Updated 3/23 with Audience Award winners
Which films (and TV shows) impressed at this year's South by Southwest?
Below, we summarize the reactions of critics to the major films and television shows debuting at the 2022 edition of SXSW, roughly divided into categories from best-reviewed to worst. Note that any films which previously debuted at Sundance or another festival are excluded, as are titles (like the just-released X) that have already debuted outside of the festival setting.
Major award winners
A full list of SXSW award winners is available at the official SXSW site.
Jury Award: Best Narrative Feature in Competition
Audience Award: Best Narrative Feature in Competition
I Love My Dad
Comedy/Drama | USA | Directed by James Morosini
This year’s jury (and audience) favorite was far from the best-reviewed film at SXSW 2022. Patton Oswalt stars as a father who catfishes his own son in this cringe-comedy from writer-director-star James Morosini, who based his screenplay on his own personal (and very uncomfortable) experience. For The Playlist's Jason Bailey, the premise is so “off-putting” the result is the “kind of movie that gets praised for being risky, but not for actually being any good.” The film’s defenders include THR critic David Rooney, who finds it “gently funny and much more forgiving than viewers might expect,” and Ethan Anderton of /Film, who believes “there's a big beating heart at the center of the movie that keeps you close to the ground and makes it an absolute triumph of twisted humor and love.”
Jury Award: Best Documentary Feature in Competition
Master of Light
Documentary | Netherlands/USA | Directed by Rosa Boesten
In this Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary, filmmaker Rosa Ruth Boesten conjures an intimate portrait of painter George Anthony Mason. After ten years in a federal prison, Mason works to make a career (using his unique artistic ability to paint in the style of the Dutch Old Masters), support his partner and daughter, and confront the trauma of his childhood. With filmmaking that is “attentive and emotionally respectful,” Boeston “deals with Black trauma, gently acknowledging change without over-trumpeting resilience,” writes Lisa Kennedy for Variety. In his review for IndieWire, Robert Daniels praises this “gentle and graceful film” that becomes “not only a salute to Morton’s journey but a keen acknowledgment of the sharp twists and wrong turns that can make the road back so much harder to see.”
Audience Award: Best Documentary Feature in Competition
Documentary | USA | Directed by David Siev
After leaving New York City at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic for his Trump-supporting hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan, filmmaker David Siev picked up his camera to chronicle his family’s battle to keep their restaurant open. According to Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com, the result is an “intimate and moving” film that “feels essential when we tell the story of how 2020 shaped this country, revealing both strengths and weaknesses in small towns across the United States.” THR's Daniel Fienberg finds Siev’s feature documentary debut “full of messy artistic truth” and “emotional resonance,” resulting in a “love letter to overcoming adversity with the help of family, of business, of identity.”
Other highlights of the festival
Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood
Animation/Drama | USA | Directed by Richard Linklater
Debuts April 1 on Netflix
Using 2D and 3D animation along with the rotoscoping technique he brought to theaters in A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, writer-director Richard Linklater takes us on a journey through his childhood in Houston during the summer of 1969, when a man walked on the moon for the first time. Writing for The Film Stage, John Fink feels Apollo “captures the joy and wonder of childhood,” and may be “Linklater’s warmest and most nostalgic precisely because of its specifics.” IndieWire's David Ehrlich also makes note of those specific details, writing, “Linklater’s bittersweet collage might be glued together from the shreds of semi-related memories, but that emphasis on bite-sized moments in time (many of them specific, others more representational) has the satisfyingly counterintuitive effect of slurring them all together into something unreal.” In his rave for TheWrap, Alonso Duralde writes “[T]his dewy recollection of life in suburban Houston ... is an essential Generation X text, a reverie of childhood before Watergate, when kids drank Tang, adults smoked and the future spelled opportunity instead of eventual apocalypse.”
