We’ve talked a lot, in this space, about the importance of summer counterprogramming – but it’s starting to feel like an outdated notion. While we were losing our minds last month over all the sequels tanking, Amazon also took a huge loss on Late Night, a Sundance acquisition that would have done bang-up sleeper summer business back in, say, 2006 (when the film it most closely resembles, The Devil Wears Prada, did $124 million domestic). But increasingly, the “counterprogramming” for movie-goers uninterested in blockbusters is, simply, to stay at home and watch Netflix.
But! Some movies are still worth leaving the house for! And here are a few of them.
RELEASE DATE: July 3
DIRECTOR: Ari Aster
CAST: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter
Hereditary director Aster is back with another chamber piece about grief and doubt and fear, goosed along by the tropes and expectations of horror. This time, he tags along with a quartet of semi-ugly Americans, visiting a nine-day midsommar festival at a Swedish commune, full of pageantry and ceremony that takes a deeply disturbing turn. Pugh is magnificent in the central role, crafting a portrayal of depression and trauma that feels as exposed as an open wound, while Reynor is very good as her selfish prick boyfriend. Aster’s staging is effectively simple and quietly deliberate, lulling the viewer into complacency with beauty and humor, and then wielding violence and gore like a blunt instrument. He loses control of this tone a bit in the home stretch; there’s so much build-up, at such a slow, rolling boil, that the payoff feels somewhat lacking. But nevertheless, Midsommar is a firm confirmation that Aster is a major filmmaker.