Indie Fresh List

Indie Fresh List: The Courier, Happily, and Operation Varsity Blues

Check out the latest Fresh indie releases, including what's in theaters, what's on VOD, and what's coming soon.

by | March 18, 2021 | Comments

Join us weekly as Rotten Tomatoes reports on what’s indie features are streaming. From promising releases by new voices to experimental efforts from storied filmmakers – or perhaps the next indie darling to go the distance for end-of-year accolades – we will break it all down for you here each week.


This week for our Indie Fresh List, we have a dark rom-com, a period spy thriller, and a documentary that details the 2019 college admissions scandal that involved actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. In our spotlight section, we bring back the freshly Oscar-nominated foreign language comedy about getting tipsy – Another Round. We also spoke to the director Thomas Vinterberg about the film and particularly star Mad Mikkelson’s now-iconic drunken dance on a pier.


New This Weekend

Happily (2021)

68%

BenDavid Grabinski’s work as writer for the rebooted Nickelodoen series Are You Afraid of the Dark (Fresh at 100%) marked him as a new genre filmmaker to watch, and this weekend, his feature directorial debut Happily hits select theaters and VOD. The dark comedy stars Joel McHale — to whom we spoke about the project — and Kerry Bishé as a long-married couple who can’t keep their hands off each other. Understandably, everyone around them is sick to death of their very public – bordering on performative – relationship. But when a dead body, a duplicitous stranger, and a lot of questions erupt over a vacation, the couple loses faith in everything they know. “Grabinski takes full advantage of his seasoned and talented comedic cast, but it is his dry wit and timing which throws us that curveball when we least expect it that makes it so much fun,” writes Pamela Powell of Reel Honest Reviews.

In select theaters and available on VOD now.


The Courier (2020)

87%

Reminiscent of his role in the Oscar-nominated Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyBenedict Cumberbatch is back in theaters this weekend with another espionage thriller, The Courier. The based-on-true-events spy flick tells the tale of an ordinary British businessman who was recruited by the UK’s MI-6 and a CIA operative to conduct a covert partnership with a Soviet officer in an effort to provide crucial intelligence to hopefully defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cumberbatch delivers an engrossing performance as he “gives body and soul itself to the role of Wynne, in a performance that ranks among the actor’s best work,” according to Larry Carroll of Looper.

In Select theaters.


The college admissions scandal of 2019 rocked not just newspaper headlines and nightly news but also Hollywood, as stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were named among the parents accused of buying their kids’ entrance into elite universities. Dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” by the FBI, the investigation revealed that the families in question faked sports involvement, cheated on tests, and used other nefarious methods to further rig the system already set up in their favor as wealthy, well-connected families. A blend of documentary interviews and re-enactments, Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is “audacious, outrageous and goddamn sensational,” according to Daniel Hart of Ready Steady Cut.

Streaming now on Netflix.


Spotlight Pick

Fresh off their expected Best International Feature nomination and the unexpected but well-deserved Best Director nomination for director Thomas Vinterberg at the Academy Awards, Another Round is back on our list this week as our spotlight pick. We’re offering a subtle reminder for those who have yet to watch the dark comedy that will leave you smiling drunkenly through your tears. Mads Mikkelsen turns in a hilarious and tragic performance in what Lewis Knight of the Daily Mirror calls “a riotous and thoughtful study of alcohol consumption that balances comedy and character study, anchored by a versatile lead performance from a top-form Mads Mikkelsen.” We recently sat down with Vinterberg to talk about the film, the drunken boot camp they held, and the incredible dancing scene.

Jacqueline Coley for Rotten Tomatoes: Mads is just incredible in the film. Can you talk about casting him and how he signed on?

Thomas Vinterberg: Mads and I first talked about the idea in 2013. Back then, it was intended to be a tribute to alcohol, but the story wasn’t really formed yet. Mads was intrigued. He was a part of this film from the beginning. In fact, I had those four actors in mind since the early stages of writing. I tend to like that way of working, where I write my scripts for specific actors. It has become a bit more difficult because they’ve gotten rich and more famous, and now want to read a script before they attach. But in this case, actually, Mads and the three others all attached very early in the process, without a script. Their characters were called their respective names right up until the shooting draft.

How do you direct people to be “drunk?” Is there an audition process? Do you need to know about their drinking history prior to signing on?