Bodies Bodies Bodies
Horror/Comedy | USA | Directed by Halina Reijn
According to Paste's Aurora Amidon, director Halina Reijn’s sophomore feature “is everything it sets out to be. It’s a romp of a good time, stylized with big bold title cards and a soundtrack of club-hits like it’s The Bling Ring’s bloody cousin.” Set at a hurricane party where a game between a group of rich 20-somethings (Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott, Myha'la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders) turns deadly, this “true crowd-pleaser” is “economically shot and brilliantly cast” and a “scathing critique of feigned friendships and the vapid excess of bored rich kids,” writes Marya E. Gates for The Playlist. In his review for IndieWire. Robert Daniels adds, “Bodies Bodies Bodies is one of those movies worth a second, third, even fourth watch.”
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Sci-fi/Action/Comedy | USA | Directed by Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert)
Opens in theaters on March 25
Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), the writer-directors behind the best farting-corpse movie of 2016 (Swiss Army Man) don’t hold anything back in this story of a Chinese-American woman, Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), who must do inter-dimensional multiverse battle with her own life choices while trying to finish her taxes. Variety critic Peter Debruge believes SXSW’s opening-night premiere to be a “mess, but a meticulously planned and executed mess, where every shot, every sound effect and every sight gag fits exactly as the Daniels intended into this dense and cacophonous eyesore.” But most other critics are on board with Daniels’ maximalist approach. In his review for IGN, Rafael Motamayor writes, “Everything Everywhere All at Once changes the game for what cinematic multiverses can be, with thrilling action, excellent performances, and a world of possibilities.” Aurora Amidon of Paste is similarly smitten, “It’s simply up to the viewer to relinquish control, strap into the rollercoaster seat and trust that the ride will take them somewhere transcendent. And it does.” Writing for The Playlist. Robert Daniels is impressed by how the “filmmakers work against their instincts by nurturing expansive emotions before embracing crazed absurdity.” And IndieWire's David Ehrlich echoes that sentiment: “The filmmaking here is so bold and without boundaries that it sometimes feels out of place in such a warm hug of a movie.”
The Girl From Plainville
TV/Drama | USA | Directed by Lisa Cholodenko
Debuts March 29 on Hulu
Adapted from an Esquire article about the highly publicized true story of teenager Michelle Carter (Elle Fanning), who was tried and convicted for involuntary manslaughter after using text messages to encourage her boyfriend to kill himself, the eight-episode Hulu miniseries Plainville comes from Liz Hannah (The Post) and Patrick Macmanus (Dr. Death). Colton Ryan, Chloë Sevigny, and Norbert Leo Butz also star, while Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) directs multiple episodes, including the opener that screened at SXSW to a mostly positive reception from critics (which has since grown into a more enthusiastic response as additional reviews have come in). While IndieWire's Kristen Lopez cautions that Plainville "too often falls into the Hulu trap of simply reenacting, presenting the facts and little more," she also finds it, at times, "dreamy, disturbing, and impeccably acted by Fanning and Ryan." Variety's Daniel D'Addario also notes some imperfections, particularly in its bloated runtime and how it handles the courtroom scenes (a complaint echoed in Consequence by Danette Chavez), but also admires the performances and the show's "careful and sensitive approach to a challenging story." And in a B+ review at The Playlist, Emma Fraser sees a "captivating" series led by Fanning's "uncanny" performance.
Comedy/Drama/Sci-fi | USA | Directed by Colin West
In writer-director Colin West’s (Double Walker) sophomore feature, Jim Gaffigan stars as a suburban father whose dreams of becoming an astronaut resurface when a satellite crashes into the suburban home he shares with his wife (Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn) and daughter (Katelyn Nacon). The Playlist's Jason Bailey believe West “displays a confidence and storytelling acumen that’s frankly inspiring,” resulting in a film that “sneaks up on you, quietly, and then clobbers you.” Writing for THR, Angie Han claims “thoughtful performances and earnest (if especially subtle) writing keep the film compelling enough until its final minutes, which are even more startling in their heart-wrenching effectiveness than in their mind-bending twists.” /Film's Ethan Anderton also praises the film’s final minutes where this “quirky, perplexing, and ultimately beautiful dramedy” really “pulls at the heartstrings with a wonderfully woven tapestry of life and love.”
