Netflix: the 10 best new films and shows to watch in May

Renee Zellweger stars in What/If; Knock Down the House looks at the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Knock Down the House follows the stories of four women running for office in the 2018 US midterm election. Video: Netflix

 

Knock Down the House

From May 1st

US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Knock Down the House. Photograph: Netflix
US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Knock Down the House. Photograph: Netflix

An exhilarating behind-the-scenes look at four women including Drag Race fan, Queer Eye lover and Republican giant-slayer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who challenged the old guard politicians in the 2018 congress race. One of the very few-feel good political documentaries, it manages to capture the energy and excitement that these women have brought to Capitol Hill and how they deal with these expectations that weigh so heavily on their young shoulders.

It delves into the early days of Ocasio-Cortez and others and their routes to Washington, celebrating the diversity of these women’s’ journeys and their tentative first steps on the campaign trail that led to their eventual success.

Dead to Me

From May 3rd

Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini in Dead To Me. Photograph: Saeed Adyani/Netflix
Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini in Dead To Me. Photograph: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

The criminally underrated Christina Applegate and Freaks and Geeks’ Linda Cardellini team up in this comedic tale of two widows who form an unlikely friendship after meeting at a bereavement counselling session. Applegate’s acerbic Jen is seeking revenge after her husband was mowed down in a hit-and-run accident, whereas Cardellini’s more gentle Judy is an optimistic, free-spirit whose troubled past comes back to haunt her and Jen as they try to navigate their way through their new lives. Created by comedian Liz Feldman and produced by the Anchorman powerhouse team of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, it’s an intriguing prospect, as the odd-couple bond over the strange comedy of grief, filling up on boxes of cheap wine and indulging in mascara-diluting, gallows humour.

Easy, Season 3

From May 10th
Mumblecore king Joe Swanberg’s ode to the complexities of modern love and life in Chicago returns for a third and final season. The multi-layered, ever-evolving indie dramedy picks up where we left off with some stories such as Kyle (Michael Chernus) and Andi (Elizabeth Reaser) still grappling with the etiquette of their open marriage and Marc Maron’s artist Jacob struggling with the fallout from his last failed relationship. The series also returns to Jeff (David Franco) and Noelle’s (Zazie Beets) and their tensions with their burgeoning independent brewery company.

Newcomers this season will include The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr and Sophia Bush with the stories and themes overlapping as episode protagonists become background players in this clever ensemble production.

Wine Country

From May 10th

Amy Poehler takes the reins for Wine Country, Photograph: Colleen Hayes/Netflix
Amy Poehler takes the reins for Wine Country, Photograph: Colleen Hayes/Netflix

Amy Poehler’s directorial debut features a bouquet of brilliant female comic actors, from Maya Rudolph to Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer and with cameos from Tina Fey and Jason Schwartzman – Wine Country is spilling over with talent. Rather than being a female version of the Hangover, the film is more concerned with the strong dynamic of female friendships that continue throughout adulthood, beyond the limited notion of competing with each other for jobs or men. With the women gathering together to celebrate a 50th birthday they set off to Napa Valley and end up on a wine-soaked trail of self-discovery.

The Society

From May 10th

Rachel Keller and Alex Fitzalan in The Society. Photograph: Seacia Pavao/Netflix
Rachel Keller and Alex Fitzalan in The Society. Photograph: Seacia Pavao/Netflix

Netflix’s new supernatural series follows a group of teens who are bizarrely transported to an alternate version of their affluent New England town minus their overbearing parents. Free from responsibilities, the teens initially revel in this disorder but then find that they must restore some kind of structure to survive. As they form alliances to avoid more chaos they try to figure out what has happened to their missing parents and attempt to make their way back to reality. A Lord of the Flies for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl, The Society is a glamorous take on the dystopian, survival genre.

She’s Gotta Have It, Season 2

From May 24th
This updated version of Spike Lee’s 1986 classic returns with Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) now dealing with her conflicting ideals about her career, wondering if she can sustain her creative life as an artist or to give in to a comfortable position in the corporate world. Her internal struggles continue to affect her relationships with her on/off lover Mars (Anthony Ramos) and her circle of friends, as they continue to watch their once vibrant and affordable Brooklyn neighbourhood slowly being sold-off and gentrified beyond recognition.

The Perfection

From May 24th
Lately there has been an intriguing resurgence in the female-led psychological thriller genre that was a staple of early 1990s home-video entertainment. Films such as A Simple Favour, Greta and marquee TV shows such as Big Little Lies echo the skewed,suspenseful days of Single White Female and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Muscling in on the market is Richard Shepard’s The Perfection, where Girls and Get Out’s Allison Williams – who has cornered the market in sinister, highly-strung Caucasian women – plays Charlotte, a troubled musical prodigy who befriends the school’s newest bright young thing Elizabeth, played by Dear White People’s Logan Browning. Their intense discipline and competitive streak eventually leads them down an obsessive, disturbing path. With dashes of Black Swan’s dark surrealism and paranoid humour, The Perfection is aiming to be this year’s twisted sister success story.

What/If

From May 24th
Renee Zellweger makes her way on to the smaller screen (finally), starring in Revenge-maker Mike Kelley’s stylish, neo-noir morality anthology series, which focuses on the consequences of those unexpected choices that end up transforming lives. In this first season, a financially constrained newly-wed couple find themselves in a ethically dubious situation as they become entangled with Zellweger’s mysterious business woman Anne, who offers them an escape from their monetary woes at a personal price. It’s Indecent Proposal – The Remix. With the emphasis on life-altering experiences and high-stakes emotional manipulation, it features the kind of dark, philosophical musings on humanity that David Fincher might come up with if he attempted to make his own version of Tales of the Unexpected. A slick, thought-provoking, thoroughly adult drama, it may become the American Horror Story for those who believe that real nightmares are to be found a little closer to home.

Always Be My Maybe

May 31st
With a title that’s a play on a Mariah Carey song and an appearance by the ageless teen god that is Keanu Reeves, Nahnatchka Khan’s (Fresh Off the Boat) new rom-com knows what her audience wants. Starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, Always Be My Maybe is part of Netflix rom-com renaissance as it seemingly single-handedly attempts to bring the romance back to cinema. It’s the typical tried and tested tale of old school friends who reconnect after years apart. Wong’s Sasha is a celebrity chef who returns to her home of San Francisco to open a new restaurant, finding that her old friend, Marcus (Randall Park), who she has not seen in over a decade, is blissfully content, still living and working with his dad and playing music in aimless neighbourhood bands. The clash between complacency and creativity, the idea of “settling” for someone and the dreaded “friendzone” are all explored in this fresh, funny and sweetly romantic story that finally gives Wong’s brand of raucous humour a space to breathe.

When They See Us

May 31st

Jharrel Jerome and Vera Farmiga in When They See Us. Photograph: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix
Jharrel Jerome and Vera Farmiga in When They See Us. Photograph: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

Created by the highly acclaimed writer and director Ava DuVernay (The 13th), this true-crime drama series explores the trial and circumstances surrounding the case of the so-called Central Park Five – five young black and Hispanic teenagers who were accused of the gang rape of a white, female jogger in 1989. The incendiary, racially charged case divided New York society with Joan Didion writing a powerful piece about the boys convictions, questioning the veracity of the investigation and Donald Trump buying ad space to request that the death penalty be brought back for the crime. A period drama in the vein of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story – The People Vs.O.J Simpson, the series will follow the boys gruelling fight to prove their innocence.

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