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What's Making Us Happy: A guide to your weekend viewing and reading

Jeremy Allen White and Jessie Buckley in <em>Fingernails</em>
Apple TV
Jeremy Allen White and Jessie Buckley in Fingernails

This week, Tracy Chapman was still the best, Jared Letowanted attention, and it Patrick Dempsey was apparently sexier than anyone else on the planet?

Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

Long Shot, on Netflix

There's a romantic comedy from 2019 called Long Shot – Charlize Theron plays a U.S. Secretary of State who reunites with a journalist played by Seth Rogen – who she babysat for many years ago. This is one of my favorite romantic comedies, and it's one of the most charming movies. Most of the charm is from Charlize Theron — Seth Rogen is great in it, but he's just Seth Rogen-ing. Long Shot switches the power dynamic between the man and the woman, which gives the film a lot of opportunity in terms of redefining the romantic comedy genre. — Ronald Young Jr.

True True, by Don P. Hooper

/ Nancy Paulsen Books
Nancy Paulsen Books

True True is a YA novel by Don P. Hooper that came out this summer, but I didn't actually start to read it until back-to-school time. It's about a young, Black, Caribbean teenager from Brooklyn who gets a partial scholarship to an all-white prep school in Manhattan. (Full disclosure: Don is somebody I used to perform with, but I haven't seen him in years.) One of the things that Don and I had in common is that we are both from Brooklyn and come from Caribbean families. There's a lot of beautiful scene painting — you can tell it's by someone who knew Flatbush before the full-on gentrification. — Daisy Rosario

Start Here, by Sohla El-Waylly

/ Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf

Sohla El-Waylly is one of my absolute favorite people to watch doing food TV and food video – for the History Channel, for The New York Times, and elsewhere. She's fun and funny, and she has a new gigantic book out called Start Here. It's not just a bunch of recipes – El-Waylly is offering lessons here about how to cook better, and how to think about food and cooking. There are a couple specific ways the book is designed to make it easy to really use in the kitchen: it has larger type, and big, fat page numbers. It's a book that can be used in the way you actually want to use it: while you are cooking. — Linda Holmes

Fingernails, on Apple TV+

Ostensibly, Fingernailsis a romantic comedy drama, but I think if you go into with those expectations, you're going to get a little frustrated. In this film, there is a procedure — a test — that scientifically determines if you're meant to be with your partner. Jessie Buckley and Jeremy Allen White play the couple who have gone through the procedure and now they're settled. But then Buckley takes a job at a place that administers this test and trains couples on how to pass it, and working there is the soulful and beautiful Riz Ahmed. Written and directed by Christos Nikou, there is a really compelling tone to this movie – it's very spare and chilly and deadpan. But bubbling just underneath this, is a very intriguing and weirdly subversive contempt for things like settling, and monogamy, and the whole notion of love as this public act. None of the main characters are queer, but the film itself, its approach, its outlook, its sensibility, very much is. I don't think it sticks the landing, but your mileage may vary on that. — Glen Weldon

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

I can't decide how I feel about 007: Race to a Million, a Prime Video reality show that just debuted. The idea is that it jumps off of the James Bond franchise to send people on a trip around the world doing various ... tasks? I'm not even sure I understand how it works, having seen a couple of episodes, and I'm definitely not sure what it has to do with James Bond. What it does have is Succession's Brian Cox, sitting at a bank of terminals in a dark room, talking in a grave voiceover about what the contestants are doing, crossing their names off on a pad when they're eliminated, and giving them creepy instructions by phone. I'm torn: It might be bad, it might be so bad it's good, and it might simply be so cheesy it's ready to be melted onto some nachos.

While I'm not an American Girl doll person, I enjoyed reading about the people who are, and the history of this really remarkable phenomenon. (I worked briefly near Rockefeller Center, and the most common request for directions I got was "Do you know which way to the American Girl store?")

It seems important to point out that Barbra Streisand was on Fresh Air this week.

Beth Noveyadapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" for the Web. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ronald Young Jr.
Daisy Rosario
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.
Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.