The Man Who Fell to Earth
TV/Sci-fi/Drama | UK/Spain | Directed by Alex Kurtzman
Debuts April 24 on Showtime
Showtime's upcoming sci-fi series from recent Star Trek veterans Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet is set in the present and is loosely based both on the cult classic 1976 movie and the Walter Tevis novel that inspired it. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars—effectively in the role played by David Bowie in the original film, though it's an entirely new character named Faraday—as an alien who arrives on Earth at a key point in human history, while Naomi Harris plays the scientist who befriends him and carries the burden of saving her planet—and the alien's. Episodes 1 and 2 (of 10 total) screened at SXSW, and the Austin Chronicle's Sarah Jane liked them, noting, "While the show is dealing with themes like capitalism, climate change, racism, and lack of affordable healthcare, there were still a lot of lighter moments, too." In a B review at IndieWire, Ben Travers similarly feels the series gets off to a good—and "surprising"— start with an "effective balance of silly, heartwarming character-building with a brisk pace and weighty gravitas," resulting in a show that is unexpectedly "fun." And Slashfilm's Rafael Motamayor agrees, concluding, "For now, this is a promising, different take that still retains some of the drama and darkness of the source material while providing some fun and fresh new material to feel relevant as something new."
TV/Drama | USA | Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Debuts April 29 on Apple TV+
Elisabeth Moss heads the cast of an eight-episode Apple TV+ adaptation of the creepy 2013 novel The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Also starring Wagner Moura, Jamie Bell, Phillipa Soo, and Amy Brenneman, the series centers on a Chicago reporter (Moss) who survives a brutal assault but uncovers an unsettling truth about her attacker: He's a time-traveling serial killer. The adaptation comes from Silka Luisa (Strange Angel) and features an all-woman directing corps led by Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad). Only a few critics have weighed in so far following the show's SXSW unveiling (most reviews will arrive closer to the show's late April premiere), but their early reviews suggest that this will be a show worth investigating—though those critics also suggest trying to avoid reading too much about Shining Girls in advance and spoiling its many twists. IndieWire's appreciative Ben Travers attempts to avoid spoiling the "exhilarating" show by summing it up thusly: "When it comes to TV, Elisabeth Moss does not miss," though he cautions that he can't fully judge the series after seeing only half of it. Slashfilm's Chris Evangelista also likes the show, noting some "brilliant" scenes and "genuinely unnerving little touches," though he cautions the series isn't for impatient viewers: "If you're the restless sort, you may find the deliberate obfuscations of the series to be damn-near maddening." And at Black Girl Nerds, Cassondra Feltus raves, "Fans of true crime and murder mysteries will love the show for the classic whodunit elements. But the more surreal aspects will attract an audience that is partial to mind-bending thrillers. It’s a mystery that you’re dying to solve but that you never want to end."
Action/Sci-fi/Thriller | Canada | Directed by Nyla Innuksuk
The crowd-pleasing feature debut from Canadian director (and Marvel Comics writer) Nyla Innuksuk is a sort of Inuit take on Attack the Block centering on a group of overmatched teens in a tiny fishing town in far northern Canada who must fend off an alien invasion. In a SXSW roundup at RogerEbert.com, Marya E. Gates believes that Innuksuk overcomes the limitations of her tiny budget "with some truly gnarly fight sequences in the back half," while the Austin Chronicle's Matthew Monagle similarly feels that, "Even accounting for the growing pains that come with a small budget and a cast of unknowns, Slash/Back delivers the goods," adding, "There are so many dynamic elements in [Slash/Back] that cause the film to punch [way] above its weight class." Slashfilm's Matt Donato is one of the least positive critics, thinking the film a bit long, but even he, in a 7/10 review, admires the film's immersion in Inuit culture and writes, "You can't help but want to champion the film's trademark sweetness, shining a light on badass little girls who take on their entire community's enemies." In Variety, Peter Debruge admits that "the actors’ inexperience shows a bit during dialogue scenes," but adds, "Innuksuk approaches everything with such a generous, supportive spirit, it seems churlish to focus on shortcomings in a film with so much personality." And Film Threat's Michael Talbot-Haynes concludes, "The film is not just important but also entertaining to the core. Her first feature shows Innuksuk is already a master filmmaker who has made a kick-a*s genre picture with dead-on horror instincts."