Vinterberg: These four actors are all friends of mine. I’ve known them for years, and we’ve had drinks on various occasions. It’s really difficult for actors to play drunk and do it convincingly, especially capturing the nuanced changes in manner and physicality that accompanies their characters’ escalating inebriation over the course of the film. Prior to the shoot, we watched a lot of YouTube videos of drunk people, and we did some alcohol rehearsals, like a “booze boot camp,” or whatever you want to call it, in order to figure out the specific behavior of these specific actors at these specific levels of intake. We filmed it, and we had fun with it, but it was also a lot of hard work. As in most cases, where you see something that works naturally on-screen, it’s a result of a lot of hard work.

How do you calibrate that? Did they have a BAC number on the call sheet?

Vinterberg: No BAC on the call sheet, but a pretty specific idea about how to move forward with each level of inebriation. Once we had the boot camp and had a feel of the different levels and their corresponding actions, we knew where we were heading. We also improvised a bit, of course, in order for it to feel more believable, because sometimes the realistic levels would seem too low for their onscreen behavior.

Let’s talk about Mads drunkenly dancing on the pier. How did you do it?

Vinterberg: Knowing that Mads was a dancer, and knowing that I was making a movie about inspiration and ecstasy and breaking free of your normal, repetitious patterns, I felt it was kind of called for, that he should be dancing at the end. Though, we were all very cautious about it. Particularly Tobias Lindholm and Mads were afraid it would become cliché. We had a dance choreographer for the dance moves, but I, together with Mads, choreographed the to-ing and fro-ing to make it look real. It needed to look like a slice of life. Which is also why the dance is not pitch-perfect. After some hesitation, towards the very end, he lets go entirely. Everyone was so great in that moment. And Mads, of course, in particular, is absolutely outstanding, dancing alone, with no dance-doubles or anything. And yet still behind this cathartic weightless moment, there is this shadow, a sense of this deep tragedy.

The film has global appeal. Is that because alcohol (which is thought of differently around the world) is a catalyst, not the crux?

Vinterberg: You are right. The film is supposed to be about more than just drinking, of course. Spirit means more than alcohol and is embedded in the “inspiration” too. My wife, who is in the film, is also a priest, and a lot smarter than I am. She told me what my movie’s actually about. She said, “There’s less and less room for the ‘uncontrollable’ in modern life. More and more is scaled or measured. Being inspired or getting an idea, are examples.” And I said, “What’s so special about getting an idea?” She said, “Well, it’s something you get. It’s not something you buy or prepare. You get it from somewhere.”

Another great example she gave me is falling in love. You fall, you “lose control,” and you meet something grand. If you’re a young person, you have to appear on social media 40 times a day and you’re being graded all the time. When I walk around, my phone counts the number of steps I take. So much in our lives is measured and controlled. So, if this movie is anything, it’s a fight for “the uncontrollable,” for letting go. And one of the reasons it might land pretty well right now is because it talks to a very confined, problematic world where people have to stay home and behave rationally. Not only are we in a very measured society, but on top of that, we’re isolated. And there’s, I guess, a sort of need for dancing in the streets and embracing each other and whatever else those crazy drunk Danes do.

Finally, what’s on your Indie Fresh List?

Vinterberg: I’m a member of the Academy, so of course I’ve seen the international contenders, and find many of them extremely good. The Father from the main section moved me a lot, and Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks definitely did, too.

Streaming now on Hulu and available on VOD.


