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“Garcia Girls” Mark Their 15th Anniversary in May

Older woman with umbrella and a cane walks past a colorful outdoor mural.

Doña Genoveva walks past the town mural, in “How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer.”

By Vanessa Zimmer

This month marks the 15th year since those multigenerational Garcia girls got their groove back. It’s an event definitely worth a celebratory movie night for you and your friends. Maybe plan the food around a good hot sauce.

May, in fact, is a strong month for Sundance Film Festival entries finding their way to wide release. Our first example is a 2007 film in which veteran Julie Christie earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. 

Meanwhile, Jesse Eisenberg, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Michael Fassbender garnered praise for their performances in unusual May releases about drug-smuggling Hasidic Jews, a world-hating rebel, and a musician who wears a fake head, respectively. That last one got your attention, am I right?

Away From Her (2007) — Fiona (Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent) have been almost inseparable for 45 years. But Fiona is diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease, and she insists on going to a nursing home. Thus begins what the Festival Program Guide describes as a love story in reverse, as the two essentially become strangers to each other. Christie received an Oscar nomination for her performance, as did director Sarah Polley for her adapted screenplay of the Alice Munro story. Check out viewing options here.

How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer (2008) — Three generations of single women in a Mexican American family experience sexual awakenings over a summer. Living in an Arizona border town, matriarch Doña Genoveva (Lucy Gallardo), daughter Lolita (Elizabeth Peña), and granddaughter Blanca (America Ferrera) emerge from a period of longing and loneliness. “Like the folks in the story, [writer-director Georgina Garcia) Riedel’s camera never hurries, savoring the poetic vistas and lazy rhythms of the rural Southwest without resorting to sentimentality,” writes Caroline Libresco. “Her three heroines are utterly human — full of idiosyncrasies and unexpected charms.” Check out viewing options here.

Holy Rollers (2010) — Jesse Eisenberg plays a young Orthodox Jew who is tempted into the lucrative world of smuggling ecstasy into the United States. Thus begins his internal struggle between two very different lifestyles. “Inspired by actual events, Holy Rollers uses the incredible story of Hasidic Jews smuggling ecstasy in the late ’90s as a backdrop to examine the difference between faith and ‘blind’ faith,” Trevor Groth writes in the Festival Program Guide. Directed by Kevin Asch. Check out viewing options here.

Hesher (2011) — TJ (Devin Brochu) and his devastated father (Rainn Wilson) move in with Grandma (Piper Laurie) after TJ’s mom dies in a car wreck. Enter a foul-mouthed, greasy-haired, van-driving badass named Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who hates the world. “Hesher is the story of a family struggling to deal with loss and the anarchist who helps them do it — in a very unexpected way,” Trevor Groth writes in the Festival Program Guide — adding that it is a “rare film that manages to be a completely original vision, a thoroughly entertaining story, and a provocative metaphor.” Natalie Portman also stars in this comedy-drama co-written and directed by Spencer Susser. Check out viewing options here

Frank (2014) — Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) joins a band, only to find that mysterious leader Frank (Michael Fassbender, in a much-praised performance), sidekick Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and the rest of the crew are quite… eccentric. For one thing, Frank wears a giant fake head. “Frank possesses such creative audacity and thought-provoking observations — propelled by a barrage of wit, performance, and, of course, song — that you are bound to emerge feeling as if you have seen and heard something completely original,” writes Trevor Groth in the Festival Program Guide. Scoot McNairy also joins the strong ensemble cast in this dark comedy. Lenny Abrahamson directs. Check out viewing options here.

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