Mon

4/23

Tue

4/24

Wed

4/25

Thu

4/26

Fri

4/27

Sat

4/28

Sun

4/29

Today

Mon

4/23

Film

Odd Obsession

Photo: Photofest

A deranged group of affairs unfolds in Kon Ichikawa’s Odd Obsession (1959), about an aging antiques dealer (Ganjirô Nakamura) who, worried about his loss of virility, arranges for his wife (Machiko Kyô) to become infatuated with his young, handsome doctor (Tatsuya Nakadai) — who also happens to be engaged to their daughter (Junko Kanô). Occasionally disorienting us temporally and always disorienting us morally, Ichikawa’s film never really seems on the level: Characters tolerate all sorts of bizarre behavior in one another, without quite letting on what they truly think. And sure enough, the further we delve into the curious relationships at the heart of this kinky morality play, the more we understand just how fallen these people are.

Bilge Ebiri

Film

The Seagull

Annette Bening has played so many high-intensity mothers by now, you’d think she’d have exhausted her resources. But she’s a firecracker in Michael Mayer’s spirited adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, as the aging, boastful actress Irina. At the opening night of her aspiring playwright son Konstantin’s portentous show, she snorts and jeers, and later calls him a “nonentity.” Prone to moping spells, Konstantin has inherited all of his mother’s solipsism but none of her brio, and his leading lady and love interest Nina (Saoirse Ronan) is fast losing interest. Irina has her vulnerable side, too; like everyone else here, she pines for the unavailable. Mayer doesn’t turn anyone into a pitiable sort, and he’s tuned into the absurd futility as well as the pain of unrequited love. Elisabeth Moss stands out as a sardonic, black cloak–clad spinster, and the gifted Ronan plays the decidedly untalented Nina with astonishing conviction.

—Sam Weisberg

Film

To Live and Die in L.A.

When he made To Live and Die in L.A., William Friedkin was fourteen years removed from The French Connection, his Best Picture–winning 1971 hit. To Live and Die in L.A. returned Friedkin to the crime drama, but his approach was different. As he notes in his excellent memoir, The Friedkin Connection, he “would abandon the gritty macho look” of The French Connection for “something more in the unisex style of Los Angeles in the 1980s.” The result is so of its time that you can only be captivated by it.

Bilge Ebiri

Tue

4/24

Theater

Feeding the Dragon

Photo: JAMES LEYNSE

In her autobiographical solo piece Feeding the Dragon (Primary Stages), Sharon Washington tells us that, when her mother became pregnant at 42, the doctors warned her that, at her age, the baby would be “either very intelligent or Mongoloid.” I am happy to report that the first alternative turned out to be true: As Feeding the Dragon shows us, Sharon Washington is very, very intelligent. In addition to which, she’s a delightful person to be around for ninety minutes, with a fine actor’s capacity for transformation and a born storyteller’s knack for casting a magical haze over even the most everyday events.

Michael Feingold

Film

Netizens

Cynthia Lowen, who produced the disturbing 2011 doc Bully, scores another infuriating triumph with her directorial debut, Netizens, which follows three victims of online sexual harassment and defamation. Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist blogger who critiqued depraved depictions of female characters in video games, still gets bombarded with rape and death threats from armies of self-righteous male gamers. Carrie Goldberg, now a formidable internet-privacy and anti-revenge porn attorney, was herself stalked for months by a vengeful ex-lover. And Tina Reine struggles to find legitimate employment due to an ex’s discriminatory online screed, which, she discovers, is protected by First Amendment laws. Some scenes are almost too wrenching to bear, particularly when the women read aloud various violent texts and tweets from their tormentors. But all three are as optimistic and humorous as they are erudite; the movie ends on an unexpectedly hopeful note.

—Sam Weisberg

Film

We the Animals

This adaptation of Justin Torres’s novel about the troubles of a Puerto Rican family in upstate New York is energized by a raucous, youthful vigor right from the jump. Director Jeremiah Zagar supplements the tale’s keenly observed around-the-house storytelling with tiny, vivid moments: the sound of parents fighting on the other side of a door; the sight of children bouncing off the walls when left to their own devices; the way things just happen to you when you’re a kid, because your parents haven’t invited you into the discussion. It’s an expressionistic film, but one in which that approach makes narrative sense — this is, after all, a story told from the perspective of a youngest child who often has to piece things together on his own. Zagar has a gift for capturing a character’s essence in an image or two, via simple compositions occasionally augmented by spellbinding snatches of animation. And he imbues the entire enterprise with a fascinating feeling of maybe-memory. It’s either set in the past, or in a place where time stopped, and both approaches play.

