Review: Who is the ‘Girl in the Picture’? and more movies to see at home this weekend

Hands holding a photo of a child in the documentary "Girl in the Picture."
An image from the documentary “Girl in the Picture.”
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‘Girl in the Picture’

In one of the strangest criminal cases of the 1990s, a man calling himself Franklin Floyd entered an Oklahoma elementary school with a gun, forcing the principal to retrieve a 6-year-old boy named Michael. Floyd claimed Michael was the son he’d had with a woman named Tonya, recently killed in a hit-and-run incident. But by the time the story had fully played out more than two decades later, investigators determined that the relationships between Floyd, Tonya and Michael — and in some cases even their names — weren’t exactly what had been assumed.

Director Skye Borgman turns this fascinating and frightening saga into the refreshingly nonsensationalistic true-crime documentary “Girl in the Picture,” which covers all the case’s surprising turns while always bringing the focus back to what really matters: Who was this “Tonya” and how did she get entangled with a man who abducted her son after she died? It’s a story involving genetic testing, a sisterhood of strippers and people across the country whose lives were touched by this mystery woman — even as she herself was living in near-constant danger.

Borgman isn’t making any hard-hitting point with “Girl in the Picture,” aside from letting the basic facts reveal how an assertive man can bend social institutions to his will — while a marginalized woman can fall off the radar completely. While “Girl in the Picture” doesn’t skip over any salacious details, it also doesn’t let its villain define what the story is about. Instead, Borgman brings Floyd’s victims back to life, by giving a voice to those who miss them.


‘Girl in the Picture.’ TV-MA for language, child abuse, sexual violence and smoking. 1 hour, 42 minutes. Available on Netflix

‘18 1/2’

The infamous “gap” in President Nixon’s White House tapes functions as a McGuffin in the imaginative indie drama, “18 1/2,” which stars Willa Fitzgerald as Connie, a government clerk who stumbles across a second recording containing that missing audio. John Magaro plays Paul, a New York Times reporter who sees a chance to scoop the Washington Post’s Watergate team by listening to the tape — if only he and Connie can find a functioning reel-to-reel player in the funky motel where they’re hiding out together.

Directed by Dan Mirvish — who also co-wrote the story with producer/screenwriter Daniel Moya — “18 1/2” isn’t all that concerned with Watergate or Nixon. Occasionally we get to hear bits of the tape (with Bruce Campbell providing the voice of the president), and what’s on there is mostly banal, with just the occasional pointed parallel to some more recent political scandals. Instead, this movie is about creating the hazy feel of early ‘70s American cinema, filled with kooky and paranoid characters who talk nonstop.

The film’s centerpiece is a dinner party Connie and Paul are invited to by an eccentric older couple, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall and Catherine Curtin. Because nobody in the room is entirely sure what anyone else’s agenda is, they cover for their mutual mistrust with rapid-fire chatter. Mirvish’s excellent cast approaches this sequence like a one-act play, swinging at every curveball their fellow actors throw. Nothing they’re saying matters much, but they say it with such verve and passion that they pull the audience right into the free-floating anxiety of a fraught time in American history, a half-century ago.

‘18 1/2.’ PG-13, for some strong violence, language and suggestive material. 1 hour, 28 minutes. Available on VOD

‘Moon, 66 Questions’

Greek filmmakers Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari made a splash in world cinema in the 2010s with quirky and artful movies like “Dogtooth” and “Attenberg,” which use off-kilter framing and harrowing situations to rattle audiences — and to get them thinking about how disturbingly easy it is for humans to adapt to hostile surroundings. Greek writer-director Jacqueline Lentzou’s debut feature “Moon, 66 Questions” has a similar aesthetic, but her movie is more grounded in the everyday, telling the story of a young woman named Artemis (Sofia Kokkali) who returns to Athens to take care of her estranged, infirm father Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulos).


Lentzou lets audiences inside Artemis’ head through long takes that show her uncertainty and embarrassment, as she deals with the physical and emotional needs of a man she barely knows. The film’s icy style pays surprising emotional dividends by the end, with the heroine’s silent meditations on who she is and whether she owes anything to her family culminating in moments of real tenderness. “Moon, 66 Questions” can be unsettling and despairing, but it’s never alienating. It’s about moving past alienation and understanding what connects us.

‘Moon, 66 Questions.’ In Greek with English subtitles. Not rated. 1 hour, 48 minutes. Available on VOD

‘The Summoned’

In the supernatural mystery-thriller “The Summoned,” four not-so-random people receive an invitation to an ultra-exclusive self-help resort. The self-absorbed celebrity actress Tara (Angela Gulner), her jerky ex-husband Joe (Salvador Chacon), the popular folk-pop singer-songwriter Lyn (Emma Fitzpatrick) and her working-class aspiring musician boyfriend Elijah (J. Quinton Johnson) are all called to the middle of nowhere by the creepy Dr. Frost (Frederick Stuart), who has more in mind for their little get-together than trust-walks and group therapy. Before the retreat’s over, someone will be hunted.

Director Mark Meir and screenwriter Yuri Baranovsky take too long to get to the movie’s biggest twist; and in general, “The Summoned” is too light on action and tension. Still, this mix of Willy Wonka, “Get Out” and “The Most Dangerous Game” has some striking moments — especially when these characters drop their practiced facades and get honest about what they really want. At its core, this is a film about the thick lines that divide the haves and have-nots, and the extremes some people will go to breach that barrier.

‘The Summoned.’ Not rated. 1 hours, 26 minutes. Available on VOD

The neon sign of the Chelsea Hotel at night above a wet street in the documentary "Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel."
A scene from the documentary “Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel.”
(Magnolia Pictures)

‘Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel’

Whenever a restaurant, nightclub or hotel becomes renowned for its unassuming simplicity, it’s at risk of losing the qualities that make it special — since it’s hard to be both humble and famous. That’s the crisis long faced by New York’s Hotel Chelsea, which once upon a time allowed some of the 20th century’s greatest artists, musicians and writers to live cheaply for a few nights or a few years, but which for a decade has been undergoing a renovation intended to turn this prime piece of cultural real estate into a high-end tourist hotspot.

Amélie van Elmbt and Maya Duverdier’s documentary “Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel” isn’t a comprehensive look back at the history of the former home of Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Dylan Thomas, Patti Smith and other legends. Instead it combines unannotated old footage from the Chelsea’s seedier days with new vignettes, following longtime residents unsure if they’ll get to stay when the upgrades are finally finished. What results is an illuminating new way of seeing this old building — not just as an historic landmark where amazing things happened long ago, but as a place where people have actually lived full lives, finding shelter and inspiration in its haunted halls.

‘Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 20 minutes. Available in select theaters and on VOD

Also streaming

“Dangerous Liaisons” is the latest adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel, social rivals manipulate young lovers and ruin reputations as part of a decadent game. This new version returns the action to France, where at an elite private school two self-absorbed influencers toy with the sweet-natured Célène (Paola Locatelli). Available on Netflix

Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

Stephanie Hsu, left, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in "Everything Everywhere All At Once."

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” is one of this year’s most unlikely hits: an unclassifiable science-fiction dramedy starring Michelle Yeoh as a struggling laundromat owner who collaborates with alternate versions of herself to try and prevent a multiverse-destroying apocalypse. Writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert throw dozens of strange ideas at the screen as their heroine jumps across realities, while always grounding their story in the idea that even the most hopeless people and situations can improve. Lionsgate