timer implant will tell you when you’ll meet the love of your life, Oona (Emma Caulfield) is tired of waiting. Her TiMER is blank, which menas that her soulmate didn’t bother to get an implant. She meets grocery clerk, Mikey, who makes her realize that you don’t need a TiMER to find love.
The Ramen Girl (2008) Starring Britney Murphy
Party girl Abby (Britney Murphy) follows her boyfriend to Tokyo, where he promptly leaves her. Alone in a foreign city with a cultural barrier the size of the Grand Canyon, she becomes the apprentice of the local ramen chef. The film is cute, a teensy bit magical, and makes me crave ramen every time I watch it.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993) Starring Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio
This is an emotional powerhouse. Made before anyone really recognized that Depp or Dicaprio could act, this film blindsided everyone and earned Leo his first Academy Award nomination. It’s about family, it’s about love, and it’s definitely a tearjerker. Johnny Depp has yet to top this one, in my opinion.
- Top 30 Highest Grossing Indie films of 2013 thus far (dflarocque.wordpress.com)
- NYC Independent Film Festival is Gearing Up for Its Fourth Year (prweb.com)
- The 25 Essential American Indie Films, 1988-2013 (flavorwire.com)
- Indievelopment: Writing Indie Friendly (scriptmag.com)