—Jason Bailey

Film

Charm City

Between Theo Anthony’s Rat Film (2016) and Marilyn Ness’s Charm City, Baltimore has emerged as a fertile subject for documentarians. Although conventional (talking-head interviews and contextual title cards pepper the film), Ness’s latest effectively charts the impact of violence on poor black neighborhoods within the city over the course of three years, from early 2015 to late 2017. A few principle players anchor the doc: city councilman Brandon Scott; Clayton “Mr. C” Guyton, a local leader and founder of a community center, seen conducting impromptu curbside meetings; and Alex Long, a youth coordinator and a kind of apprentice to Mr. C, who’s helping to keep his street free of gangs and drug dealers. It all adds up to an even-handed issue film featuring those who are working to change the face of one of the U.S.’s most violent cities.

—Tanner Tafelski

Film

Weekend

Jean-Luc Godard, who could no more turn his back on the movies than John Barrymore could fire Walter Connolly in Twentieth Century, said goodbye to the cinema for the first (and, arguably, the loudest) time with this 1967 horror comedy, in which the complacent French middle class is both beast and quarry. Part geologically dense essay on colonizing nations reaping what they’ve sown, part Hope-and-Crosby road comedy in hell, Weekend is best experienced with a rapt audience, as gasps and giggles are mixed with wild abandon. Loyal fans of the New Wave sphinx-auteur pore over movies like Weekend like Talmudic scholars — and there’s plenty to tuck into, to be sure. But as descent-into-the-inferno sagas go, Weekend seems to owe a debt to writer-director Pierre Étaix, whose style of clockwork comic set pieces, grounded in barely-tolerable minutiae, are what gives Godard’s dumpster fire & brimstone spectacle its sense of proportion.

Jaime NChristley

Wed

4/25

TV

The Handmaid’s Tale

Photo: George Kraychyk/Hulu

The second season of Hulu’s Margaret Atwood adaptation The Handmaid’s Tale — which earned the streaming service its first-ever Emmy award, for best drama, in its first — faces the dual challenges of living up to the outsized hype of season one, and extending the narrative further beyond the scope of the 1985 book. Hopefully guest stars Cherry Jones, Marisa Tomei, Clea DuVall, and Bradley Whitford are up to the challenge.

Lara Zarum

Film

Blowin’ Up

“It’s called blowin’ up when you leave a pimp,” explains former sex worker Kandie, and it’s easier said than done: “You can’t just walk away. There is no walking away.” This insightful and informative documentary from director Stephanie Wang-Breal intertwines two strands: women like Kandie, telling their simple yet devastating stories, intercut with fly-on-the-wall footage of the human trafficking intervention court in Queens, where sex workers are brought — not to be charged and sentenced, but to receive help and forgiveness. Wang-Breal exhibits a Wiseman-esque institutional curiosity, fascinated by the process of this court and the people who spend their days there. She’s also interested in the exploitation of these young women (all of them Asian American or African American) and in the question of why police so often opt for quick arrests of workers, rather than an actual investigation of their exploiters. The characters are riveting and the photography is casually stylish, but the real highlight is the urgency of the work Wang-Breal captures.

—Jason Bailey

Film

Jellyfish

Her name is Liv Hill, and, holy shit, you’ll want to remember it. She’s in every single scene of James Gardner’s wrenching British drama, carrying this entire tricky movie on her shoulders, and she never falters. It’s a land mine of a role: a fifteen-year-old girl who, over the course of its ninety-odd minutes, is pushed past her considerably high breaking point. She’s failing in school, has a terrible part-time gig that she supplements with dispiriting tasks (e.g. back-alley hand jobs), and is taking care of what are essentially three children: her sister, her brother, and her mother, who is perpetually “not feeling well.” It sounds like pretty miserable viewing, and it’s often tough to watch. But Hill is a surefire dynamo, wresting control of the screen; her work is fierce, bitter, funny, and heartbreaking.

