Binge-r #121 Derry Girls + Lodge 49
DERRY GIRLS S1
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All six episodes now streaming
In this often hilarious Northern Irish sitcom there are The Troubles and then there is trouble. The capitalised former is the brutal sectarian conflict that divided the British nation for most of the last century, and the latter is the everyday ramifications of a group of teenage girls – and uncomfortable accompanying lad – running wild in a backwater where everyone knows everyone and wooden spoons are a mother’s first resort. Set in 1992, there are British army checkpoints on the streets and bomb scares on the news, but the real crises are boys, looming exams, and being banned from the beloved local chippy by the dictatorial owner. Life goes on in this near period piece, but with insults, wild boasts, and over-excited mishaps instead of resilience and dignity.
A budding Carrie Bradshaw, 16-year-old Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) wants many things from life and generally doesn’t get them – her indignation makes for ludicrously apt facial expressions. Her Catholic schoolgirl comrades are eccentric cousin Orla (Louisa Harland), feisty friend Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, a maestro with expletives), and the constantly panicked Clare (Nicola Coughlan); their new plus one is Michelle’s English cousin James (Dylan Llewellyn), the first male student at the Our Lady Immaculate College by virtue of the local boys school not being able to guarantee an Englishman’s safety. Together they’re an unsteady chemical reaction – hatching plans, laying the blame, and taking the piss so that reason is repeatedly jettisoned.
Part of the appeal of Lisa McGee’s autobiographical series, which was a huge hit in the U.K. a few months ago, is that the teen’s actions feel like a ready continuation of their interwoven families, which are generally as bonkers as they are. The writing finds quick humour in a boring uncle or a dead nun, with characters whose idiosyncrasies feel weirdly unique but readily familiar. “Don't say ‘knickers’ in front of your father,” Erin’s non-nonsense mother, Mary (Tara Lynne O’Neill), cautions her. “He can’t cope”. Era-faithful hits dot the soundtrack – thumbs up for EMF’s “Unbelievable” – but along with the nostalgia and the mayhem there’s a touch of expectation and the lurking reminder that soldiers probably shouldn’t need to search a school bus, even if Michelle is dead keen on telling them about the incendiary device beneath her skirt.
In Brief: LODGE 49 S1 (Amazon, 10 episodes): You have to cast a wide net to frame this wryly philosophical American comic drama: a man child’s reckoning with grief, alchemical conspiracies, Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, the discombobulating novels of Thomas Pynchon, and a twist of Twin Peaks are all elements in Jim Gavin’s series. Set in Long Beach, California, where the future appears to be shutting down, it begins with Sean Dudley (Wyatt Russell), an ageing surfer dude reduced to pawn shop visits and squatting in his former apartment following a disastrous injury and the death of his beloved father. Dud, as everyone calls him, yearns to regain lost homes and businesses, while his unfulfilled sister, Liz (Sonya Cassidy), doesn’t know how to move forward, and if there’s any theme to the early episodes – which move at a slow but intriguing pace – it’s that being incomplete, for whatever reason, is life’s status quo. Admission to a local fraternal lodge, the Order of the Lynx (the Freemasons but with less secrecy), gives Dud new impetus, not to mention extra locations for the often idiosyncratic background action. The show is cosmically unhinged and ambitious, but it never flaunts its eccentricities and is often funny. Have patience, it’s an original.
>> Old Show/New Season: Netflix has added the second season of the acerbic comedy Friends from College, a series about 30something New Yorkers starring Cobie Smulders, Keegan-Michael Key, and Fred Savage. Not everyone liked 2017’s debut, but I did [S1 full review here]. Netflix also has the third season of Call My Agent, the deft French comedy about a Parisian talent agency whose movie star clients are (hopefully) exaggerated versions of real life stars. Look for Isabelle Huppert and Jean Dujardin this time [S1 full review here].
NEWLY ADDED MOVIES
New on Netflix: Steven Soderbergh previews the end of the world via pandemic with the lean, nightmarish Contagion (2011, 106 minutes), where Marion Cotillard and Kate Winslet lead the first responders (and Gwyneth Paltrow is patient zero); Springsteen on Broadway (2018, 153 minutes) is rock music’s patron saint going through his vast songbook and many stories on the New York theatre stage. Fans will be enraptured.
New on SBS on Demand: Lush noir dipped into otherworldly horror, Angel Heart (1987, 109 minutes) has Mickey Rourke’s 1950s private eye scouring New Orleans on behalf of Robert De Niro’s mysterious mogul; The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008, 150 minutes) is a compelling German historic thriller, detailing the rise and fall of the terror cell that tried to upend West Germany even as it ran out of control.
New on Stan: Hell or High Water (2016, 102 minutes) is a compelling modern western about inequality and sibling love, with two Texan brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) robbing the banks repossessing their family farm while Jeff Bridges plays the pursuing lawman; a bloody B-movie paean to our survival instinct, horror-thriller The Belko Experiment (2016, 89 minutes) sees Wolf Creek director Greg McLean turning a corporate office into a killing competition.
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