Critics' Picks: The Best of SXSW 2019

7:00 AM 3/16/2019

by THR Staff

Jordan Peele's new shocker, Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, three very different TV series and a comedy about a Catholic girl discovering masturbation were among THR critics' 10 faves from the fest.

'Booksmart,' 'Us,' 'Ramy'
'Booksmart,' 'Us,' 'Ramy'
Courtesy of SXSW
  • 'Booksmart'

    Jon Kopaloff

    Olivia Wilde delivers a fantastic directorial debut with this hilarious, blazingly paced teen comedy. The story of overachieving high school besties (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) who embark on an epic night of bad behavior before graduation, the film is as raucous as Superbad — but with characters who are even more full of surprises. — John DeFore 

  • 'David Makes Man'

    David Bornfriend/OWN

    Moonlight co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney brings OWN a new Florida-set coming-of-age story about a young man (Akili McDowell) who targets a prestigious prep school as the path to escape from the projects. The first three hour-long episodes of the series, which has a summer premiere date, are alternately lyrical and gritty, with ample potential. — DANIEL FIENBERG

  • 'The Day Shall Come'

    Dean Rogers/Vague Films Limited

    Anna Kendrick plays an FBI agent tricking a do-gooder into plotting terror in Chris Morris' (Four Lions) latest film. It’s a smart, bitterly funny satire — at moments recalling the work of Veep and In the Loop creator Armando Iannucci — and probably too true for most Americans to bear. — J.D. 

  • 'Ernie & Joe'

    Matthew Busch

    Amid heightened scrutiny of police-community relations, Jenifer McShane's nimble doc offers proof of an enlightened way forward. Zeroing in on a unit of the San Antonio Police Department, this is a candid portrait of two cops in a paradigm-shifting program — disdained by some of their colleagues as "hug-a-thug" tactics — that breaks down the us-vs.-them mind-set that views people in crisis as offenders. — SHERI LINDEN

  • 'Jezebel'

    Courtesy of House of Numa

    You wouldn't think a film about a 19-year-old African-American woman (played by Tiffany Tenille)forced by financial desperation to take a job as an internet sex cam worker would be a feel-good experience. But that's exactly how to describe Numa Perrier's auspicious feature debut, which tackles its potentially discomfiting subject matter with sensitivity, insight and humor. — FRANK SCHECK

  • 'Olympic Dreams'

    Jeremy Teicher

    In this charming romantic comedy, director Jeremy Teicher sets the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as the backdrop for a love story between an anxious cross-country skier (newcomer Alexi Pappas) and an outgoing volunteer dentist (Nick Kroll). Shot guerilla-style with a one-person crew, the pic is visually exciting and has a palpably organic quality that translates confidently to the screen. — BEANDREA JULY

  • 'Ramy'

    Courtesy of Hulu

    This smart Hulu comedy series created by and starring Ramy Youssef is about a 20-something New Jersey Muslim struggling to reconcile the parts of his religion he likes with those he doesn’t. I’ve seen eight of the 10 half-hour episodes, and the series is funny, emotional and eye-opening. — D.F. 

  • 'Us'

    Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures

    Jordan Peele follows Get Out with this terrifying thriller about a family (led by a superb Lupita Nyong’o) stalked by malevolent doppelgangers. Clearly the work of an ambitious writer-director, it offers twists and ironies and false endings galore, as well as a surprising number of laughs. Though probably more commercially limited by its genre than its hard-to-pigeonhole predecessor, the film packs a punch. — J.D.

  • 'What We Do in the Shadows'

    There is a point early on in FX's newest comedy (premiering March 27) — based on the acclaimed feature film about, well, funny vampires who take part in a documentary — where you wonder if a 10-part series can keep up this level of creativity. But the first four episodes, which are wonderfully, absurdly over-the-top and hilarious, are reason to be optimistic. — TIM GOODMAN

  • 'Yes, God, Yes'

    Courtesy of SXSW

    Writer-director Karen Maine's entertaining feature debut is an upbeat story about a Catholic school girl’s struggle to make sense of her sexuality. Specifically, it’s a movie about masturbation. Lots and lots of masturbation. But it avoids the low-hanging fruit of gross bodily-function humor and instead offers a fresh, fun look at what solo explorations of sexuality can look like for a girl in the Midwest indoctrinated by limiting ideas about sex. — B.J.

    A version of this story first appeared in the March 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.