—Jason Bailey

Film

We the Animals

This adaptation of Justin Torres’s novel about the troubles of a Puerto Rican family in upstate New York is energized by a raucous, youthful vigor right from the jump. Director Jeremiah Zagar supplements the tale’s keenly observed around-the-house storytelling with tiny, vivid moments: the sound of parents fighting on the other side of a door; the sight of children bouncing off the walls when left to their own devices; the way things just happen to you when you’re a kid, because your parents haven’t invited you into the discussion. It’s an expressionistic film, but one in which that approach makes narrative sense — this is, after all, a story told from the perspective of a youngest child who often has to piece things together on his own. Zagar has a gift for capturing a character’s essence in an image or two, via simple compositions occasionally augmented by spellbinding snatches of animation. And he imbues the entire enterprise with a fascinating feeling of maybe-memory. It’s either set in the past, or in a place where time stopped, and both approaches play.

—Jason Bailey

Film

United Skates

Directors Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown helm this affectionate tribute to roller-rink culture and, more specifically, the African-American skate community, which gathers on “adult nights” (coded language, we’re told, for “black night”) that prove to be raucous celebrations of skating, dancing, and style. But this is a culture that’s disappearing, with skating rinks closing across the country, thanks to declining interest and increasing land values. So the mostly joyful picture is permeated by a sense of decline — that it’s documenting a phenomenon that may not be with us much longer. As such, it’s full of fascinating stories and inside-baseball jargon (“slippery wheels,” “JB style,” throws, snapping, slow-walking), all of which is wittily assembled to capture the movement and athleticism on the floor. Charming, informative, and a little heartbreaking.

—Jason Bailey

Film

Irezumi

This short, prickly, unabashedly sexualized 1966 revenge thriller (a/k/a The Spider Tattoo) is one of the better films I’ve seen by the brilliantly prolific Yasuzô Masumura, in which a woman (Ayako Wakao, who made many films with the director) embarks on a program of bloody vengeance after enduring several rounds of exploitation and abuse. Masumura’s approach to the material is strange — everything feels dirty, but he doesn’t seem interested in punching up moments of sadism or prurience. The summary effect is a weird egalitarianism, even in the face of pulpy horrors. Masumura’s frenetic work tempo (averaging four pictures a year at his peak) might explain this casual attitude: no time to hold the audience’s hand. Just the same, the film’s relatively slow burn, painstakingly establishing narrative layers around a rather pro forma revenge plot, points to a more cosmic fetish: the death drive, emblemized midway through with a painting of haunting eroticism, that of a killer queen.

Jaime NChristley

Film

No Greater Law

At long last, here is a documentary about religious fanatics that, while certainly critical, doesn’t treat any of its subjects with a trace of condescension. Tom Dumican’s No Greater Law registers like a riff on Inherit the Wind; this time, it’s religious doctrine versus life-or-death health risks, rather than mere scientific theory. In a small Idaho town, a prominent Followers of Christ pastor and his congregation are unwaveringly anti-medicine, relying on ointment healing for their fatally sick children, whose maladies could easily be cured. Detractors of the faith and a determined sheriff take the matter to the state senate but find that the majority of local politicos are in favor of vast protections for the Followers, even going so far as to exempt their dead from autopsies. The film is a must-see for anyone concerned with First Amendment and child-abuse laws; it’s also the most thoroughly engrossing doc of its kind since Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Brother’s Keeper.

—Sam Weisberg

Film

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie

It would be easy to imagine (and, frankly, to make) a didactic anti-Barbie documentary, so entwined is the fifty-year-old-plus fashion doll in our ongoing conversations about gender roles, body image, and white supremacy. And director Andrea Nevins wants to have those conversations, but she doesn’t want to stop there. She runs through Tiny Shoulders’ history of the doll with an astute understanding of how its swings in popularity have reflected the moods of American culture. Running parallel to this look-back lesson is a survey of the development, production, and rollout of “Project Dawn” — a risky initiative to redesign the notoriously unrealistic Barbie body. It’s a tricky balance that Nevins handles ingeniously, focusing on the women who now run the company and their conscious efforts to change the brand and its perception. The result is a thoughtful, nuanced portrait of (for better or worse) an American icon.

—Jason Bailey

TV

My House

Vice is bringing back the Nineties with this insider’s guide to New York City’s hypercompetitive underground queer ballroom scene, and I’m billing it as an excellent companion to Drag Race. The reality show will feature Tati 007, Alex Mugler, Jelani Mizrahi, Lolita Balenciaga, Relish Milan, and finally, and most importantly, Precious Ebony, who will guide us through the scene, the art, and, of course, the voguing.