Along with…

















Thumbnail image by Liam Daniel/©Lionsgate

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

dogs SDCC 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Disney Channel Black Mirror Lifetime Winners TBS politics justice league true crime sequel dragons hist Superheroes Drama 2015 screen actors guild toronto Mary Tyler Moore natural history Spring TV Stephen King foreign Paramount Network cars The CW kids TV Land Crackle documentary asian-american GIFs facebook ID Broadway cancelled television Disney+ Disney Plus disaster sag awards Ghostbusters spinoff IFC robots women best AMC streaming stoner Warner Bros. Tumblr comedies transformers See It Skip It Writers Guild of America FX on Hulu witnail rotten scary movies social media MSNBC Creative Arts Emmys TV One Extras Marvel Television sequels festival Quiz Captain marvel latino TIFF Pirates San Diego Comic-Con Tomatazos The Arrangement ITV technology series adaptation reboot Netflix Christmas movies game of thrones OneApp video superman Binge Guide Vudu Nominations HBO Max indiana jones Comics on TV Walt Disney Pictures LGBTQ news Starz sports child's play Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt animated Rock Fantasy Spectrum Originals Esquire what to watch Cartoon Network Superheroe adventure Freeform remakes ghosts Apple TV Plus TLC strong female leads Sundance Now trailers Country concert Paramount blaxploitation Martial Arts 2020 nature TCA Pixar cartoon History 72 Emmy Awards MTV RT History Emmys BBC America hollywood Bravo biography godzilla Showtime Television Academy video on demand rt archives BAFTA sitcom docudrama E3 black Dark Horse Comics Mary Poppins Returns Black History Month spanish zero dark thirty Shudder comic Horror Pop popular Disney Pet Sematary casting Discovery Channel Interview Film Festival Shondaland Countdown aliens TNT Rom-Com Valentine's Day Syfy cancelled TV series ABC Signature halloween tv spider-man chucky game show SXSW mockumentary BET TCA 2017 directors ESPN french fast and furious The Purge serial killer venice Fall TV WGN Lionsgate TCA Winter 2020 diversity TCM Holidays 20th Century Fox PaleyFest cults TV renewals all-time Star Wars Ellie Kemper Hear Us Out king kong American Society of Cinematographers Super Bowl spy thriller supernatural TruTV historical drama crime thriller Film war BBC One FOX renewed TV shows prank Academy Awards comiccon thriller based on movie werewolf DGA Comedy Central VICE free movies Anna Paquin kong parents christmas movies Arrowverse unscripted Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 4/20 Infographic Sneak Peek Kids & Family satire crime reviews classics breaking bad FXX Character Guide docuseries Travel Channel WarnerMedia james bond rotten movies we love documentaries Avengers Video Games Toys Crunchyroll Disney Plus telelvision RT21 south america El Rey Premiere Dates films First Reviews SundanceTV Rocketman Podcast Hallmark Christmas movies Chernobyl Pop TV Holiday USA Network Trivia space Tubi elevated horror pirates of the caribbean Britbox Photos twilight crossover 2021 Trophy Talk Amazon Prime japanese stand-up comedy romantic comedy jamie lee curtis GoT Columbia Pictures Action jurassic park Acorn TV Music anthology Peacock italian Rocky comic books nfl die hard Winter TV Family Amazon Pride Month DC Universe VOD Western blockbusters YouTube Red Awards Tour PlayStation Comedy stop motion Nat Geo versus CBS Apple Tarantino mission: impossible theme song 2019 Polls and Games First Look National Geographic Best and Worst composers 007 FX discovery Spike Epix 99% a nightmare on elm street harry potter Grammys spain Alien political drama mutant golden globe awards cancelled TV shows canceled DirecTV cancelled Cannes Sony Pictures A&E Song of Ice and Fire archives green book nbcuniversal ratings dark franchise X-Men Comic Book Sundance Box Office richard e. Grant The Walking Dead Lifetime Christmas movies finale worst tv talk ViacomCBS Animation ABC Family NBC vampires Women's History Month cinemax scorecard 2016 emmy awards Mudbound independent MCU universal monsters halloween singing competition Musicals deadpool canceled TV shows 2017 CNN Mary poppins TCA Awards teaser golden globes zombie Legendary 2018 cops Cosplay indie NYCC The Academy Exclusive Video name the review ABC Musical blockbuster hidden camera boxoffice BBC spanish language Baby Yoda A24 hispanic football Hallmark Trailer romance medical drama worst movies superhero psycho fresh movie miniseries Star Trek monster movies Summer PBS Fox Searchlight Red Carpet Mindy Kaling BET Awards 45 Adult Swim CBS All Access 71st Emmy Awards Watching Series Reality 21st Century Fox book Oscars The Witch The Walt Disney Company anime cats Brie Larson Marathons revenge Fox News Netflix Awards Ovation laika Year in Review E! GLAAD talk show Turner Classic Movies OWN YouTube Premium crime drama Sundance TV HBO Go Teen cooking Logo toy story Classic Film period drama children's TV razzies joker Thanksgiving HBO Universal dc Marvel Studios Amazon Prime Video TV zombies Nickelodeon quibi dceu award winner screenings Apple TV+ Marvel Reality Competition rom-coms Biopics Endgame IFC Films dramedy obituary Mystery psychological thriller travel Certified Fresh DC streaming service CMT critics Funimation Schedule comics Television Critics Association batman binge television Election australia Sci-Fi Turner Masterpiece science fiction slashers doctor who 24 frames Emmy Nominations Amazon Studios Disney streaming service CW Seed Christmas Calendar DC Comics Hulu LGBT VH1 movies New York Comic Con police drama Opinion YouTube USA President Set visit boxing Paramount Plus Lucasfilm YA APB festivals Elton John criterion Food Network Heroines kaiju