Soft & Quiet
Drama/Thriller | USA | Directed by Beth de Araújo
Beth de Araújo’s “impressive” debut feature is a “gripping and stomach-churning observation of contemporary white supremacy,” according to THR's Lovia Gyarkye, who also labels Soft & Quiet a “courageous work of art.” Following a kindergarten teacher (Stefanie Estes) as she meets with her sisterhood and recruits a few of them to harass two innocent women, it’s a “nerve-shredding real-time thriller” and the “most terrifying film of the year,” writes IndieWire critic Kate Erbland. Shot to resemble a single take, “Soft & Quiet is deeply unpleasant to watch, but that’s the point,” notes Peter Debruge of Variety
Drama | USA | Directed by Michael Morris
The titular Leslie in this conventional but unsentimental feature debut from veteran TV director Michael Morris (Better Call Saul, Halt and Catch Fire) is an alcoholic single mother nearing rock bottom, played by Andrea Riseborough. Broke (despite winning the lottery just a few years earlier), evicted, and lacking any other option after briefly moving in with her grown son (Owen Teague, pulling double duty at SXSW), Leslie returns to her Texas hometown in one last attempt to rebuild her life at a local motel, where she is given a bed and a housekeeping job by Sweeney (Marc Maron). For The Wrap's Fran Hoepfner, the "unglamorous and unflinching" To Leslie is a film of two halves, the first feeling "at times, punishing" as Leslie continues to hit new lows, while the second half "is much more engaging, the script gaining momentum alongside Leslie." IndieWire's David Ehrlich also sees a bifurcated film that is hampered by writing that "remains a bit thin" as it progresses but thinks that Riseborough is "the only thing that keep it from fraying apart" in its first half, while the second half is highlighted by Maron delivering "the best performance of his career." Other critics, however, are more uniformly positive about the film—and everyone thinks Riseborough is "phenomenal," to use the term preferred by Slashfilm's Ethan Anderton in a 9/10 review. One of the film's biggest fans is The Playlist's Jason Bailey, who not only finds Leslie much less conventional than his colleagues do, but also praises a screenplay "full of tiny, keenly observed touches," resulting in "a movie that understands the desperation of alcoholism."
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Action/Comedy | USA/Hungary/Croatia | Directed by Tom Gormican
Opens in theaters on April 22
It’s the role he was born to play. Nicolas Cage stars as “Nick Cage” in this breezy riff on his personae, his stardom, and his movies. Pedro Pascal joins the fun as Javi, a super-fan who offers Cage $1 million to attend his birthday party, where Cage is ultimately recruited by a CIA agent (Tiffany Haddish) to investigate Javi. The strong cast includes Sharon Horgan as Cage’s wife, Lily Sheen as his daughter, Neil Patrick Harris as his agent, and Ike Barinholtz as Haddish’s partner. Co-written and directed by Tom Gormican (That Awkward Moment), “it’s one of the funniest movies of the year,” according to IndieWire's Jude Dry, who adds “It works not only because Cage and Pascal are truly brilliant together, but because the movie conjures a world that, however ridiculous, makes its own rules and follows them.” Writing for RogerEbert.com, Marya E. Gates praises Cage’s ability to find the “perfect synthesis” of Cage the man and Cage the myth to deliver “one of the most complex, yet crowd pleasing performances of his career.” And over at The Playlist Robert Daniels writes, “Cage delivers a crowd-pleasing triumph that reminds audiences that he’s always been — no matter the part, no matter the reviews — a star who makes the movies infinitely better just by being him.”
