43. Clara's Ghost
Released: December 6
Cast: Paula Niedert Elliott, Chris Elliott, Abby Elliott, Bridey Elliott
Director: Bridey Elliott
Why It's Great: Casting your own famous family as thinly veiled stand-ins for themselves and shooting a movie at your parents beautiful Connecticut home is the type of indulgent indie movie cliche that might send movie-goers running for the exits. Luckily, Bridey Elliott has a secret weapon: her family is blazingly, riotously funny. (Her father, Chris, was a staple on Late Night With David Letterman in the '80s and the star of the cult comedy Cabin Boy, her sister Abby was a cast member on SNL for four seasons, and her late grandfather, Bob Elliott, whose paintings appear in the film, was half of the legendary comedy duo Bob and Ray.) So, it's no surprise that Chris Elliott and Abby Elliott excel at playing gleefully obnoxious versions of themselves, with Chris telling crude jokes while drinking his life away and Abby unleashing brutal one-liners while stressing out about her upcoming wedding. But Bridey's smartest move in concocting this familial ghost story was pushing those two scene-stealers to the margins, taking a supporting role herself, and focusing on her mother, Paula Niedert Elliott, who plays the titular Clara. More than a little unhinged, Clara finds herself neglected by her show-biz-obsessed offspring and dismissed by her bitter husband, but Bridey's roving camera sees her with poignant and hilarious clarity. Whether she's watching a dog video on her phone, searching for a missing shoe, or leaving a heartbreakingly sweet voicemail for a wine company, Clara is a star, the type of complex woman Hollywood too often ignores. As the night spirals out into a ritualized bender right out of a Eugene O'Neill play -- but with way more stoned Haley Joel Osment -- the movie takes flight.
Where to see it right now: Rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, and YouTube (watch the trailer)