Have you ever been stuck for a film or show to watch, or book to read? You know you want to desperately immerse into an alternate universe, but you just can’t find the “one”? Well, Bon Vivant has all the answers. Each week, we will publish an article in our Mood Swings series with a different emotional theme, providing you with the best on-screen and reading material to fit your every mood. Do you want the inspirational? The quirky? The depressing? Be sure to check here every Tuesday to find your fix.
Now, the indie genre is the marmite of the film, television, and book worlds. When you sit down to read or watch something to indulge in your eccentric ways, you either love it or hate it; there is no in-between. With that said, some of my favourite movies of all time have been independent films, despite receiving unimpressive reviews. Therefore, open your mind, and immerse yourselves in these following quirky wonders.
Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl (2015)
Whilst using his spare time to make replica movies with his best friend, Earl (RJ Cyler), Greg (Thomas Mann) is surviving high school by being part of every social group; however, when he is told by his mom to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who has just been diagnosed with leukaemia, he is forced to look at life differently. This film cleverly inverts the typical teen drama, pursuing a simple plot that allows the characters to speak loudest. Through their awkward and strong personas, the bond between Greg, Earl, and Rachel beautifully shows how smalls acts of kindness can be priceless to their recipients, all whilst exposing the bitter reality of cancer. Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl will make you cry, but it will also make you laugh. A lot. And this, combined with intriguing characters that you, yourself, will want to befriend, will cause this film to linger in your mind for a very long time.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
This film follows the adventures of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge at a famous hotel, who with his newly befriended lobby boy (Adrien Brody), goes on an adventure to try inherit some family wealth. This film is one of the most unique films I have ever come across. Director Wes Anderson spectacularly combines the use of dark humour, a phenomenal cast playing flamboyant characters (including Jude Law, Jason Schwartzman, and Willem Dafoe), and a hyperbolic plot, to create a movie that is completely and utterly original. A must-see.
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Whilst Netflix originals usually succeed in producing good series, they usually aren’t as successful in producing good films. The Fundamentals of Caring, however, is an unbelievable exception. Ben Benjamin (Paul Rudd) becomes a caregiver for a disabled teenager, Trevor (Craig Roberts), after a personal tragedy. Trevor is no ordinary teenager; the two form a hilarious and unconventional bond, which soon results in a cross-country road trip that will change Ben’s outlook on life. A main strength of this movie is the humorous dynamics between the characters themselves, including teenage runaway Dot (Selena Gomez) and pregnant Peaches (Megan Ferguson). This movie has a personality unto itself, and whilst it does deviate from the typical story-line, each character is so wrought with depth and complexity that when they each find their enlightenment, we are enlightened along with them.
Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
It’s been awhile since this little gem of a series has graced our TV screens, but it is one never to be forgotten. Ned (Lee Pace) possesses the power of being able to bring the dead back to life for exactly one minute – any longer and someone else has to die for them. After reviving his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte (Anna Friel), he begins using his talent to solve a string of murder mysteries, which often result in a surprising twist. The shows exploration of Ned’s relationship with Charlotte, who he will kill if he touches again, takes a light-hearted approach to a dark subject. If you are looking for a show unlike any other that doesn’t lose momentum, Pushing Daisies is for you.
You may have never heard of Wonderfalls, probably because the final episode aired in 2004. Let’s just say, it does not get much quirkier than this. The show follows Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a worker in a souvenir-shop at Niagara Falls, whose previously uninteresting life takes an unexpected turn when the inanimate figures and toys in the shop begin talking to her. Throughout this short series, the figures give her messages which, if not followed, could result in dire consequences. Witty and whimsical throughout, this show is pleasingly melodramatic and “wonderfally” creative. In fact, this might just be the best show you have never seen.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
You know when you watch a film adaptation of a book, and you find yourself irritably trying to convince the world how the book was so much better? That is the case here. Whilst the movie adaption of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a wonderful tribute, it does not come close to Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 novel. This enlightening epistolary follows awkward teen Charlie in his discovery of the simple elements in life that we often take for granted, those which he lacks. When two students, Sam and Patrick, become his mentors, he embarks on a journey where he finds friendship, love, music, and ambition. It is in the writing of Chbosky that the reader can see the honest and relatable battle between Charlie’s inner sadness and his new-found discoveries. And it is this element that makes this book worthy to secure a place on school syllabuses across the world.
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)
I will pre-warn you: this book comes under the Young Adult category, but it is this simplicity (no condescension intended) that plays to all its strengths. All The Bright Places deals with the sensitive issue of suicide via two teens: Theodore, a suicidal boy, and Violet, who has just lost her sister. Their extraordinary friendship soon develops into an emotional love story, which is just as illuminating as it is heartbreaking. The simple plot – a girl learning how to live from a boy who wants to die – speaks volumes about extremely complex issues relevant to any age group. Consequently, it is no surprise that this book is soon to be a major motion pictures starring Elle Fanning. Read it before it’s too late.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (2006)
If you are reading this book, it is worthwhile having a highlighter nearby just so you can highlight all the magical quotes you won’t want to forget. Again, this novel deals with teenage suicide – I’m beginning to think the best books often are the most enlightening when they start in the darkest of places. Craig Gilner has always been ambitious, but when he is accepted into an Executive High School, he begins to realise he isn’t brilliant, but only average. The stress he experiences soon leads to depression, a refusal to eat, and eventually, a desire to kill himself; all of which gets him checked into a mental hospital, and it is here where the story begins. He meets a variety of troubled, yet beautiful people, free from the stresses that affect us all, and the facility ultimately enables him to find himself. Yes, it is a novel about depression, but it is equally sweet and hilarious in its exploration of life.
To read more from the Mood Swings series, click here.