Kevin Hart remains king of the feel-good
The joys of parenting in his latest film ‘Fatherhood’
You’re reading Now Streaming, a weekly newsletter from Michael Sun, full of what to watch, read, and consume this weekend. It’s part of Netflix Pause, a publication that’s all about hitting pause to reflect on the latest film and TV. Subscribe now to get three free newsletters in your inbox every week diving into screen culture.
When Gemini season ends in two days and I can finally start watching movies without spontaneously crying 10 minutes into their duration again, it is OVER for everyone else. Subscribe to get this newsletter in your inbox each week so you can be there when it happens:
This week, I bring to you: Fatherhood, a movie that is Kevin Hart in his ~ dramatic ~ era. It’s sweet, it’s tender, and it’s a much-needed depiction of a single father that’s sentimental without being over-laudatory. Also if you’ve ever wanted to know what Kevin Hart smells like, now is your chance.
Recently I have been thinking about what certain celebrities smell like. Give me any name and I can make a prediction that I will deliver with the utmost certainty even though it is almost certainly wrong. Leo DiCaprio: pineapple vape. Fran Lebowitz: odorless. Margot Robbie: like a white dress billowing in the wind, if this Chanel ad is to be believed. Watching Fatherhood this week, I am overcome by a desperate need to know the scent of Kevin Hart, its star and co-producer. The answer, via a New York Times skincare profile: cult parfumerie Le Labo’s Lys 41, described by its creator as “an overwhelming white floral — a blend bewitching in its noble, warm, and sunny approach.”
“Bewitching” is a word that has only ever been used in marketing copy or in reference to an Irish girl group, but it feels … oddly accurate to describe Kevin Hart, someone whose career has maintained a rare and steady charisma from its beginnings in seedy comedy clubs to side-bit gags in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Fockers to the spoils of fully-minted star power: a small army of comedy specials and a voice role as a sassy rabbit. His recent dramatic turn, too, feels bewitching in its own way: not new by any standard, but distinct from the comedy-to-drama transformations of his peers. Whereas Adam Sandler, say, turned to deteriorating families and nihilism, Hart’s work has continued to offer wedges of placid optimism amidst life’s grand tragedies. Some might call it noble, warm, and sunny.
Fatherhood, then, feels like the natural extension of a career spent in service of making people feel good. Based on a bestselling memoir by Matthew Logelin, the film tracks the true story of a father who suddenly becomes a single parent after the death of his wife in childbirth. This isn’t a sob story about hOw hArD iT iS tO bE a dAd, though, so much as it’s a pure comfort watch about the joys of parenting, even if that parenting looks a little unconventional.
Hart’s fans will know his character here well: the wise-cracking, hapless guy who’s a little stoic, a little vulnerable at the right times. Fatherhood is as much a whirlwind for us as it is for him: a crash course on folding nappies (hard), packing down prams (harder, apparently), and building IKEA furniture (hardest, obviously) as he learns to take care of his young daughter Maddie despite the doubts of his nearest and dearest. Slices of life abound — a couple of weird and wonderful friends by his side, a new flame on the horizon, a pair of in-laws who are loving and foreboding in equal measure.
The going never gets too tough in Fatherhood, and maybe that’s the point. It’s a wishful, dreamy depiction of single parenting that Hart — himself a dad, and raised by a single mum — manages to keep grounded. Even as his character faces that most fatherly of dilemmas (will he choose his career or his child??????) Fatherhood avoids the trap of over-exceptionalising him for making the correct choice — the same one that mothers are expected to make without hesitation. A father isn’t just extraordinary for being a father, the film says. But Hart makes the ordinary joyous enough.
Fatherhood streams tonight on Netflix.
Watch these too:
Dead to Me, a show about many things starting with M including murder and mimosas, but also (single) motherhood. It’s a uniquely unsanitised version of being a single parent that’s messy, foul-mouthed, and loving all the same.
The absolute feel-good classic that is The Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith is not a single dad in this movie (even though everyone I have talked to remembers him as one; call it a Mandela effect), but when he becomes estranged from his wife, he begins to share Kevin Hart’s scrappy parenting spirit in Fatherhood, trying anything and everything to provide as his child’s primary caretaker.
Gifted, starring Chris Evans as the sole guardian of his seven-year-old niece after the death of her mother. Like Fatherhood, Gifted doesn’t over-sentimentalise the challenges of single fatherhood, but it’s heart-rending all the same with an unexpected custody battle at its centre.
I can’t stop thinking about:
This perennially relevant Rugrats tweet. See also under the “what if I randomly went to Paris” category: Emily; you after watching Lupin
‘JUDY GARLAND HAS BEEN LIZA MINNELLI’S MOM THIS ENTIRE TIME?!’ — a revelation which furthers my belief that we are living in a simulation
The Devil Wears Prada, which has just turned 15. To celebrate, EW asked screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna to provide a ‘where are they now’ update on each of the characters. Emily has “married some sort of minor member of the Scandivanian Royal Family”, Andy “has a podcast on Slate”, and Nate is … “still working in various restaurants and kitchens”. Good for him!
This side-by-side of Bennifer, nearly two decades apart. If you saw me share two Richard Linklater references in two days,,,, no you didn’t <3
And apropos of nothing, a reminder that iconic 1999 murderous mean-girl film Jawbreaker is now streaming:
NO ONE is doing it like Mz Judy Greer and absolutely no one is transforming from pallid emo to beauty queen like Mz Judy Greer.
Kevin Hart gives a false dramatic performance as a saintly father coping with his daughter’s gender non-conforming behavior in this calculated film, Hart landed himself in a maelstrom of negative PR that he just can't make subside. Scoring the high-profile gig of Academy Awards telecast host placed him under a greater scrutiny, which led to the exhuming of a bitterly homophobic backlog from earlier in the decade, spanning tweets describing a guy’s photo as “a gay billboard for AIDS” and an extended run in his Seriously Funny standup special about how he’d try to “prevent” his own son from being gay. For all the furor these remarks provoked, the comedian was resolute in his refusal to own up to them, offering “I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can” as a half-hearted mea culpa in a 2015 Rolling Stone profile. As the controversy surrounding his selection as Oscars emcee rolled into its third day, Hart declared in a video that “I chose to pass and I pass on any apology”