Other notable SXSW debuts
TV/Drama | USA | Directed by Marta Cunnigham
Debuts April 10 on AMC and AMC+
The latest drama from BAFTA-winning writer Peter Moffat (best known for the BBC's Criminal Justice, later remade by HBO as The Night Of) offers a timely look at Chicago's criminal justice system via a story that finds a black high school athlete the target of both police and prosecutors bent on avenging the death of a cop during a drug bust gone wrong. Courtney B. Vance, Aunjanue Ellis, and Holt McCallany lead the cast. Only two publications reviewed the series at its SXSW premiere (where the first two episodes screened). In a B review for IndieWire, Tambay Obenson calls the drama "familiar" yet also thinks that it "enthralls" thanks to "convincing" and "bravado" performances and "a propulsive pace." Black Girl Nerds founding critic Jamie Broadnax comes to a similar conclusion, also thinking the basic premise overly familiar ("we’ve seen this play out before") but elevated by "its impressive ensemble of actors."
Drama/Thriller | USA | Directed by Eli Horowitz
The genre-blending feature debut for writer-director Eli Horowitz, who previously co-created the hit podcast Homecoming (and its TV series adaptation), follows Kath (Winona Ryder) and her younger boyfriend Max (John Gallagher Jr.), a couple seeking a getaway at a remote cabin in the woods. Upon arrival, they discover that the cabin appears to be double-booked, as a younger couple, Al (Owen Teague) and Greta (Brianne Tju), is already staying there. But when Max appears to run off with Greta, Kath enlists the cabin owner (Dermot Mulroney) to search for answers—which come in the form of a time-shifting narrative, numerous fake-outs, and at least one major twist. Or, as The Wrap's Carlos Aguilar describes this "greatly entertaining" work, it's "as if someone had opened a jigsaw puzzle and scattered all the pieces on a table." Homecoming was a bit like that, too, but The Hollywood Reporter's Jon Frosch laments that The Cow "doesn't have Homecoming season one director Sam Esmail’s flair," resulting in "the kind of thing you’d doze off to after a long week, skipping to the end when you wake up." He deems the nonlinear storytelling a distraction, while IndieWire's similarly disapproving Kate Erbland calls it "over-cooked, under-baked, and needlessly tricky" and Paste critic Aurora Amidon dismisses it as "gimmicky." But even many of those critics admit that Ryder's performance rises above the script's problems, as does The Playlist's Marya E. Gates, who thinks the star "elevat[es] the material simply with her beguiling presence." Adds Slashfilm's Chris Evangelista, however, "She deserves better than the murky slog that is 'The Cow.'"
Vertical Entertainment outbid other suitors for the rights to The Cow shortly after its SXSW debut, and plans to release it in theaters later in 2022.
Horror/Comedy | USA | Directed by Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter
Will stream on Shudder later this year (date tbd)
A disgraced and none-too-bright vlogger (Joseph Winter, who also co-wrote and co-directed the film with wife Vanessa Winter) develops a plan to win back his followers: He'll livestream himself as he spends a night alone in an allegedly haunted house. Unfortunately the house isn't just allegedly haunted—it is actually haunted, putting his life in danger after he angers the spirit who resides there. And she has her own followers. The result was one of the better offerings in SXSW's "Midnighters" section this year. In a B+ review at IndieWire, Rafael Motamayor declares that Deadstream "feels like ’80s Sam Raimi traveled forward in time, became obsessed with streaming culture, and turned Ash Williams into the dumbest possible stunt streamer." Yes, he thinks that's a good thing—so much so that he adds, "This is a film that could easily become a Halloween tradition." Slashfilm's Matt Donato also plans on screening this "goofball, gross-out, grim-but-gleeful crowd pleaser" at Halloween, even if he admits that Deadstream falls short of breaking as much new ground as Evil Dead. And Paste's Aurora Amidon admires a film that is "creative" and clever in its format, storytelling, and "impressive, innovative set design," though it is let down a bit by "overlong and somewhat predictable bloodbath of a third act."