Laura Beck

Thu

4/26

Theater

Symphonie Fantastique

Photo: Richard Termine

Two decades ago, when puppeteer Basil Twist and his team made the first iteration of Symphonie Fantastique, large flat-screen televisions were only just becoming a common fixture in the American visual landscape. Twist, then 28, was experimenting in a 500-gallon aquarium with the notion of “abstract puppetry,” to a recording of Hector Berlioz’s florid 1830 composition. Twist’s canvas has since grown into a 1,000-gallon tank — here gussied up with steampunk-like projections of theatrical curtains and positioned above a grand Steinway at which a vicar-like Christopher O’Riley plays Franz Liszt’s piano arrangement of the Berlioz orchestral score. In 2018, Symphonie takes on a new challenge: to make viewers understand that we are not, as we might surmise, watching an animated film on a large screen. The dazzling show is a 55-minute live performance, engineered by wet-suited puppeteers who sprawl on a platform above the tank and dangle their arms into it to create a panoply of special effects, using feathers and silk and other materials. When it’s over, they invite you backstage to observe how it all works.

Elizabeth Zimmer

Film

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie

It would be easy to imagine (and, frankly, to make) a didactic anti-Barbie documentary, so entwined is the fifty-year-old-plus fashion doll in our ongoing conversations about gender roles, body image, and white supremacy. And director Andrea Nevins wants to have those conversations, but she doesn’t want to stop there. She runs through Tiny Shoulders’ history of the doll with an astute understanding of how its swings in popularity have reflected the moods of American culture. Running parallel to this look-back lesson is a survey of the development, production, and rollout of “Project Dawn” — a risky initiative to redesign the notoriously unrealistic Barbie body. It’s a tricky balance that Nevins handles ingeniously, focusing on the women who now run the company and their conscious efforts to change the brand and its perception. The result is a thoughtful, nuanced portrait of (for better or worse) an American icon.

—Jason Bailey

Film

General Magic

One of the whispered-about legends of Silicon Valley, General Magic was an early-Nineties spinoff of Apple tasked with developing what was, essentially, the technology (as well as the aesthetics and the ethos) of the smartphone. General Magic captures the company’s hype-filled rise and very quick fall — the latter a matter of timing, as the concept was introduced when the supporting technology and customer interest simply weren’t there yet. Directors Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude stylishly combine previously unseen documentary footage from the company’s idealistic early days with archival clips and interviews both old and new. It’s all informative, but the biggest kick is giggling at the key players’ startlingly accurate predictions of the kind of world we’re now living in.

—Jason Bailey

Film

Duck Butter

Alia Shawkat (who co-wrote) co-stars in this shambling — in the best way — story of two girls who meet at a club, have great sex, and hit upon the notion of just spending the next 24 hours together, indulging in hourly intercourse while speeding right past the getting-to-know-you stages of the relationship. In the words of Sergio (Laia Costa), new paramour to Shawkat’s Naima: “We can fucking skip time!” The genius of co-writer/director Miguel Arteta’s latest is its recognition of the way the singular intensity of the flush of first love (and lust) might make this sound like a good idea, and how such idealization might ultimately prove regrettable. In scope, it’s a modest movie (and purposefully so), but the relationships and impulses it portrays are anything but minor.

—Jason Bailey

Fri

4/27

Film

Taxi Driver

Photo: Photofest

Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver hovers somewhere between realism and expressionism. It’s a vision of Hell — announced right there in its opening, as the cab emerges from the steam like some kind of automotive demon — that had the good fortune of being shot in a town actually turning hellish. Scorsese lets actors improvise, and his camera run, but the increasingly fractured editing structure fragments the story, at times even doubling back on itself. Bernard Herrmann’s score is both jazzy and operatic, with sax solos doing battle with thundering, brassy crescendos; it evokes both classic Hollywood and nerve-jangling horror.

Bilge Ebiri

Film

Charm City

Between Theo Anthony’s Rat Film (2016) and Marilyn Ness’s Charm City, Baltimore has emerged as a fertile subject for documentarians. Although conventional (talking-head interviews and contextual title cards pepper the film), Ness’s latest effectively charts the impact of violence on poor black neighborhoods within the city over the course of three years, from early 2015 to late 2017. A few principle players anchor the doc: city councilman Brandon Scott; Clayton “Mr. C” Guyton, a local leader and founder of a community center, seen conducting impromptu curbside meetings; and Alex Long, a youth coordinator and a kind of apprentice to Mr. C, who’s helping to keep his street free of gangs and drug dealers. It all adds up to an even-handed issue film featuring those who are working to change the face of one of the U.S.’s most violent cities.

