Landmark Theatres showcase independent movies

Tired of your run-of-the-mill Hollywood Blockbuster and looking for a film equally, if not more, entertaining that deals with controversial issues and features complex characters? Make a stop at one of the Landmark Theaters around the Twin Cities and see an independent movie such as Mistress America or Grandma.

While big-budget films often showcase A-list actors, hyper-realistic special effects, and epic storylines, these  films often have monotonous themes void of honest emotion and character development, leaving a hole within the fabric of American film. However, despite a smaller financial incentive and viewership, behind the big-budget façade of the film industry lies a dedicated league of independent-film directors whose priorities within film are to include relevant and controversial themes, complex characters, and honest emotion. In other words, many of the elements lacking within Hollywood blockbusters.

While these “indie” films are not often screened at most movie theaters, a small group of theaters in the metro area, the Landmark Theatres, devote their screens to indie films. Unfortunately, viewing a film at any one of these theatres gives one a sense of how underappreciated the art of independent filmmaking is; they are almost always empty, and viewership does not often surpass the single digits. In order to keep the art of honest filmmaking alive, these theatres need to be supported. Currently, there are two excellent indie-films screening at the Landmark Theatres.

Mistress America

Independent film "Grandma" is a historical comedy about a college freshman in New York City.
Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Independent film “Mistress America” is a historical comedy about a college freshman in New York City.

A fast-paced, honest, and hilarious comedy, “Mistress America” is like a winding road bordered by pitstops of familiar emotion and absurdity. The latest film in Noah Baumbach’s chronology, and his second collaborative screenplay with partner Greta Gerwig, is full of witty mumblecore humor that never seems to let up. Filmed at Barnard College in New York City, the film follows freshman, Tracy Fishko (Lola Kirke), in an initially disappointing college experience that turns around when she meets her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig).

Brooke is a wildly eccentric character whose personality is slightly abrasive yet alluring, and Gerwig’s performance in this role is undeniably fascinating. In contrast, Tracy is a much calmer character who feeds off of Brooke’s energy and serves as the rock of the film. As a result, the film serves as a reflection on the difference between the person that we would like to be and one that we are to others.


Film "Grandma" is a controversial and emotional rollercoaster that boasts complex characters dealing with real-world issues.
Photo Courtesy of Sony Picture Classics
Film “Grandma” is a controversial and emotional rollercoaster that boasts complex characters dealing with real-world issues.

While only 75 minutes long, “Grandma” successfully fills this time with enough emotional fluctuation and honest experience to convince the viewer that they have watched a full-length film. Veteran comedian Lily Tomlin plays Elle Reid, the grandma and mentor to a teenaged girl named Sage (Julia Garner) who has just discovered she is pregnant. This journey leads the viewer through Elle’s past-life, as she seeks money from old friends and lovers.

As a whole, “Grandma” is an examination of its main character and her quick transitions from a loving grandmother to an unsympathetic ex-lover, an irritable customer, and back again, effectively displaying an excellent performance by Tomlin. In addition, the film does not shy away from incorporating controversial themes such as abortion, effectively lending  the film a fresh and honest perspective of contemporary life. Currently playing at the Landmark Theatre in Edina, “Grandma” is a short film that is worth the time.