One of the advantages of streaming services is that film fans get access to a wide variety of films for a relatively low price, allowing them to experiment and take chances with films they may have missed. Streaming services often curate libraries of content by gaining high profile titles, but they also collect films that may have fallen through the cracks or gone unnoticed. By making them widely available, streaming services are able to give these films a longer shelf life.
Comedy films can have a hard time breaking out, as what is or isn’t funny is one of the most subjective aspects of film. Even if a comedy film does everything else right, if it doesn’t make the audience laugh, it may have a hard time finding mainstream success. Many of the comedy films that go on to become cult classics or underrated favorites are the ones that find a group of niche, passionate fans.
These films are all comedies that deserve similar niche followings. Some were successful at the time they were released and others were flat out ignored, but none of them have risen through the ranks to be considered modern classics, which is a shame. Here are ten great recent comedy films streaming on Amazon Prime that you may have missed.
10. The Low Down
James Thraves’s hyper realistic relationship drama isn’t exactly what you’d call a “laugh out loud” comedy; it’s accurate to the way people actually interact to a curious degree, finding the humorous ways in which conversations are drawn out, relationships are strained, and everyday cycles occur. At the center of the story is Frank (Aidan Gillen), a man coming to terms with his own indecision; Frank questions why all of his friends are moving on, falling in love, having families, and finding successful careers, yet he is still stuck in the same dead end job he’s always had.
Aidan Gillen has succeeded in the past at playing smart, savvy character roles in television shows like The Wire and Game of Thrones, but here he is quite brilliant as the epitome of the everyman; Frank tends to internalize his own fears and desires, causing his anxieties to skyrocket as he watches the world pass him by. The humor often comes from the emotional accuracy of these situations, and Gillen’s masterful performance conveys this inherent tragedy. It’s melancholic without being over dramatic.
9. Listen Up Phillip
Narcissism is a challenging thing to depict onscreen; a character’s self-indulgent mannerisms can easily grow too irritating if they are the center of the story, but if they aren’t extreme enough, the audience may make the mistake of trying to relate to the character. Listen Up Phillip is an example of how to do it right. Jason Schwartzman stars as Phillip Lewis Friedman, an author on a press tour for his second novel. While Phillip is brilliant, he’s abrasive, and as he battles with his own insecurities as his life collapses, Phillip becomes determined to make sure everyone knows he is a genius.
The most interesting part of Listen Up Phillip is when Schwartzman interacts with veteran author Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), a similarly pretentious writer who may have held similar views as Phillip back in his time. In these scenes, Phillip is confronted with a vision of his future that scares and mystifies him, as he’s still in awe of the wit and talent that this older writer possesses. Schwartzman has proven to be one of the most idiosyncratic leading men of his generation, and his nasty remarks grow all the more biting and insightful due to the comic grace with which he delivers them.
8. Danny Collins
Al Pacino is without a doubt one of the greatest actors who has ever lived, but the last twenty years haven’t been his best, as he’s taken on many questionable roles. The Irishman was seen as a major comeback, but Pacino also has taken some bold chances with smaller films in recent years. One of his best roles in a very long time was as the title role in Danny Collins, a semi-fictionalized story of an aging rockstar who is unable to write new songs, and discovers a mysterious letter he received forty years prior from John Lennon.
There’s a hint of self-awareness in Pacino’s character; Danny Collins is someone who enjoys reverting back to familiar routines instead of innovating, and seeing both Pacino and the character rediscover their love of the craft makes for exciting cinema. Pacino lights up the screen with energy, and seeing this newly spirited performer try and rectify all parts of his life is often hilarious. Among the best scenes are the ones Collins spends with his grown son Tom (Bobby Cannavale), who has lived an entire life without him. Tom is initially quite resistant to Danny’s lavish excesses, but they ultimately find a place where they’re both happy, and Cannavale is able to convey this with a finely tuned, subtle performance that is a perfect compliment to Pacino.
7. Digging for Fire
Joe Swanberg is a very compelling auteur, as he’s someone who is able to depict the conversational, mumblecore style of filmmaking without becoming too excessive or losing narrative momentum. Although his films move at a comfortable pace and never seem to be about anything too important at first, there’s always an overarching theme that ties the escapades together, and in Digging for Fire, it’s a latent feeling of unfulfillment that comes with middle age. While never becoming full on disillusionment or mid life crisis, the characters consider whether their current state is all they have to look forward to for the rest of their lives.
Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie Dewitt) are a married couple who go on very different adventures over the course of a long weekend; Tim becomes obsessed with the discovery of a bone and gun in a backyard, and Lee has a long conversation with a mysterious stranger. Both characters find a break from their lives as parents and partners, but it’s also a reminder of what they have, and draws the characters closer together, even if they were never entirely sure of what the other one went through. Johnson and Swanberg only wrote a loose outline before shooting, and the result is a well structured film that nonetheless feels spontaneous.
6. Young Adult
Diable Cody and Jason Reitman have an interesting cinematic relationship in which they craft highly watchable stories of characters in crisis; Young Adult is easily their darkest film to date, a painfully awkward look at what it’s like to be reliving high school twenty years after graduation. Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary, an author of young adult novels who returns to her hometown in order to visit her ex-boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson), who is happily married. Mavis’s forced reentry into his life forces her to contextualize her own memories, as she’s caught in an agonizing loop of loving the person she built herself up to be, while hating the decisions she’s made.
Watching Mavis wreck havoc on this seemingly normal community is enjoyable in a trainwreck sort of way; she manages to escalate each situation to the point of absurdity, while never breaking the believability of the character that Cody has written. Wilson is perfectly earnest and straight laced as her counterpart, and seeing how far he diverges from Mavis’s memory of him is very well handled. However, the most surprising performance in the film is that of Patton Oswalt, a character who was relentlessly bullied in high school that drops some major truths to Mavis about the reality of living in the past.