Summer and Indie Movies don’t seem like a good match, especially when you look at the multiplexes with their usual bombastic fare. But, just like in my list of top ten Summer films, there are great matches to be found. You just have to look. So, with no further ado here are my favorite Summer Indie Movies.
“(500) Days of Summer”
Truly engaging Romantic Comedy that plays out like a broken record of a hip urban couple’s troubled relationship. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star as these lovers, providing a believable chemistry in first time Director Marc Webb’s tender tale of boy finds girl, boys loses girl and (the unique twist of) boy moves on.
Nothing reminds Pittsburghers more of warm weather than the local Kennywood amusement Park. “Adventureland” was filmed there and stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. A charming coming of age story that touches on how a dead-end Summer job is, in fact, excellent preparation for the real world. Director Greg Mottola, a CMU college graduate, worked a similar job at the park and was inspired to make a movie about it.
Just weaned off antidepressants, Andrew (Zack Braff) returns to his New Jersey hometown after a decade away for his mom’s funeral and starts to see his life in a new light. In the process, he confronts his emotionally detached father and connects with a new friend (Natalie Portman). Playful, packed with laughs and boasts a superior soundtrack.
“The Kids Are All Right”
The who and the why of two teens (Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson) of a lesbian couple (Julianne Moore, Annette Bening), conceived through artificial insemination, wanting to discover and bond with their biological father (Mark Ruffalo). Tying it all together with unconventional humor and a heart-felt message from well-realized characters. A believable Drama that tugs at the heartstrings, without having to strum them to get the viewers’ attention.
“Little Miss Sunshine”
Convinced their little Olive is beauty queen material, two parents load the rest of the family — including Olive’s silent brother, depressed uncle (Steve Carrell) and wacky grandpa (Oscar winner Alan Arkin)– into a van and embark on a life-altering road trip to a California pageant. Genuinely funny and refreshing!
Writer/Director Wes Anderson’s whimsical Drama follows the frantic search that ensues in a small New England town when two 12-year-olds fall in love and run away together. As the townsfolk hunt for the vanished kids, a storm causes even more profound communal upheaval. This sweet-natured film has a star-studded cast that includes Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Jason Schwartzman.
A classic screwball Comedy from the Coen Brothers that features ex-cop Edwina “Ed” McDonnough (Holly Hunter) and her ex-con husband, H.I. (Nicolas Cage) as a devastated couple who learn they can’t have children. Not to worry though, they reckon they’ll just “borrow” one of Texas’s biggest furniture store owner’s new quintuplets. John Goodman, Randall Tex Cobb and William Forsythe co-star.
Director Robert Altman’s mosaic masterpiece, based on a series of Raymond Carver’s short stories, presents a variety of characters — including a cop, a phone-sex operator and a F/X artist — whose sordid lives intersect and are forever changed through varying twists of fate. Simply incredible.
Two men go on an excursion to California wine country and end up inducing joint midlife crises when Pinot Noir lover Miles (Paul Giamatti) convinces engaged Jack (Thomas Haden Church) to enjoy his last days of bachelorhood in style. But the pair end up choosing women over wine. An adult buddy movie that displays earnest emotions about growing old gracefully.
Keri Russell dazzles as Jenna, a small town waitress whose fabulous pies are about the only sweet ingredient in an otherwise complicated existence. That is, until an unwanted pregnancy breeds unexpected romance between Jenna and an attractive doctor (Nathan Fillion). Written, directed and co-starring Adrienne Shelly, whose once glorious Indie movie career was cut short, right after this fine film’s completion.