TV/Sci-fi/Drama | Hungary | Directed by Otto Bathurst
Debuts March 24 on Paramount+
The result of nine years of development, the Steven Spielberg-produced Halo is an adaptation of Microsoft's videogame franchise that follows the 26th century conflict between humanity and the alien Covenant, though the series is set within an alternate timeline. Pablo Schreiber stars as Spartan supersoldier Master Chief, the sci-fi FPS franchise's main playable character, while Jen Taylor reprises her role from the games as the AI named Cortana. Episodes one and two screened at SXSW ahead of the show's streaming premiere next week, and they suggest you may want to lower your expectations. Polygon solicited reactions from five of its writers, and Joshua Rivera seems to speak for many of his colleagues when he warns, "It's quite hard to take in these first two episodes of Halo and find a reason to keep going." In a C– review in Entertainment Weekly, fan of the game franchise Darren Franich counts "zero moments of real awe" in the opening hours, while THR critic Dan Fienberg deems it "aggressively forgettable," with a story that comes across like an inferior version of The Mandalorian. Consequence's Clint Worthington sums up the thoughts of many critics by concluding, "The frustrating thing about Halo is that it tries to serve two masters — diehard Halo fans and newbies who are used to the normal rhythms of sci-fi streaming series — and doesn’t quite please either." But a few critics have a more positive take, including Brian Tallerico, who gives the series a B grade in a review for The Playlist, where he almost seems surprised that Halo is "certainly not the kind of disaster that typically emerges when video games launch into other mediums."
It Is in Us All
Drama | Ireland | Directed by Antonia Campbell-Hughes
Writer-director Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ debut feature was awarded a Special Jury Recognition for Extraordinary Cinematic Vision for its depiction of a man (Cosmo Jarvis) who is awakened to the world after he’s in a deadly car accident on his way to visit his deceased mother’s home. Both Screen Daily critic Wendy Ide and Variety's Jessica Kiang believe Campbell-Hughes is a more accomplished director than screenwriter, with Ide praising her “sure directorial hand when it comes to evoking a sense of place and community,” and Kiang claiming she has “style to burn, building a doomy, stomach-churn atmosphere of incipient disaster in which the bleak beauty of this isolated part of Ireland becomes a character all of its own.” Writing for IndieWire, Carlos Aguilar is more positive on the movie overall, finding Jarvis “mesmerizing and terrifying” and the film "intoxicating to the senses.”
The Lost City
Action/Rom-com | USA/Dominican Republic | Directed by Aaron Nee and Adam Nee
Opens in theaters on March 25
Directors Aaron and Adam Nee’s follow-up to 2016’s Band of Robbers is a solid riff on Romancing the Stone starring the likable cast of Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, and Brad Pitt. Bullock plays a romance novelist (and Tatum her himbo cover model), who attempts to play a real hero when she is kidnapped by Radcliffe’s eccentric billionaire. Writing for The Playlist, Marya E. Gates calls it a “fun ride and a loving throwback to a certain kind of star-laden character-led adventure films Hollywood doesn’t seem to have time for anymore.” And Variety critic Peter Debruge believes “Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum supply the chemistry” in this “kind of breezy two-hour getaway that doesn’t take itself too seriously.” In her review for RogerEbert.com, Abby Olcese adds, “This is a movie you watch in the theater, with popcorn, then again and again on streaming, with a glass of wine.”
Documentary/Music | USA | Directed by Amy Scott
Debuts May 6 on Showtime
Musician Sheryl Crow's personal and professional life is on display in this upcoming Showtime documentary from director Amy Scott, who previously helmed the Hal Ashby documentary Hal. Composed from new interviews (with Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris, Keith Richards, and more) and never-before-seen footage shot during two decades of touring, Sheryl is "swift and captivating" and finds the director "in engaging command," writes Owen Gleiberman in Variety, who adds that the new film is "both a richer and more confident piece of work" than Scott's previous documentary. The Austin Chronicle's Richard Whittaker also praises the film's "unsanitized and intimate" approach. But THR critic Lovia Gyarkye cautions that, "When it comes to more rigorous analysis — a bit of pushback, a touch of tension or cultural context — the documentary leaves something to be desired."
