Staff Picks: ‘Mistress America,’ Beach House, and ‘The World According to Garp’


Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

The World According to Garp on Blu-ray

George Roy Hill’s 1982 film adaptation of John Irving’s bestseller (newly available on Blu-ray, via Warner Archive) was initially met with some cynicism; fans of the book doubted it could even be made into a movie, and to be honest, compressing its sprawling events into 135 minutes turns Irving’s narrative into something of a tragedy parade. But Hill — the undervalued director of Butch Cassidy, The Sting, and Slap Shot — adopts a wry, bemused style that serves the material well, and comes up with a picture that’s sometimes delightfully weird, and sometimes horrifyingly sad. He also provoked one of Robin Williams’ finest performances (his anguish in the scenes after discovering his wife’s adultery is real, and stunning), and finds real truth in small moments about the strains of marriage and the difficulty of the writer’s life. And while the business about the Ellen James Society hasn’t aged so well, the sensitivity of the writing and playing of John Lithgow’s trans character were remarkably ahead of their time. Late in the film, Garp has a wonderful speech about looking back in your life while it’s in progress, before it’s too late; it’s not just good advice, but a fine summary of this challenging and rather wonderful film. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

The Marquise of O (dir. Eric Rohmer)

There are rape jokes, there are rape storylines, but Rohmer’s sometimes bitterly humorous, sometimes straight-up wrenching, always visually impeccable film (which I saw as part of BAM’s Period Rohmer retrospective) hinges entirely on the rape of a young noble widow as her father’s citadel is being overtaken by the Russian army. The titular marquise wakes up from a chemically induced nap pregnant, with no idea who could be the father of her child. Based on Heinrich von Kleist’s 1808 novella of the same name, The Marquise of O features captivating performances by Bruno Ganz and Edith Clever, and — painfully — skewers ideas of class, propriety, marriage, and family that aren’t quite as antiquated, centuries after the story is set, as they should be. And it has one of those endings you won’t know whether to laugh or cry about. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Beach House, Depression Cherry

I’ve spent my week cycling between two albums that, together, manage to satisfy all my musical needs. For my up days, I’ve got Carly Rae Jepsen’s wall-to-wall jam collection of a pop album — and for my, um, less up days, I’ve got Depression Cherry. Beach House’s music has long managed to contain virtually every emotion on the melancholy end of the spectrum (check out former Flavorwire music editor Jill Mapes’ profile for more thoughts on their appeal), and the album’s nine painstakingly crafted tracks always seem to reflect my mood, whether I’m calm, contemplative, or, yes, depressed. Three years later, Myth is still in my regular rotation, and I expect Depression Cherry to stick around for just as long. — Alison Herman, Associate Editor

The Maria Bamford Show

After the announcement that Sarah Silverman, Jenny Slate, and Tig Notaro would be guest starring on Maria Bamford’s upcoming Mitch Hurwitz-produced Netflix series, I’m having to temper the fervor of my anticipation; rewatching Bamford’s very homemade web series — The Maria Bamford Show, which sees the comic moving back to Duluth to live with her parents following a breakdownhelps. The series was made before Bamford became a (still niche) household name, and is a fantastic, narrative introduction to her vocal-contortionistic humor, at the bottom of which lies an exceedingly, and challengingly honest approach to mental illness. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Mistress America

Mistress America had me from its opening scenes of a forlorn college freshman; it was “too real,” to watch Lola Kirke’s character drift across campus, waiting for the best years of her life to begin. What was pleasantly surprising about the movie was how many personality types and moments it captured with incisive, even brutal honesty but also with sympathy; the entitled writer who believes she has permission to put her friends’ stories on the page, the 30-something who has made a life on being cool and interesting and now longs for stability, substance, the insecure college students, the yuppies who seemingly have it all, but are contending with their own longing for a past life. And then these disparate types all come together for a long, farcical scene in a stunning Greenwich house — perfection. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large