New Movies to Watch This Week: Double Meryl in ‘The Prom’ and ‘Let Them All Talk’

Normally, this would be the time of year when audiences could choose between big, glossy popcorn movies and the prestigious art films out for Oscar glory. But of course, COVID-19 has upended the release schedule and extended the awards season a few months longer into 2021.

But before you despair, just think how fortunate you are to get two Meryl Streep movies in the same week — even if it means having to subscribe to two different streaming platforms to see them. On Netflix, Streep joins Nicole Kidman and James Corden in Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of Broadway musical “The Prom,” in which a group of showbiz folks looking for a cause try to shame a small-town PTA into letting a teenage lesbian attend prom. Over on HBO Max, Streep co-stars with Dianne Wiest and Candice Bergen in “Let Them All Talk,” an overdue-reunion drama in which the three play old friends crossing the Atlantic together.

As always, there’s a good mix of documentaries, indies and genre movies to choose from, along with a couple decent-scaled crowd-pleasers — not that anyone is assembling in crowds these days, and your solo pleasure may vary. “Moonstruck” writer John Patrick Shanley trades New York Italians for Irish farmers in his latest romance, “Wild Mountain Thyme,” featuring Jamie Dornan and Emily Blunt. And showbiz satire “The Stand In” features Drew Barrymore in dual roles as a high-drama movie star and the double who agrees to go to rehab in her place.

Here’s a rundown of those films opening this week that Variety has covered, along with links to where you can watch them. Find more movies and TV shows to stream here.

Wild Mountain Thyme
Kerry Brown

New Releases on Demand and in Select Theaters

Archenemy (Adam Egypt Mortimer)
Distributor: RLJE Films
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and via digital platforms
Superhero movies have become so pervasive that they’ve spurred a whole subgenre subverting their formulas. “Archenemy” occupies similar terrain, resourcefully using modest means to create a gritty yet stylized comic-book world in which a supposed fallen superhero may really just be some homeless guy with mental issues. However, that colorful surface is more successfully drawn than the characters and complications meant to fill it, leaving this feeling less like a dissection of superhero origin stories than an underdeveloped prologue to one. — Dennis Harvey
Read the full review

Finding Yingying (Jiayan “Jenny” Shi)
Distributor: MTV Documentary Films
Where to Find It: In virtual cinemas
Only two months into her studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Yingying Zhang was abducted and murdered by former student Brendt Christensen. Jiayan “Jenny” Shi’s heartfelt, unassuming film “Finding Yingying” may trace the ins and outs of a protracted investigation and trial, but despite outward appearances, it’s not a true-crime documentary in the standard macabre mold. Rather, it’s a missing-person search that doesn’t stop at solving the case, instead probing the effect of Zhang’s absence on her loved ones and empathetic strangers alike. — Guy Lodge
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Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky)
Distributor: Neon
Where to Find It: Select a virtual cinema
What we didn’t know on Oscar night was how neatly Joaquin Phoenix’s speech would dovetail into his next screen credit: as an executive producer on Kossakovsky’s simple but entirely astonishing documentary “Gunda.” It’s not hard to imagine his words as the unspoken subtext to this wholly dialogue-free animal character study, in which an enormous sow on a Norwegian farmyard embarks on an emotive arc of motherhood without any need for human voiceover or twee anthropomorphism: just the still, searching power of an attentive camera. — Guy Lodge
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Queer Japan (Graham Kolbeins)
Distributor: Altered Innocence
Where to Find It: Available via theatrical-at-home and on demand
“Queer Japan,” a documentary about the LGBTQ community as it exists today in Tokyo and several smaller (but still major) Japanese cities, is a movie that makes you realize that liberation movements have become more global, in spirit and in fact, than anyone might have expected. The director, Graham Kolbeins (who also co-shot and edited the film), introduces us to a panoply of Japanese citizens who wear the diversity of their identities with a casual hard-won fierceness, and who give off a one-world cosmopolitan vibe that’s inspiring. — Owen Gleiberman
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The Stand In (Jamie Babbit)
Distributor: Saban Films, Paramount
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and via digital platforms
What’s a bigger offense than a movie wasting away a committed Drew Barrymore performance? “The Stand In” wastes away two committed Drew Barrymore performances as a well-intentioned but broad and ill-realized showbiz satire, in which the talented performer plays a pair of characters with polar-opposite existences that intertwine in a painfully unfunny fashion. “The Stand In” poses as a Hollywood send-up with something to say on female rivalry and cost of stardom, only to come out on an end that feels toothless and curiously dated. — Tomris Laffly
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Wander Darkly (Tara Miele)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and via digital platforms
Miserable parents Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) can’t afford therapy. Instead, Adrienne settles for a free Date Night, a casual party that only reminds the couple of their problems. They can’t rewind time. They can, however, re-experience it. Miele’s slippery drama keeps the audience unsteady on their feet as the “It’s a Wonderful Life”-like structure follows Adrienne, skipping from her funeral forward 15 years. Miller and Luna play the couple with a wry detachment — the half-in, half-out suspicion of lovers who’ve stopped being vulnerable. — Amy Nicholson
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Wild Mountain Thyme (John Patrick Shanley)
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and via digital platforms
Movies are constantly coming up with reasons to keep lovers apart for long enough to convince audiences that they genuinely belong together, but “Wild Mountain Thyme” may be the first film in which those obstacles are never made clear. Adapting his own Tony-nominated play “Outside Mullingar” in the key of twee, Shanley has made a film that many will enjoy, but few will understand, and it’s not helped by a prologue in which young Anthony gazes up at the stars and asks, “Mother Nature, why did you make me so?” — a question the movie never deigns to explain. — Peter Debruge
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Alex Wheatle
Parisa Taghizedeh