Spin Me Round
Comedy | Italy/USA | Directed by Jeff Baena
The latest from Jeff Baena (Life After Beth, The Little Hours) is another collaboration with Alison Brie, who co-wrote and starred in the director’s Horse Girl. This time Brie is a manager at the Olive Garden stand-in Tuscan Grove, when she is rewarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to the restaurant’s Italian headquarters. There she meets the head of the company, played by Alessandro Nivola, but she doesn’t get the Under the Tuscan Sun romance some might expect. THR's John Defore deems Spin Me Round “amusing but the most lightweight” of Baena’s five features, and IndieWire critic Kate Erbland finds it “offers enough wacky diversions to appeal to anyone looking for a chuckle.” With its strong supporting cast (Aubrey Plaza, Lil Rey Howard, Zach Woods, Tim Heidecker, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen), the “unnecessarily intricate and eyebrow-raising” story still “coalesces into a film that is quite entertaining, largely because it's so unpredictable, weird, and flat-out funny,” writes Ethan Anderton for /Film.
Swimming With Sharks
TV/Drama | USA | Directed by Tucker Gates
Debuts April 15 on The Roku Channel
Originally ordered for the short-lived Quibi but now reformatted as six 30-minute episodes for its debut next month on The Roku Channel, Swimming With Sharks is a very loose remake of the 1994 film of the same name starring Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka as an intern at a Hollywood studio run by a notoriously tough boss (Diane Kruger). The adaptation comes from actress Kathleen Robertson (The Expanse), making her debut as a writer and showrunner. A few critics shared their takes on the first two episodes screening at SXSW, including The Playlist's Matthew Monagle, who awards the series a B– and finds it surprisingly pulpy, concluding that it "seems to be carving out a bizarre niche in the era of streaming platforms: one part long-form content, one part erotic thriller." At We Got This Covered, Martin Carr likes the show a bit better, noting that it benefits from swapping the genders (and from the strong performances). He calls the series "a surprise, both for its adherence to the original concept and flagrant disregard for contemporary taboos," though he also warns that "Robertson humanizes [the characters] too much" too soon. The Austin Chronicle's Sarah Jane also praises the cast and declares, "I loved what I saw."
Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off
Documentary | USA | Directed by Sam Jones
Debuts April 5 on HBO and HBO Max
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk is the subject of an upcoming, two-hour-plus HBO documentary from I Am Trying to Break Your Heart director Sam Jones. In The Wrap, Lena Wilson warns that "Hawk makes for a withholding interview subject" (for example, "Wikipedia can ultimately tell you more about Hawk’s past marriages than this documentary can") but that the film nevertheless works "as a humanistic exploration" rather than a biography. The Playlist's Christian Gallichio calls the film "routine" but "never less than engaging" as it offers "a compelling dive into skateboarding culture from 1980 onwards and helps to illustrate just how important Hawk was to legitimize the sport." And Consequence's Clint Worthington is a bit less impressed, deeming Wheels "merely a good doc as opposed to a great one" because of a failure to dig deeper into Hawk's psyche.
Under the Influence
Documentary | USA | Directed by Casey Neistat
It's a swift rise and then fall from stardom captured in real time. Directed by fellow vlogger Casey Neistat, Under the Influence focuses on 25-year-old YouTube sensation David Dobrik—with work on the documentary beginning, fortuitously (for Neistat), just as multiple scandals would hit Dobrik, including a sexual assault allegation and a stunt gone horribly wrong. While the "rise" part of the equation doesn't seem to interest The Playlist's Ned Booth, the film "gets more interesting once the doc shifts focus to peel back the performative layers of his act." THR critic John DeFore is disappointed that the film "refuses to lose its obvious affection" for its subject, and cautions that the "less-than-probing" result offers "only scraps" of insight along the way. But while RogerEbert.com's Brian Tallerico agrees that "there are times when it feels Neistat doesn't push hard enough on Dobrik," he feels that the director's connection to his subject "just allows this problematic creator to put his own foot in his mouth." And IndieWire's David Ehrlich, in a B review, admits that the film has some "upsetting power," while Consequence's Clint Worthington gives the doc a B+ and thinks "Neistat rises to the challenge" presented by the scandals that popped up during filming.