By Diana Le
Some films just make you feel like you’re wrapped up in a blanket having chicken soup in front of a fireplace. They leave you feeling a little lighter, and 2014 thankfully had no shortage of them. Here are five 2014 films that will make you relish the quirks of life and feel happy to be alive.
- “What If”
“When Harry Met Sally” finds its modern remake in “What If,” a romantic comedy about a man and a woman who are friends. Just friends. Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) first meet at a Toronto house party, instantly connecting over magnetic poetry and bacon sandwiches. While Chantry is in a long-term committed relationship and Wallace is just getting over his most recent breakup, their compatibility suggests they could be more, even though their circumstances say otherwise. The film deftly deals with the myth of “the friend zone” without appearing too unforgiving of either sex and provides just enough variation from the romantic comedy blueprint to please the most die-hard fans of the genre. Although it is a slow burn from start to finish, the grand romantic gestures and heartfelt confessions will likely leave you aww-ing at the pair’s eventual partnership.
“The Lego Movie”
A surprisingly huge hit among audiences, “The Lego Movie” is a comical, self-aware romp through one Lego mini-figure’s journey of self-discovery. Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is a rather ordinary construction worker in Bricksburg, when he finds that he is the prophesied “Special” who will defeat the evil Lord Business. The film takes you along for the ride, from one ill-planned misadventure to another, as Emmet is confronted with the possibility that he is not the Special. Star voice performances from Chris Pratt, Will Arnett and Morgan Freeman, coupled with smart dialogue and fantastic Lego explosions, make “The Lego Movie” a light-hearted adventure comedy film that also deals with the big issue of self-doubt and learning to trust yourself again.
“Pride” is a British dramedy about the very unlikely partnership between London gay and lesbian activists and the small-town miners on strike in 1984. During the government-mandated pit closures, the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support Miners) decide to offer help to the initially reluctant miners in the small Welsh town of Onllwyn, as both are oppressed by the police and the media. What follows is the eventual coming-together of the two communities and the humorous cultural clash that results. Director Matthew Warchus manages to balance raucous laughs with the drama of being a young gay man in Great Britain during the ‘80s. You will see the older Onllwyn folk party at gay clubs, and you will be there when an activist realizes that he has HIV, all in one beat. But the tearful moments do not diminish the triumphs for long. It’s a movie that leaves you hopeful about people coming together despite their differences, and it will have you cheering on this motley crew of activists fighting for a political voice.
In this great feast of a film, “Chef” is like comfort food. Warm and inviting, Jon Favreau’s indie comedy manages to create a happy mixture between familial values and gratuitous food shots. Favreau plays the titular chef, Carl Casper, who incurs the wrath of a food critic, forcing him to leave his job as the head chef of a well-respected, though creatively stunted, restaurant in California. With the encouragement of his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), Carl decides to work out of his own food truck, bringing along his estranged son. As they drive across the country, Carl embarks on his journey of rediscovering what it means to be a good chef and father. Supported by a star-studded cast, “Chef” traverses the great American hubs of the culinary arts, and is peppered with easy laughs and heartwarming father-son scenes. Though certainly predictable, “Chef” will leave you smiling and hungry for a gourmet meal. Be sure to stick around until after the credits for a film treat.
5. “We Are the Best!”
Set in 1980s Sweden, “We Are the Best!” follows the lives of three middle school girls — two of whom cannot play instruments while the other comes from a no-nonsense Christian background — who try to create a punk rock band long after the punk movement has died. Empathetic, funny and honest, “We Are the Best!” offers an amusing look at the seemingly larger-than-life issues of being a misunderstood kid in Stockholm. Documentary-style visuals and utterly natural, convincing performances by the leads will keep you invested in Bobo, Klara and Hedvig’s journeys towards self-actualization through punk. As the film builds up to a final performance of their original song “Hate the Sport” (“People die and scream, but all you care about is your high jump team”), together, the girls battle through boy problems, self-esteem issues and dysfunctional families. It’s a coming-of-age film that will have you cringing from remembering your own rebellious teen years while also remaining assured that Bobo, Klara and Hedvig’s friendship will help them navigate adolescence.
Contact Diana Le at dianale ‘at’ stanford.edu.