2019 Netflix Original Movies: What’s Working and What Isn’t

It’s no secret that Netflix has been releasing more original content than we can keep up with. Just about every weekend there is a new movie on the trending page. While some new releases have been entertaining, many have fallen short of their potential. Have we become a society craving quantity over quality even when it comes to the films we watch? And is Netflix censoring their writers to fit their platform? Could this censoring be what led to the decline of Netflix subscribers? Read on as SQ dives deeper into these questions to help you to decide which summer films are worth the watch and which ones you might want to skip…

The Last Summer

Released on May 3, 2019, The Last Summer written and directed by William Bindely centres around high school seniors experiencing what they believe to be the crisis of a lifetime, but is really just them leaving high school and moving on to college. The film stars The Fosters’ Maia Mitchell and Riverdale’s K.J Apa. Maia Mitchell plays Phoebe, Apa’s character Griffin’s high school crush, and glorified introverted filmmaker. The movie opens with a drastically flat monologue by Griffin about his existential dread and what it means to leave high school behind and look to the future. 

This story line of high-schoolers over-analysing their lives as they go off to college is overused and can only be executed well with a refreshing new twist. This film lacked that fresh take and offered no further depth on the subject of high school and seemed to simply mimic old plots from films like Can’t Hardly Wait, Superbad, and I Love You, Beth Cooper. 

Just like these films, The Last Summer is composed of one dimensional characters boxed into typical high school stereotypes: the nerdy virgins, the jock with the hookup list, the school “Jesus Freaks,” and the couple that’s been together through it all. The film is also listed on the streaming service as a comedy yet has very few laugh out loud moments, making it Netflix’s biggest flop of the season. 

Murder Mystery

Murder Mystery follows the story of Audrey (Jennifer Anniston) and Nick Spitz’s (Adam Sandler) overdue honeymoon, and was released to Netflix on June 14th. Nick is an NYPD cop who has failed his detective test several times and Audrey is a hairdresser. After nearly ten years of marriage Audrey gets fed up that they haven’t taken their European tour Nick promised her for their honeymoon.

 In order to save his marriage, Nick arranges for the trip. On the flight, while Nick is asleep, Audrey meets a man in first class named Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans). Charles invites the Spitz’s to sail around Europe on his uncle’s yacht. The Spitz’s accept Charles’s offer and join him on the boat. The first night of the voyage, Charles’ uncle Malcolm (Terence Stamp) is murdered. Nick and Audrey set out to figure out who did it.

The film spoofs off of a generic murder mystery plot. What makes it so unique is the never-ending laughs. It’s the perfect mixture of drama, action, and comedy that acts as the perfect vehicle for Adam and Jennifer to show off their talents.

Always Be My Maybe

Always be My Maybe, released on May 29, 2019, is a film about two childhood friends and teenage hook-up buddies who reunite as adults. Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) is a successful celebrity chef in Los Angeles engaged to another rich celebrity. Marcus Kim (Randall Park) is still living in San Francisco with his dad and helping him with his handyman business. Sasha returns home to open a new restaurant in San Francisco and she sees Marcus for the first time in fifteen years when he comes to fix her air conditioner. From there they reconnect as friends which ultimately leads to romance.

Park and Wong show great on-screen chemistry and it is refreshing to see an all-Asian cast getting proper recognition. But the laughs and romance oftentimes felt censored. At times it felt like they were holding back from creating the comedy moments that could have sent the production to new heights.

There is a clear comparison to be drawn between this film and the predictable plot of a Hallmark original that lacks new depth. The film seemed to be quirkier in the beginning when we get a recap of Sasha and Marcus’s childhood together and then falls flatter from there on out.

Wine Country

Similar to the latter, this ensemble is stacked with great writers and performers. However, once again the film fell short. Following a similar plot as the critically acclaimed Girls Trip, Wine Country, released to Netflix on May 8th, is about a group of friends travelling together to escape the chaos of their everyday lives. 

This group of women go to Napa Valley to celebrate Rebecca’s (Rachel Dratch) 50th birthday. They rent an AirBnB owned by a woman named Tammy (Tina Fey). Tammy is very reserved and doesn’t have a lot of friends. Abby (Amy Poehler) is the control freak of the group and makes a minute to minute itinerary for the trip. Abby goes berserk as the other woman choose to neglect her itinerary and go with the flow. The other four friends, Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), Naomi (Maya Rudolph), Val (Paula Pell), and Jenny (Emily Spivey) also bring more baggage along than just their luggage. As the trip goes on, secrets come out and friendships become rocky.

The film touches on ageism well through many of the women’s experiences. Abby loses her job after decades of her career controlling her life and now is forced to deal with the consequences of starting over after living half a century. Val, meets a woman half her age who she connects with yet soon realises her yearning for youth cannot be solved through her relationship. Rebecca falls on the bathroom floor and can’t get up as a side effect of her ageing body. Finally, Naomi worries she might have to leave everything behind if it turns out she has the Brca gene for breast cancer. 

While the film may have struggled in its effort to be as raw as it could, it is still worth the watch for the fun and honesty it entails. Netflix made the right decision in allowing Amy Poehler to direct this film.

Someone Great

Someone Great, released to Netflix on April 19th, is a brilliantly funny film about break-ups. The stories are relatable and the characters are easy to love. 

Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) is a thirty year old writer in New York City who has just been dumped by her boyfriend of nine years, Nate (Lakeith Stanfield). After the breakup, she turns to her two best friends Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (Dewanda Wise) for comfort. It is then that Jenny discovers her friends have their own troubles in the relationship department. Blair is in a long term relationship lacking spark and Erin is afraid to commit to a relationship with a girl she really likes. 

The film is set apart from the other big releases of the summer because it is so undeniably raw and relatable. Rumour has it, the film is based on a true story from writer/director Jennifer Robinson. This film is without a doubt worth the watch and one of Netflix’s greatest accomplishments of the summer.

The Perfect Date

Starring To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before heartthrob, Noah Centineo, The Perfect Date released on April 12th was a pleasant surprise. Without much press it sneaked up on us. Although it was somewhat predictable, it’s hard not to love.

Noah Centineo plays Brooks, an honour student and stand-up-guy in the midst of applying to top colleges. His mum passed away recently and his dad won’t be able to afford to send him to Yale, his first choice. He stumbles upon the opportunity to take a classmates cousin to her school formal for money. Through this venture he meets his date for the night, Celia Lieberman (Laura Marano), who tells him he could make a real profit by making an app where girls can book him to take him on a date. Brooks takes her advice, makes the app, and begins his ‘perfect date’ business. 

It is effortless to fall in love with the character of Celia in this film because she is witty, smart, and had real and relatable struggles. We really get to know who she is throughout the movie. Brooks and Celia also show real chemistry yet neither of them appear perfect. The Perfect Date is worth a watch if you’re looking for a new kind of romantic comedy.

While Netflix has more competitors than ever, such as Hulu and Amazon Prime, they need to stay at the top of their game in order to keep their users. Their movies need to be able to compete with other platforms that are taking more risks with the content they put out.

by Blair Krassen

Blair lives in Philadelphia and is studying creative writing at the University of the Arts. She is a comedy fiction and screenwriter. Her favorite show is Charmed(the original) and her favorite movie is the Sandlot. She loves sitcoms and female comedians. You can follow her twitter @blairlyawake

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