Rachel Raczka: I miss going to the movies with Meredith. She has a routine for the cinema. 1. Order the rice bowl at the Downtown Crossing restaurant Sip with a large pour of their sweetest wine. 2. Go next door to the Boston Common AMC. I’ve followed these steps on a near-weekly basis throughout our friendship of many years (note: we do sometimes go to other theaters), and I long for their regularity and comfort.
Meredith Goldstein: Rachel likes stylish action films and movies about love and family, so we stick to those. In 2019, we ate French bread and cheese at Cambridge’s Cafe du Pays — so wonderfully gluttonous — and then went to Kendall Square Cinema to see the “Downton Abbey” movie — even though we’d never watched the show. Yes, we were a little confused, giggling about how we couldn’t tell whether the characters were married or siblings, but we were happy to sit in a dark theater together and watch a pretty story. I miss those simple nights with Rachel. I hope I can have them again soon.
To tide us — and you — over, until we feel safe to watch movies, maskless, with friends, we’ve made a list of films about friendship, specifically women friends who connect fictionally the way we do in real life. Feel free to share the list with a friend you wish you could split popcorn with on Galentine’s Day, Feb. 13, or any day. Watching at the same time and texting each other throughout can almost feel like the real thing.
The saga of the unlikely friendship between teenage Chloë Grace Moretz and 20-something Keira Knightly is the first movie I saw with Meredith and was my initiation into her two-step routine. The characters, like us, have a gap in age (sorry, Mere). While Meredith recognized the value and virtues of my sad, confused 20-something self, in “Laggies,” Knightley’s character, Megan, does not quite accomplish this with her new protege. Instead, escaping the pressures of adulthood, she buys booze for Moretz’s pals, hooks up with the teen’s dad, and gets arrested. Is this a healthy friendship? No. But it’s an intimate character study of the dynamics of intergenerational friendships. Seeing the film now is dually bittersweet as director Lynn Shelton, known also for “Your Sister’s Sister” and “Humpday,” passed away in May. Watch on Hulu, Prime Video, and more.
“Someone Great” (2019)
Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s “Someone Great” starts with a breakup. Naturally. Gina Rodriguez (of “Jane the Virgin” fame) plays Jenny, a New York journalist whose long-term relationship (with Lakeith Stanfield) ends and her close friends (Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise) take her out on one last night to forget that guy. It’s a very (very) busy one-night-only adventure before our heroine leaves for the West Coast, complete with Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” as part of the soundtrack, dance montages, and green juice mimosas. While the chaos masks Jenny’s loss, the movie brings to the surface the pain of losing both the city and the best friends you grew up with. Watch on Netflix.
“Little Women” (2019)
As an only child, I’ve often dreamt of the forever friendship of sisters. And “Little Women,” in its many film adaptations, has imprinted an impossibly high standard for what I expect from sibling relationships — including chosen family. Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version is masterful and caused me to ugly-cry into my “real cheese” movie nachos at the Assembly Row AMC. At their heart, the “Little Women” movies’ themes are the same: unbreakable bonds, a celebration of girlhood, and the strength our relationships give us to stand under the weight of crushing patriarchal values. Watch on Hulu, Starz, Amazon Prime Video, and more
“Now and Then” (1995)
I have a working knowledge of top 20 pop songs from the ’70s thanks to “Now and Then.” Following two timelines, four lifelong female friends flashback to their teenage selves across one formative and extremely busy summer in Indiana. There’s a seance, there’s “the talk,” and there’s the follow-up to “the talk,” when your friends tell you the real story. And there’s proof that a pledge of “friendship forever” can still mean something real even decades down the road. Watch on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and more.
“For a Good Time Call” (2012)
In the category of “we couldn’t be more different, yet we have so much in common,” straight-laced Lauren Miller Rogen (who also wrote the film with her former roommate, Katie Anne Naylon, inspired by their own story) and free-spirited Ari Graynor start a phone sex line from their New York apartment. Kind of raunchy, kind of (surprisingly) romantic, with two opposite personalities finding common ground, “For a Good Time Call,” is just as its name suggests. Watch on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and more.
Isn’t this a teen vampire love story, you ask? Maybe. But it’s also the story of Bella, a human, who finds a real soulmate in Alice Cullen, an empathetic and funny vampire who happens to be the sister of Edward Cullen, Bella’s crush. The two women spend much of the franchise hanging out, goofing off, and confiding in each other. Re-watch this one thinking about the real pairing here. Watch on Showtime, Amazon Prime Video, and more
This road-trip movie, written by Shonda Rhimes, is about the reconnection of friends, played by Britney Spears, Zoe Saldana, and Taryn Manning, who’ve taken different paths. They meet up for a coming-of-age cross-country journey. It’s very much a product of 2002, but Saldana shows her star power here, and Spears gets to perform a take on “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Also, enjoy appearances by Kim Cattrall and Dan Aykroyd. Watch on Cinemax, Vudu, and more.
“Waiting to Exhale” (1995)
The soundtrack to this film has helped me get through isolation. Brandy’s hit “Sittin’ Up in My Room” really works if all you’ve been doing for many months is ... well, sitting up in your room. But the film — and the image of four friends (played by Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine, and, of course, Whitney Houston) taught me, during the year I graduated high school, that maybe I could keep my longtime friends forever, no matter how our lives diverged as adults. It also gave me a look at grown-up love. Watch on YouTube, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and more
“Steel Magnolias” (1989)
When I am very old, Rachel will still be a few years younger. She can hold that over my head forever. But I’d love it if at some point the age gap will have closed enough to sit in a salon with her and pretend we’re Shirley MacLaine and Olympia Dukakis from this classic film. I like to think of myself as Dukakis’s classy Clairee Belcher, but I know I can be more irritable, like MacLaine’s Ouiser Boudreaux. We both strive to be Dolly Parton’s Truvy Jones. Watch on Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and more.
“Working Girl” (1988)
We should all be — and have — a friend like Cyn (Joan Cusack), who stands up and roots for Tess (Melanie Griffith) with a will that’s as tall and strong as her incredible bangs. “Working Girl” is a story about business, love, Harrison Ford being incredibly hot, and Sigourney Weaver being manipulative, but at its core, it’s about two longtime Staten Island friends boosting each other with a Carly Simon soundtrack. Watch on Hulu, Showtime, Amazon Prime Video, and more.