Binge-r #100: Get Shorty + Like Father
GET SHORTY S1
Streaming Service: Stan
Availability: All 10 episodes now streaming
How tall is Chris O’Dowd? I ask because after a winning career as a comic actor – alternately silly and splenetic – the Bridesmaids and The IT Crowd star is coolly looking down on the rural gangsters and Hollywood reprobates who constitute the core of this sly, loose-limbed crime drama. As Miles Daly, an Irish émigré disposing of bodies in the Nevada desert, O’Dowd looks leaner and a little worn, which suits a character whose decision to reset his life lands him on the bottom rung of the movie business in Los Angeles. The role, and the Stan series itself, is all hard surfaces and unexpected vulnerabilities. The lick of ludicrousness O’Dowd brings is actually a necessity.
Get Shorty is a reworking of the template established by the 1990 Elmore Leonard novel and Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1995 film, where John Travolta’s Chili Palmer was a debt collector for the mob who cruised through Hollywood. The movie had a slick, salacious confidence, but Miles has neither Chili’s charisma nor independence. He works for Amara (Lidia Porto), a murderous backblocks crime boss, and when a debt collection gig takes him to Los Angeles with his colleague, Louis (Sean Bridgers), he returns with a repossessed script and the suggestion that investing in a movie could be the solution to Amara’s money laundering issues.
Moving to Los Angeles would also let Miles tell his departed wife, Emma (Carolyn Dodd), that he’s out of the organised crime rackets, and you slowly start to see that as tough as he may casually be, there’s a delusional strain to his plans that’s both serendipitous and very risky. Jobbing Hollywood producer Rick Moreweather (Ray Romano) dismisses Miles when he first turns up with the blood-splattered script for The Admiral’s Mistress, a period romance, and the plotting takes the time to set them in motion and educate neophytes Miles and Louis, who has been credited as the very unlikely screenwriter, about how the film business works.
The very good Topher Grace does some bad acting as minor Hollywood star Tyler Mathis, who is the lead in Rick’s current production, but creator Davey Holmes (Shameless) doesn’t overindulge in the Hollywood satire (which is set circa 2005, based on the phones and Rick’s business model). The action switches between production meetings and Amara’s turbulent empire, where she faces being usurped, but at times it feels like a hang-out series as the leads shoot the breeze and indelible little touches distinguish the characters – Miles affectionately calls Louis “Lulu”, and O’Dowd and Bridgers have a terrific chemistry together. Rick tells Miles, with his newcomer's ambition, that he has to stop worrying about “that quality thing”, and Get Shorty can be equally deceptive. It’s never quite what you expect, but it makes something of itself.
Like Father (Netflix, 2018, 103 minutes): Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer, as an estranged daughter and father trapped on a cruise together, almost do enough to make this wry comedy work. When given the chance by writer-director Lauren Miller Rogen, they cut through the cute scenarios and actually acknowledge some of the bitterness that has scarred over their characters’ relationship. It’s a melancholic film with the kind of gimmicks a broad comedy would favour, beginning with the disastrous wedding ceremony where workaholic Rachel (Bell) is left at the alter by her aggrieved fiancé, only to get so drunk with her father, Harry (Grammer), that they woozily wake up together on the honeymoon cruise. Miller Rogen’s husband, Seth, has a sweet supporting role as a rebound romance, and the structure is often clichéd. Netflix had a success going back to the nineties with the recent romantic-comedy Set It Up, but this is just a mild throwback that mainly should remind you to watch the irrepressible Bell in the must-see Netflix comedy series The Good Place.
Also New on Netflix: Before becoming franchisees with Mission: Impossible and X-Men respectively, Christopher McQuarrie and Bryan Singer made The Usual Suspects (1995, 106 minutes), a deliciously good noir mystery that introduced Keyser Soze to the vernacular; Hot Fuzz (2007, 120 minutes) is the best of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s very English appropriations of American genre: a buddy cop flick set in a sleepy provincial town.
New on SBS on Demand: One for Woody Allen completists, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010, 94 minutes) charts the looming insecurity of relationships with turns from Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, and Josh Brolin; Shame (1988, 90 minutes) is an underseen Australian classic and a valuable feminist genre film, with Deborra-Lee Furness as the lone motorbike rider who upends a malignant rural town where pack-rape has become the accepted norm.
New on Stan: Mike White’s excellent Brad’s Status (2017, 102 minutes) is a biting, bittersweet examination of middle-aged mistakes, with Ben Stiller as the father struggling to deal with his son’s initial successes; a bourgeoisie French family rots from the core in Michael Haneke’s Happy End (2017, 104 minutes), a drama with arch set-pieces starring Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Franz Rogowski.
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