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This week sees Netflix’s (rather wild) promise of a new original film for every week of the year begin to pay off with Ramin Bahrani's The White Tiger, a solid entry in a well-tenured filmography. To balance out that film’s catching tone is Olivia Wilde’s feature film debut, the high-school comedy Booksmart, while the Blumhouse horror sequel, gloriously titled Happy Death Day 2U, also landing on Netflix this weekend.
Meanwhile BBC iPlayer is playing host to a vast swathe of film classics, the immortal political thriller All The Presidents Men at the forefront alongside the likes of the Oscar-nominated drama Timbuktu and camp classic Interview With a Vampire; Now TV brings Judd Apatow’s latest slacker comedy The King of Staten Island.
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The White Tiger - Netflix
Director Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of the debut novel by Indian author Aravind Adiga is a scathing spin on the rags-to-riches template of storytelling, that eschews idealism in favour of uncompromising depictions of the impact of globalisation on India, exploring classism and the caste system, the wealth gap and the hatred and competitiveness bred by capitalism and the desire to escape from what main character Balram refers to as the “rooster coop” – the working classes entrapped and waiting their turn to be slaughtered by their rich masters.
Watch a trailer for The White Tiger
Told through a retrospective narration, Bahrani maintains the novel’s darkly humorous cross-examination of class struggle and caste, showing Balram’s journey to hustle and scheme and cheat his way out of Delhi in 2007, clawing his way to Bangalore (“the Silicon Valley of India”). Interesting as an exploration of how internet access changes your privileges, and its depiction of the competition that capitalism breeds amongst servants reminds occasionally of Parasite, mostly in illustrating the underhandedness of the game that has to be played to just maybe claim a space amongst the higher social classes.
While it isn’t without its missteps (and the third act runs a little long), The White Tiger is well worth viewing.
The King of Staten Island - NOW TV/Sky Cinema
Judd Apatow’s latest comedy about a man child in arrested development has an interesting meta-layer through its casting of the tabloid famous SNL cast member Pete Davidson in the lead. The story reads as a semi-autobiography, following the 20-something burnout as he hangs around with friends and barely even considers moving out of his mother’s house.
Like many of Apatow’s slacker comedies its a keenly observed mixture of self-reflection and lowbrow humour, Davidson’s acting sensibilities proving a surprisingly strong match for the director’s instincts.
Also on Now TV: Greed
Booksmart - Netflix
Something of a spin on the one-crazy-night teen comedy Superbad, Booksmart finds diminishing returns in the same well – for all its inclusiveness, it’s a somewhat narrow-minded portrayal of a high school experience, and Wilde hammers out needle drops just shy of contemporary a little too often.
Watch a trailer for Booksmart
But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time, the central performances from Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein being the main draw here, both charming comic actors in their own right. Plus, even if it’s not an accurate representation of modern high school, there’s something in living vicariously through the characters’ weird journey to find that one big party.
Also new on Netflix: Happy Death Day 2U
All The President’s Men - BBC iPlayer
Alan J. Pakula’s classic, paranoid political thriller pairs Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein, in a story of the uncovering of the Watergate scandal told with a tantalising precision and sense of dread. Its depiction of the process and the minutiae of reporting is enthralling thanks to the care of William Goldman’s script and Pakula’s formal restraint.
Also on iPlayer: Mississippi Grind, A Hard Day’s Night