—Tanner Tafelski

Music

Tigue

While Tigue’s website boasts that “we hit things with other types of things,” that’s only about half the Brooklyn percussion trio’s equation. Like light itself, Tigue’s music is a combination of waves and particles, of percussive strikes and distended drones adding up to either abstractly challenging pop or accessible contemporary classical music, depending on your point of view. Ohioans Matt Evans, Amy Garapic, and Carson Moody have been playing together since 2012. Their 2015 debut, Peaks, featured bongos, frying pan, droning Shruti box, melodica, tin can, and electronic keyboards over a diverse array of tracks. Tigue’s new Strange Paradise, however, distills their sound down to three constantly evolving longer tracks inviting habitation, contemplation, and a groovy sort of meditation the band characterizes as “ecstatic complexity.”

Richard Gehr

Film

Netizens

Cynthia Lowen, who produced the disturbing 2011 doc Bully, scores another infuriating triumph with her directorial debut, Netizens, which follows three victims of online sexual harassment and defamation. Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist blogger who critiqued depraved depictions of female characters in video games, still gets bombarded with rape and death threats from armies of self-righteous male gamers. Carrie Goldberg, now a formidable internet-privacy and anti-revenge porn attorney, was herself stalked for months by a vengeful ex-lover. And Tina Reine struggles to find legitimate employment due to an ex’s discriminatory online screed, which, she discovers, is protected by First Amendment laws. Some scenes are almost too wrenching to bear, particularly when the women read aloud various violent texts and tweets from their tormentors. But all three are as optimistic and humorous as they are erudite; the movie ends on an unexpectedly hopeful note.

—Sam Weisberg

Music

A World in Trance

Spell-binding music from Afghanistan, India, and Iran are on tap during international-music impresario Robert Browning’s fifth annual A World in Trance festival. The three-night séance opens Friday with Homayoun Sakhi, the innovative Afghan virtuoso of the lute-like rubâb. Expect Indian ragas and Afghan folk music performed with unorthodox syncopation and sympathetic strings. Saturday, Indian sitarist Ustad Shavid Parvez Khan will dive even deeper into the Hindustani classical tradition. Accompanied, like Sakhi, by the great tablist Nitin Mitta, Parvez Khan shines particularly bright during the unaccompanied meterless alap section that introduces a raga. On Sunday, Iranian-born ney (bamboo flute) improviser Hossein Omoumi will be joined by the vocalist Jessika Kenney, Amir Koushkani (lutes), and Hamin Honari (percussion), and will concentrate on the Persian songs of Rumi and Attar.

Richard Gehr

Sat

4/28

Music

Astrid Hadad

Photo: Octavio Nava./SECRETARIA DE CULTURA

Not unlike the 110 eighteenth-century baroque works hanging in the Met’s current “Pinxit Mexici” show, Mexican performance artist Astrid Hadad was also “painted in Mexico.” Known for colorfully outrageous architectural costumes she changes for nearly every song, Hadad has been Frankenstein-ing her culture into satirical and politically incisive cabaret commentaries since mounting a tribute to groundbreaking ranchera singer Lucha Reyes in the early Nineties. Her influences include Mexican street theater, the cabaret-centric “golden age” of Mexican cinema, and Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s political theater. Mary Magdalene, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Mexico’s complex relationship to tequila have inspired her thematic performances. Hadad’s targets range from the crass commercialism of Frida Kahlo to Mexican macho in both its local and globalist permutations. Consider her a force to be reckoned with.

Richard Gehr

Film

Mary Shelley

Haifaa Al-Mansour’s origin story of the Frankenstein author is a good twenty minutes too long and spends far too much of its third act verbalizing its themes. Those complaints aside, this is a welcome showcase for the considerable talents of Elle Fanning, who deftly shades the trials and tribulations of the young writer and her complicated relationship with Percy Shelley (played by Douglas Booth as a good-time guy who is not to be trusted). Fanning and Booth’s chemistry is blindingly intense, and Diary of a Teenage Girl’s Bel Powley is delicately eccentric as Mary’s half sister. Through it all, Al-Mansour sharply captures this makeshift family’s wild swings from revelry to desperation to inspiration.

