BINGE-R #46: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt + Friday Night Films
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT S3
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All 13 episodes now streaming (plus S1 + S2)
In the third season of Netflix’s subversively silly comedy, cult abduction survivor Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) is belatedly headed for college. “I thought that was only for rich kids and the very best clowns,” she notes, and the gag’s combination of social criticism and deadpan loopiness sums up the show’s ingenious appeal. You can read Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s creation as a Catherine wheel of jokes, one exploding after another, or take in the digs at maladjusted institutions (universities, professional sports, and, of course, Trump). Either approach will leave you well satisfied.
Based on the first four episodes, the storylines are pulling the central characters – Kimmy, her flamboyantly gay flatmate Titus (Tituss Burgess), her gnarly landlady Lillian (Carol Kane), and her privileged former employer Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) – back into close comic quarters. Even though each has their own arcs and relationships, for example Lillian is still seeing Robert Durst (Fred Armisen), but their connection and mutual support is the counterpoint to the misadventures, which have their tone set in the first half hour where Titus, a hopeful performer, auditions for a gig on Sesame Street and is propositioned on a casting couch by a producer and his puppet – “my pill’s kicking in,” the latter lasciviously observes.
While Kimmy’s now jailed captor, the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm, literally phoning it in), still features, the character is slowly moving forward. She still has a spark of childish industry and a glorious imagination – Kemper is never better than when she’s acting out Kimmy’s wayward leaps of logic – but she’s no longer an arrested teenager. That’s reflected in the character’s wardrobe and her ability to make decisions. She’s actually wiser than Titus, whose romantic travails in the second episode allow for a detailed homage to Beyonce’s Lemonade.
If you enjoyed the first two seasons of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt then this is your now annual treat, but if you’ve ignored it till now it’s not too late to reconsider. No comedy has a better handle on delivering a truly daft declaration, and then doubling down with a seemingly sensible clarification whose lack of validity just adds to the humour. I’m still laughing at Jacqueline’s lament for her wealthy boyfriend’s absence to protest rhino poaching: “who cares how they’re cooked!” At a certain point the show might have to let a character actually experience a lasting, worthwhile romantic bond, but for now Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt remains unstoppable.
>> Bonus Binge: If the high-speed humour of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is your thing, you may well like Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23. Netflix has both seasons of this farce, which features winning turns from Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones) and James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), who actually plays James Van Der Beek.
FRIDAY NIGHT FILMS
If you want a spot on spoof of the D-list…
Mindhorn (Netflix, 2016, 87 minutes): A send-up of entitled actors and the crime procedural, this British independent comedy stars The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt as Richard Thorncraft, a washed-up thespian living off the fumes of his 1980s hit series Mindhorn, where he played a P.I. with a computer for an eye whose moustache rivalled that of Thomas Magnum's. When a serial killer will only speak to his fictional character, Thorncraft gets to play Mindhorn once more while catching up with his former wife and co-star, Patricia (Miss Fisher’s Essie Davis), and comically trying to raise his profile. Sean Foley’s film, whose premise might remind some of Galaxy Quest, is studded with comedians and real life cameos, including Kenneth Branagh, who Thorncraft calls “The B-man”, and it zooms along on inappropriate behaviour and the genuinely masterful performance of co-writer Barratt. His 1980s Thorncraft, seen in flashback, is note perfect, and there’s a hit of pathos in the depths of his present day floundering. It’s slight but enjoyable.
If you’re after an unstintingly powerful drama…
Short Term 12 (Stan + Netflix, 2013, 96 minutes): Brie Larson’s rise, which has encompassed an Academy Award for Room, a ticket to Kong: Skull Island and next her own Marvel superhero, was launched by this unsparing American independent drama, which is about life forever held in the grip of trauma. A dedicated counsellor at a group home for at risk or troubled teens, Larson’s Grace gives everything to her young residents, at least in part because saving them is easier than confronting her own past as a survivor of child sexual abuse. Destin Cretton film is so painfully lived in that it transcends any cliches about therapists and recovery, especially once Grace takes on Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), whose situation possibly recalls her own, while confronting the possibility that she may herself become a parent.
If you prefer gunfights and generosity…
Leon: The Professional (SBS on Demand, 1994, 127 minutes): French filmmaker Luc Besson brought his scalpel-sharp action scenes, belief in female protagonists, and then appealing air of excess to America with this action-thriller about a recalcitrant New York hitman, Leon (Jean Reno), who reluctantly takes in the 12-year-old daughter, Mathilda (Natalie Portman), of his neighbours after they’re killed by corrupt drug enforcement agents commanded by the unhinged Stansfield (a pitch perfect Gary Oldman). The movie is something of a fable, with Mathilda introducing the rigid Leon to life’s simple pleasures even as he snuffs out an awful lot of targets, but it works. It’s a curious but effective mix of the stylish and the sentimental that gives the characters appealing impetus.
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