“Is it okay to laugh?” This month’s spotlight can be found at the quirky intersection of comedy and drama. Dramedy, which affectionately combines the two genres, is rooted in dramatic stories whose comic elements lighten the mood. Dark comedies, on the other hand take a humorous approach to subjects that are quite serious, morbid, or even taboo. At Fandor, we toe the line. Whether the drama is too absurd, too dark, too real, or too melodramatic, laughter is the best medicine. And to answer the proposed question of whether or not you’re allowed to laugh... we give you permission.

Top 5 Staff Picks

1. Holy Smoke (Only on Fandor for the month of April)

Holy Smoke is a dramedy starring Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel and directed by the extraordinary, Oscar-winning Jane Campion, whose unique style makes use of expansive landscapes and minute details to pull you into the fabric of her films. It is quite unlike the bulk of Campion’s work, which could easily be classified as dark. Winslet shines as Ruth, who while on a trip to India joins the ranks of a religious guru. Her family, concerned that she has been brainwashed, hires cult deprogrammer PJ (Keitel) to “fix” her. Set in the deserts of Australia, every frame of this wacky film is exquisite.   

2. Buffalo ‘66 (Only on Fandor for the month of April)

In his feature debut, Vincent Gallo directs and stars opposite Christina Ricci in this comedy- drama-crime film. Buffalo ’66 has a supporting cast of amazing actors, including Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara as Gallo’s dysfunctionally cold parents, Rosanna Arquette as an old flame, and Mickey Rourke as the bookie. When Billy (Gallo) is released from prison after serving time for an unfortunate bet, he kidnaps a tap dancer (Ricci) to take home to impress his disapproving parents. A dark comedy that transforms into an eccentric romance, Buffalo ‘66 has you laughing at its incredibly odd plotline. Employing unusual cinematography and lyrical over-layering of images meant to represent past memories and thoughts, the film itself has a hazy, beautiful quality.  

3. Dark Horse

A dark comedy from the mind of Todd Solondz, who brought us Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, Dark Horse centers on a peculiar love match between a stunted thirty-year-old man, Abe (Jordan Gelber), who lives at home with his parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow) and works at his father’s company, and depressed and heavily medicated Miranda (Selma Blair). When Abe finds himself head-over-heels and proposes marriage, it becomes clear that love may not be the only thing he is delusional about. 

4. The Maid 

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival: Chilean director Sebastián Silva crafts a darkly comedic drama around Raquel, a maid whose world comes undone when the upper-class family she has worked for for over twenty years attempts to hire new women to assist her with her responsibilities. Raquel, interpreting this as a threat to the position around which she has shaped her life, plays mean tricks in order to get each one fired. Morally unable to dismiss Raquel after her decades of service, Silva instead excavates the margin between “family” and “domestic help”. The Maid is an in-depth character study of a complex woman whose guarded exterior breaks down to reveal a vulnerable sensitivity.

5. The Seduction of Mimi

Italian director Lina Wertmüller was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival and gained international fame for The Seduction of Mimi. In Wertmüller’s farce starring Giancarlo Giannini, construction worker Mimi loses everything when he refuses to be bullied into voting for a Mafia candidate. In and out of jobs (and wives) and shuffling between the mafia and the communist party, the past catches up to Mimi repeatedly, with laughable results. A satirically charged film, it illuminates 1970s Italian society through the lens of Mimi’s mishaps. 

Want more laughs? Watch the full Spotlight: LOL Drama.