1. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Steve Carrell, Keira Knightly, Martin Sheen
Scafaria’s not new to the scene. She originally made her mark as a writer with Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and has writing credits on the hilariously cynical Children’s Hospital, but it appears she’s now parlayed her success on the page to the screen as well. In her directorial debut, Scafaria does an impressive job of bringing to life two very different neighbors that fall in love during the last weeks of their lives on earth. While the script wasn’t without a few problems (the pacing was slow in the middle and a few scenes felt somewhat out of place), the film’s real punch is in the second half and the entire film is laced with poignant moments of real humanity. Seeking a Friend offers a fresh twist on the traditional romantic comedy, and Scafaria has every reason to be proud of the outcome. I was surprised at how much I actually liked this movie and how it stayed with me after leaving the theater.
2. The Black Tulip
Directed by Sonia Nassery Cole
Written by Sonia Nassery Cole and David Michael O’Neill
Starring: Haji Gul Aser, Sonia Nassery Cole, Walid Amini, Somaia Rozaye
A favorite at multiple film festivals, Sonia Nassery Cole’s first foray into directing may say more about her tenacity and passion than what was actually conveyed on the screen. This true story about a family that opens a restaurant in Afghanistan only to be targeted by the Taliban, came close to never being shot. When the actress cast as the lead was kidnapped and her feet cut off, most of the cast and crew dropped out. Determined to make the film, Cole decided to play the role herself. She wrote, self-financed, produced, directed, and starred in the film.
3. Friends with Kids
Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns
Jennifer’s intro to Hollywood was through acting, but after her first screenplay Kissing Jessica Stein received acclaim, there were high hopes for the Yale alum’s third feature and directorial debut. Friends with Kids delivers, even though it’s arguably less endearing than Stein, when two friends decide to have a baby together without being in a relationship. The somewhat predictable ending has ‘bad producer notes’ written all over it, but overall the film is a fun, well-written romantic comedy that garners Jennifer Westfeldt ‘triple threat’ status.
4. Take this Waltz
Written and Directed by Sarah Polley
Starring: Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, Sarah Silverman, Luke Kirby, Aaron Abrams
An actress turned writer/director, Sarah Polley’s follow up to Away From Her offers an intriguing look into the life of a married woman that becomes fixated on her neighbor. Polley explores what many people in committed relationships find themselves feeling and does it in a way that allows Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams to really shine.