Cultural critic Caryn James has five for your Netflix queue.
Mira Nair's buoyant drama about the traditional wedding of a modern Indian woman will make you want to dance. Both the bride's and groom's sides bring some wedding essentials—tensions, jealousies, secrets. Nair adds hundreds of bright orange marigolds, music ranging from Indian folk to pop, and a feeling of pure joy as she reveals the unshakable bonds that unite and divide the most loving families.
Before Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle directed this witty story of two Irish brothers who find a duffel bag full of cash. The 7-year-old sees saints and wants to help the poor; the 9-year-old wants video games. Adorable but miraculously treacle-free, Boyle's deeply felt movie gets under your skin and makes you truly believe that love is better than money.
The things people do to find a job! In this silly yet smart comedy, Dustin Hoffman is a struggling young actor who pretends to be a middle-aged actress to land a role on a soap opera, then keeps up the disguise because he loves his costar (Jessica Lange). The things people do to connect! Watching Hoffman come clean, pour his heart out, and explain that he became a better man by being a woman never gets old or less encouraging.
My Man Godfrey
As a scatterbrained heiress during the Depression, Carole Lombard finds a dashing homeless man as part of a scavenger hunt and hires him as butler for her flaky family (she has a crush). You laugh at the screwball comedy, swoon at the enchanting romance, and grow to appreciate wise and sane Godfrey (William Powell). As he demonstrates the rewards of helping your neighbor, he might as well be speaking to our own hard times.
Love often goes haywire in this starry, cheerful romantic comedy. Hugh Grant is the British prime minister who falls for his assistant. Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, and Colin Firth are stewing in various states of romantic distress. They sort out their lives and bring you back to the film's glorious beginning: Dozens of ordinary people fly into each other's arms at an airport arrivals gate. You feel wrapped in a warm embrace, too, as Grant's voice reminds us, "Love actually is all around," as essential and free as air.