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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

James Poniewozik on ‘Social Distance’ and other new movies at the New York Film Festival

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I can’t really think of an overused phrase these days, but one that immediately comes to mind is “play within the frame.” The idea is that instead of going into focus — the frame in the novel — to move forward the plot, storytellers would accept the idea that viewers are working within the television themselves, going back to their workplace.

Movies and television dramas are capitalizing on this idea, which is more or less the essence of the Netflix drama “The Crown.” Like the Netflix seasons of “House of Cards” and “Stranger Things,” “The Crown” has become a mechanism that allows viewers to escape into a world in which things get done. The gender politics of a multibillion-dollar institution — and how we love or hate it — are irrelevant to the work that must be done. Take the money, spend it and get on with it. The show deftly even exploits that basic psychological principle, introducing viewers to Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) who has begun, against her better judgment, to date an Australian oilman.

“Social Distance” comes from Matthew Cooke, the veteran writer, director and producer of “Julie and Julia” and has many of the hallmarks of some of his better earlier films — a cast full of big names, a tech world at its whimsical peak, a mix of improbable elements that often works.

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