Looking for something to watch? Two favorite Netflix series have returned, in addition to new films and series featuring LGBTQ characters. Here’s a rundown of what to watch.
“Crush” (watch on Hulu) is a fabulous, high-energy romcom about Paige (Rowan Blanchard) an anti-social lesbian high schooler who dreams of going to Cal Arts. She also dreams of Gaby (Isabella Ferreira of “Love, Victor”). However, she is awkward in her face-to-face encounters with her crush — especially when she is forced to join the track team with Gaby and her bisexual twin sister, AJ (Auli’I Cravalho), a co-captain. But as Paige gets to know A.J. better — sharing a kiss and a hotel room on a track trip — she is torn between her fantasies about Gaby and her feelings for AJ. “Crush” is charming throughout as Paige tries to find her “happiest moment” while also investigating the identity of “King Pun,” who is secretly tagging the school with clever artwork. The supporting cast includes Megan Mullally as Paige’s super-supportive, sex-positive mom; Aasif Mandvi as Paige’s coach; and Michelle Buteau as her principal. They are amusing, but it is the teens who shine in this refreshing, feel-good film, where queer sexuality is embraced with only minimal angst.
Available on Netflix, this is a sweet British series about Charlie (Joe Locke), an openly gay teen, who falls for Nick (Kit Connor), who plays rugby. Charlie’s crush on Nick, however, soon develops into a friendship when Nick saves Charlie from an awkward encounter with another student. As the teens grow closer, Nick starts to question his sexuality. “Heartstopper” features a nice spectrum of queer youth, with trans and lesbian friends (of color) as well as issues of self-worth, coming out, and bullying. And even though it traverses familiar territory, from “Is he or isn’t he gay?” to jocks vs. nerds rivalries, the series will give viewers the feels. The cast is uniformly terrific, and Oscar-winner Olivia Colman has a small, supporting role as Nick’s mom.
The enjoyable mind-bending series “Russian Doll” (Netflix) is back for Season 2 after three years, and it is worth the wait. Nadia (showrunner Natasha Lyonne) and Alan (out gay Charlie Barnett) are “on the same timeline” and Nadia hopes to keep it that way — until she boards a subway that takes her back to 1982. And then she makes a startling discovery. Perhaps the universe has some unfinished business? Lyonne is as hilarious and unfiltered as ever, cracking wise but also completely puzzled by the unusual Groundhog Day-like situation she finds herself in; it involves having to recover her inheritance. Barnett, who is more buttoned-down — which makes him a good foil for the gregarious Nadia — gets a storyline where he goes to another country. But it’s best to let fans discover the clever conceits within the heart of “Russian Doll.”
“Grace and Frankie”
This Netflix show finishes its seventh and last season, and the series is really showing its age. Yes, there is still some amusement to be had as the kooky Frankie (Lily Tomlin) rattles the sensible Grace’s (Jane Fonda) with some absurdist ideas, but the situations they find themselves in, which include dealing with a psychic’s prediction of Frankie’s death, are mostly strained. So too is the storyline around Grace’s ex-husband, Robert (Martin Sheen) who married Frankie’s ex, Sol (Sam Waterston) dealing with issues of memory loss. At least there are some laughs whenever Grace’s foul-mouthed no-nonsense daughter, Brianna (June Diane Raphael) drops a zinger, and a subplot involving her rivalry with her sister Mallory (Brooklyn Decker) shifts from forced to tender. Meanwhile, Frankie’s sons Bud (Baron Vaughn), wants to do standup, and Coyote (Ethan Embry), faces complications trying to get married. Even if the material is mediocre at best, each actor has a decent moment and there are some great guest stars. And however bittersweet the ending is, it is time to say goodbye.
Streaming on Ovid is director Aaron Brookner’s poignant documentary about his hero, his late Uncle, Howard Brookner, a filmmaker whose 1984 documentary on William S. Burroughs was a critical success. As Aaron Brookner sifts through his uncle’s archive, with the assistance of Brad Gooch — who was his uncle’s lover back in the 1980s — and talks with friends, colleagues, and family members, he creates a loving profile of a talented director who was lost to AIDS. Clips from Uncle Howard’s video diaries are quite moving, as are sequences describing the making of his first (and only) narrative feature, “Bloodhounds of Broadway,” a gangster musical featuring Matt Dillon, Randy Quaid, and Madonna. Producer Lindsay Law recounts how Brookner, who died before the film was released, wanted to have a budget meeting with the studio in a male hustler bar, showing Howard’s mischievous streak. But it is precisely Howard’s indomitable spirit that Aaron Brookner captures so clearly in the film that viewers will wish they got to knew Uncle Howard more, and that he had made more films.
“I Love America”
Available on Amazon Prime is a charming romcom about Lisa (Sophie Marceau), a 50-year-old French filmmaker who comes to LA to start her life over. She has not slept with a man in three years, in part because she has been tending to her dying mother — with whom she has long had a complicated relationship. Connecting with her gay best friend, Luka (Djanis Bouzyani), Lisa reluctantly starts using dating apps, meeting several potential boyfriends, including John (Colin Woodell), a 29-year-old, and Björn (David Owe), a nudist. Luka, who performs in a drag show, also tries to find love, but most of the guys he meets are hookups, and he is reluctant to date the valet (Keller Wortham) who damaged his car. “I Love America” goes for broad, even corny humor with the dating scenes, but writer/director Lisa Azuelos makes some keen observations about love and loss and family. Her film, about getting out of one’s comfort zone, is oddly comforting. Marceau makes Lisa endearing, and Bouzyani is a delight, who deserves more screen time.
Available on VOD, “Fashion Lover” has teenager Giovannino (Francesco Desogus) dreaming of a career designing dresses, only to have his bitter, depressed father wanting him to work the family farm. But Domenico (Davide Garau), a “gay guardian angel,” helps Giovannino, modeling a dress for him at a school fashion show and guiding him to realize his dream. “Fashion Lover” is less about the clothes and more about Giovannino getting out of his village and reuniting with his mother, who left the family for the big city. A subplot involves buried money Giovannino hopes to find to achieve his dream. If this modest film has both flights of fancy and moments of harsh reality, the plucky Giovannino is a mostly winning protagonist.