Binge-r #127: Dirty John + Sausage Party
DIRTY JOHN S1
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All eight episodes now streaming
“Don’t let my fear ruin us,” pleads John Meehan (Eric Bana) to his chastened new girlfriend, Debra Newell (Connie Britton), early on this quickly watchable Netflix drama, and it’s a fitting example of the show’s summoning of insidious motives: having erred in rebuking Debra for a negligible reason, John makes his mistake into a bond of vulnerability that willingly draws her deeper into his embrace. Adapted from Christopher Goffard’s successful true crime podcast and book, the show takes the grifter drama into a supposedly stable relationship, turning the idea of falling suddenly in love with “the one” into a thriller about discovering who you are truly sharing your home and life with. It’s the long con as female nightmare.
A successful Californian interior designer married and divorced four times, Debra is charmed by John, an Iraq war veteran and anaesthesiologist who shatters her succession of bad online dates by listening to her, asking questions and offering affirmation. When she runs her hand along the scar on his chest the first time they sleep together he simply says, “rocket-propelled grenade”, and there is always something exaggerated and off-key about him just beneath the caring veneer. Eric Bana never bring preconceptions to a role and this is a terrific one for him to inhabit – John missteps in social situations but uses it to corral Debra’s affection, allowing a thriller of discovery to build even as the pair get married in Las Vegas a mere eight weeks after they met.
The show is an anthology, so the first season is self-contained and conclusive, and creator Alexandra Cunningham (Desperate Housewives) has captured an uneasy tension that is keyed to appearance and presentation. Debra is immaculately clad while John favours surgical scrubs or sweatpants, and the storytelling uses surface layers to create friction and imply deceit. Debra’s two adult daughters, Veronica (Juno Temple) and Terra (Julia Garner), who she is in therapy with, soon despise John – “homeless frat guy,” is Veronica’s dismissive verdict – but the ultimate mystery is why, even as her suspicions grow (and flashbacks offer perspective), does Debra continue to enable John? He plays on her vulnerabilities, but one of them is a belief in romantic fantasy that is verging on the self-destructive. That’s the underlying fear in Dirty John: that it’s not her husband gaslighting Debra, but society itself.
>> Other Reading: The Scottish-Australian thriller The Cry is by far the best drama the ABC has screened for several years, and all four episodes are currently available on iView. I wrote about the show’s missing child structure and cruel domestic mysteries for The Monthly [full review here].
NEWLY ADDED MOVIES
Sausage Party (Netflix, 2016, 88 minutes): Seth Rogen and his long-time writing and producing partner Evan Goldberg have a well-earnt reputation for concocting bro-down hoedown comedies that stretches back to Superbad and Pineapple Express, but they proved their worth when they co-wrote and got into production this profane animated adventure – which is definitely not for children – where the foodstuffs in an American supermarket get a cruel, juicy and often hilarious lesson in the falsities of religious faith and consumerism. Gleefully naive double-entendres abound as hot dog Frank (Rogen) and bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig) await their purchase and delivery to the “Great Beyond”, a heralded paradise beyond the aisles where they will consummate their purpose. When a returned jar of mustard (Danny McBride) reveals what awaits them in carnage-laden detail, they go on a loopy adventure that is both foul-mouthed and flagrantly dismissive of what Marx called “the opiate of the masses”. Directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan cheerfully animate the anthropomorphic foodstuffs and “immortal” non-perishables, referencing disaster films and horror flicks as comic havoc unfolds: “she’s peeling my skin!” shrieks a potato being prepared in a kitchen. It’s a crude, subversive, and often hilarious comedy.
New on Netflix: A (oil field on fire) black comedy about U.S. soldiers trained to kill but never given the opportunity, Sam Mendes’ Jarhead (2005, 125 minutes) remains an unsettling antidote to the modern war film; Doomsday (2008, 108 minutes) is a nutty British homage to Mad Max 2, set in a punk post-apocalyptic Scotland where English soldiers and scientists come looking for a cure to a deadly virus.
New on SBS on Demand: Before Glenn Close wins an Academy Award for The Wife, see her playing a 19th century Dublin woman who poses as a man so she can find work and safety in Albert Nobbs (2012, 113 minutes); A compelling vision of gay activism during the HIV crisis in 1980s Paris, Robin Campillo’s B.P.M. (2017, 122 minutes) has a charged rhythm of organisation and protest, love and loss.
New on Stan: Miss Sloane (2016, 132 minutes) is ultimately a fantasy about one woman exposing Washington D.C.’s corruption, but it does feature a sustained Jessica Chastain lead performance that gets not just at ideology but also pleasure and self-control; the first Marvel movie to tinker with the settings, Ant-Man (2015, 113 minutes) literally downsizes the superhero narrative with Paul Rudd playing the goofy protagonist.
>> Want BINGE-R sent to your inbox? Click here for the weekly e-mail.