Exclusive to Amazon Prime

Alex Wheatle (Steve McQueen)
Where to Find It: Prime Video
In “Alex Wheatle,” the fourth of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe films, we meet a young man who seems, quite literally, to have come from nothing. Alex (Sheyi Cole) was abandoned by his mother, and his father gave him over to the British social-services bureaucracy — which means that he grows up, in essence, as a Dickensian orphan. But it’s not until the 18-year-old gets throws in jail that we see what it truly means to be a lost soul. “Alex Wheatle” is like a sketch for the biopic it might have been, but by the end you feel you’ve glimpsed the key fragment of a life. — Owen Gleiberman
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Courtesy of Disney Plus

Exclusive to Disney Plus

Safety (Reginald Hudlin)
Where to Find It: Disney Plus
The customary, adrenaline-juiced montage of football prep comes fast, furious and surprisingly early in this football melodrama. Clemson freshman Ray McELrathBey is hardly settled into the routine when he has to return to Atlanta where his mother has been arrested for drug possession. No one would blame him if he allowed his little brother go to foster care for the time their mom is in a 30-day rehab program. But he can’t let that happen — and he didn’t. If this rings a bell, it might be because Oprah Winfrey dedicated a show to the McELrathBey brothers back in 2007.  — Lisa Kennedy
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Let Them All Talk
Peter Andrews

Exclusive to HBO Max

Let Them All Talk (Steven Soderbergh)
Where to Find It: Showtime
Meryl Streep’s character already has a Pulitzer and is en route to receiving a prestigious prize in the U.K. Because she can’t fly, she books a transatlantic crossing via the Queen Mary 2, inviting old friends Susan (Dianne Wiest) and Barbara (Candice Bergen) along for support. Creatively restless helmer Soderbergh has made a film about writers and writing wherein nearly all the dialogue was improvised, where the less-than-two-week shoot took place on an actual Atlantic crossing and where new digital toys allowed him to work with minimal equipment and crew. — Peter Debruge
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Giving Voice
Patrick Hipes

Available on Netflix

Funny Boy (Deepa Mehta)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Both gay and Tamil, young Arjie is a doubly imperiled minority. Adapted from Shyam Selvadurai’s well-regarded semi-autobiographical novel, Deepa Mehta’s Sri Lanka-set “Funny Boy” ambitiously braids internal and external conflict, familial and national strife, to engrossing if somewhat heavily condensed effect. Selected as Canada’s official Oscar entry, it’s the Indo-Canadian helmer’s most rewarding and accessible work since 2006’s nominated “Water,” and is sure to find a receptive global audience as it hits Netflix this week. — Guy Lodge
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Giving Voice (James D. Stern, Fernando Villena)
Where to Find It: Netflix
True to its title, “Giving Voice” amplifies the lives and talents of half a dozen high school students from different American cities who aim to be finalists in the national August Wilson monologue competition. This inspirational documentary, which premiered at Sundance, chronicles Wilson’s work and how it impacts the lives of these youngsters. “Giving Voice” adds marquee value to its six unknowns by including appearances by Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, who co-starred in the 2016 adaptation of his Pulitzer-winning play, “Fences.”— Valerie Complex
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The Prom (Ryan Murphy) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: Netflix
Yet if “The Prom” is a proudly liberated musical, it’s also one that’s so defiantly square, with a vibe that reaches back to the incandescently wholesome musicals of the studio system, that it all but reconfigures the meaning of mainstream. I greatly enjoyed the insider theatrical knowingness, the tossed-off PG-13 entertainment and fashion barbs, but in a weird way it’s the inner squareness of “The Prom” that’s the most adventurous thing about it. There are moments when the film seems to have reinvented classic Hollywood for the 21st century. — Owen Gleiberman
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