This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- The Muggles are acting up.
- Everything you like is canceled.
- Some excellent counterprogramming.
- The best thing about Pete Davidson’s movie.
- Per usual, crying about Schitt’s Creek.
- The perfect tweet.
It can feel slight and pointless to spend energy focusing on movies and TV shows with all [gestures to the world] this going on. But as much as everything is rightfully disrupted right now, there are still parts of the industry that remain unchanged: there are small, important projects being released that need championing and examining.
The Surrogate, from writer-director Jeremy Hersh, is a micro-budget indie competing for attention at an especially loud time. It’s a complicated, thorny, and occasionally stressful, but also a vigorously provocative moral drama, about an enlightened woman in Brooklyn who agrees to be a surrogate for her interracial gay best friends.
The idyllic arrangement is torpedoed when a prenatal genetic test turns out positive for Down syndrome, a possibility that, for all their careful planning, they never considered. The film then pivots into a sprint through a maze of heady debates about ethics, morality, and entitlement—losing its way a bit, sure, but stimulating nonetheless.
For those yearning for a fascinating intellectual distraction, The Surrogate is a brisk and effective means for just that. But the chief reason for recommending the film is the stunning lead performance from Jasmine Batchelor. I’ve rarely felt so empathetic for a character who has made me feel so uncomfortable. I’ll be singing its praises as an award-season underdog in the months to come.
Maybe you, like me, find Pete Davidson exhausting. Or maybe you don’t and you’re the exhausting one. Either way, good luck getting through the two hours and 17 minutes of The King of Staten Island, Davidson’s cinematic marathon/big Hollywood leading-man moment. Big Dick Energy: The Movie, if you will.
Perhaps that sarcastic little statement about how polarizing Davidson seems to be isn’t just snark. The reviews for The King of Staten Island have been all across the board, ranging from those heralding it as Judd Apatow’s best-directed film yet to those out-and-out calling it bad. And there’s mine, which lands somewhere in between—though definitely closer to the latter. (Read it here. In these uncertain times, I still do need page views.)
There’s so much to talk about with the film when it comes to the Pete Davidson of it all, that it threatens to dim the shining light of its best performance, which is from Marisa Tomei, the forever radiating sun of Hollywood whose bright, warm rays we too often take for granted even as we bask in them.
She plays Pete’s mother in the film, whose saintly patience is tested by her need to finally move on from her own grief. She is sensational. Duh. She is Marisa Tomei.
All I ask is that when we are gifted another sensational Marisa Tomei performance, attention be paid!
I don’t know how Schitt’s Creek got away with constantly doing things that should have been corny as hell and embarrassing, but ended up being absolutely pure, lovely, touching, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and glimmering examples of the good there is in the world. (OK, I do...everyone involved in this show is wildly talented and exceptionally smart.)
They pulled it off again this week, when the cast reunited to sing an a cappella version of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” in honor of 2020 graduates—complete with a final act cameo from Carey herself. Congratulations to Schitt’s Creek for, even after its series finale, being the nicest part of a pop culture news cycle and still making people cry. (Watch it here.)
There is so much going on in the world and so many takes on all of it. Whatever you make think of it all, this is the funniest tweet I’ve read maybe ever.
What to watch this week:
Love, Victor: The Love, Simon sequel is so sweet, so watchable, so needed.
One Day at a Time: TV’s best family sitcom is doing an animated special. ¡Dale!
Da 5 Bloods: Spike Lee coming in as timely as ever.
Taste the Nation: Padma Lakshmi’s new show is vital, but also just lovely.
What to skip this week:
Artemis Fowl: That thing where a studio takes a very popular book, changes everything about it, and expects fans to still like it.
The King of Staten Island: You might like it. I don’t know. It’s so long.