Seriously Good Films for November 2019

Bill Newcott's latest round of film picks for serious audiences includes historical heroism, good neighbors, and mysterious manslaughter (but not all at once). From the November/December 2019 issue.

Scene from the film Harriet
(Glen Wilson / Focus Features)

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Harriet (November 1)

Sprawling, inspiring, and downright enthralling, this biopic of Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave who courageously kept returning to the South to usher fellow slaves to freedom, is a historical drama with the kind of expansive scope we seldom see anymore. Cynthia Erivo plays Tubman as a diminutive dynamo who answers to no one but God. Director Kasi Lemmons (Black Nativity, Eve’s Bayou) shows herself to be a visionary filmmaker with an unerring eye for both spectacle and intimacy.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (November 22)

Scene from "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
(Lacey Terell  © 2019 CTMG Inc)

Here’s a movie that delivers everything it promises — a nostalgic look at a beloved children’s TV icon, a reminder that the lessons of childhood still have currency long after we’ve grown up — and much, much more. Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Fred Rogers reminds us of the power to forgive where others can’t — and the power to inspire others to forgive themselves. You may well start tearing up from the first frames of A Beautiful Day, and as you leave the theater, you might well imagine the hand of a certain red-sweatered fellow on your sleeve, gently whispering into your ear, “It’s okay to feel this way.”

Knives Out (November 27)

Scene from "Knives Out"
(Claire Folger © 2018 MRC II Distribution Company LP)

The cinematic equivalent of comfort food, Knives Out is a classic murder-in-a-locked-room whodunit, complete with an eccentric detective (Daniel Craig), who calls a drawing room assembly of all-star suspects — including Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, and Don Johnson. Craig drawls his way through the role of Benoit Blanc, a detective whose name conjures up Hercule Poirot but who sounds more like Sheriff Andy of Mayberry. The resolution isn’t quite the surprise you might have hoped for, but writer/director Rian Johnson keeps us sufficiently off balance to make things interesting.

Featured image: Glen Wilson / Focus Features

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