—Jason Bailey

Music

A World in Trance

Spell-binding music from Afghanistan, India, and Iran are on tap during international-music impresario Robert Browning’s fifth annual A World in Trance festival. The three-night séance opens Friday with Homayoun Sakhi, the innovative Afghan virtuoso of the lute-like rubâb. Expect Indian ragas and Afghan folk music performed with unorthodox syncopation and sympathetic strings. Saturday, Indian sitarist Ustad Shavid Parvez Khan will dive even deeper into the Hindustani classical tradition. Accompanied, like Sakhi, by the great tablist Nitin Mitta, Parvez Khan shines particularly bright during the unaccompanied meterless alap section that introduces a raga. On Sunday, Iranian-born ney (bamboo flute) improviser Hossein Omoumi will be joined by the vocalist Jessika Kenney, Amir Koushkani (lutes), and Hamin Honari (percussion), and will concentrate on the Persian songs of Rumi and Attar.

Richard Gehr

Film

Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver hovers somewhere between realism and expressionism. It’s a vision of Hell — announced right there in its opening, as the cab emerges from the steam like some kind of automotive demon — that had the good fortune of being shot in a town actually turning hellish. Scorsese lets actors improvise, and his camera run, but the increasingly fractured editing structure fragments the story, at times even doubling back on itself. Bernard Herrmann’s score is both jazzy and operatic, with sax solos doing battle with thundering, brassy crescendos; it evokes both classic Hollywood and nerve-jangling horror.

Bilge Ebiri

Sun

4/29

Film

Le Corbeau

Photo: COURTESY FILM FORUM

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1943 Le Corbeau vigorously dramatizes a real scandal — in 1917, a woman in central France harried her town with anonymous poison-pen letters — and ultimately kicked up a real scandal of its own. Clouzot’s film exposes a village’s worth of shocking secrets, suggesting French life is rife with adultery, drug addiction, and a generalized ambient horribleness. A sensation upon release, thanks to its frankness and consummate whodunnit twists, Le Corbeau also pissed everyone off, uniting the Vichy, the anti-Nazis, and the Catholic Church. After the liberation, in 1944, the film was judged so damning a portrait of the people of France that Clouzot was banned for life from making films — a sentence that, with the prevailing of cooler heads, was soon reduced to just two years.

Alan Scherstuhl

Music

A World in Trance

Spell-binding music from Afghanistan, India, and Iran are on tap during international-music impresario Robert Browning’s fifth annual A World in Trance festival. The three-night séance opens Friday with Homayoun Sakhi, the innovative Afghan virtuoso of the lute-like rubâb. Expect Indian ragas and Afghan folk music performed with unorthodox syncopation and sympathetic strings. Saturday, Indian sitarist Ustad Shavid Parvez Khan will dive even deeper into the Hindustani classical tradition. Accompanied, like Sakhi, by the great tablist Nitin Mitta, Parvez Khan shines particularly bright during the unaccompanied meterless alap section that introduces a raga. On Sunday, Iranian-born ney (bamboo flute) improviser Hossein Omoumi will be joined by the vocalist Jessika Kenney, Amir Koushkani (lutes), and Hamin Honari (percussion), and will concentrate on the Persian songs of Rumi and Attar.

Richard Gehr

Film

Mary Shelley

Haifaa Al-Mansour’s origin story of the Frankenstein author is a good twenty minutes too long and spends far too much of its third act verbalizing its themes. Those complaints aside, this is a welcome showcase for the considerable talents of Elle Fanning, who deftly shades the trials and tribulations of the young writer and her complicated relationship with Percy Shelley (played by Douglas Booth as a good-time guy who is not to be trusted). Fanning and Booth’s chemistry is blindingly intense, and Diary of a Teenage Girl’s Bel Powley is delicately eccentric as Mary’s half sister. Through it all, Al-Mansour sharply captures this makeshift family’s wild swings from revelry to desperation to inspiration.

—Jason Bailey

Film

United Skates

Directors Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown helm this affectionate tribute to roller-rink culture and, more specifically, the African-American skate community, which gathers on “adult nights” (coded language, we’re told, for “black night”) that prove to be raucous celebrations of skating, dancing, and style. But this is a culture that’s disappearing, with skating rinks closing across the country, thanks to declining interest and increasing land values. So the mostly joyful picture is permeated by a sense of decline — that it’s documenting a phenomenon that may not be with us much longer. As such, it’s full of fascinating stories and inside-baseball jargon (“slippery wheels,” “JB style,” throws, snapping, slow-walking), all of which is wittily assembled to capture the movement and athleticism on the floor. Charming, informative, and a little heartbreaking.

—Jason Bailey