Binge-r #136: Bonding + Now Apocalypse
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All seven episodes now streaming
Forever flipping the tone of a scene – sometimes for bemusement, sometimes for honesty’s demand – Bonding is a black comedy about high school best friends who reunite in New York after university. The hook is that Tiff (Zoe Levin) finances her post-graduate psychiatric degree by working as a dominatrix, and she wants Pete (Brendan Scannell) to be her assistant. The tone is tart and the sexual situations frank – this show is literally spunky – but it’s also intrigued by the characters and reveals who they are in unexpected ways. The episodes aren’t even 20 minutes long, but they have whip crack comic rhythms and a sweetly salacious outlook.
There’s a touch of Broad City’s 20something puzzlement (and weird roommates) to the series, which was ably written and directed by actor Rightor Doyle, but without the hazy fantasy highs. Instead there’s an everyday acceptance to Tiff’s work, which soon entangles the cash-strapped Pete, who is struggling at starting stand-up comedy and meeting other gay men. Tiff believes that her work is “really just liberation from shame”, and her over the top scenarios are nonetheless kink-positive, even when it means that Pete has to pitch in with a golden shower for a client. Won’t lie: this is not the show to put on when your parents are visiting (unless you want them to leave).
The entire season runs for less than two hours (Netflix’s algorithm is obviously telling them something) but the deft pacing gives it an expressive breadth. The depth of Tiff and Pete’s connection is examined, while the latter’s initial wariness is worn down by smart contradictions: Pete does his best stand-up work when insulting a delighted client of Tiff’s about his penis size. Bonding is an enjoyable but not easily classifiable show – it’s much more than your initial sighting on the Netflix homepage would suggest. And it has excellent taste in guest spots, with The Good Place all-star D’Arcy Carden featuring in several episodes. Time to learn the ropes.
NOW APOCALYPSE S1 (Stan, 10 episodes): American filmmaker Gregg Araki was making deadpan despatches out of bisexual lust, 20something angst, and end of the world portents back in the 1990s. Commissioned as part of streaming content boom, he’s turned those ongoing concerns into a cheerfully idiosyncratic satire of contemporary Los Angeles that refuses to distinguish between the wild, the weird, and the wilful. Never sure if he’s having David Lynch-level visions or just really high, Ulysses (Avan Jogia) is having more luck encountering lizard people than a good dating app match. His travails encompass his friend Carly (Kelli Berglund), who does her best acting work as a cam girl, and sweetly dim straight roommate Ford (Beau Mirchoff); there’s also an “astrobiological theorist” named Severine (Roxane Mesquida) so European that she’s beyond cliché. To enjoy Now Apocalypse you have to roll with Araki’s tone, with its nudity and B-movie buzz, but if it grabs you this is an amusing concoction.
NEWLY ADDED MOVIES
New on Netflix: Beginning as a concert film about her climactic Coachella music festival headline set, Homecoming (2019, 137 minutes) is a Beyoncé tour de force that interlaces compelling performance, black cultural history, and social commentary; Sofia Coppola’s feel for cloistered, threatened female worlds informs her American Civil War drama The Beguiled (2017, 93 minutes), with Colin Farrell in Nicole Kidman’s lair.
New on Stan: Believer (2018, 120 minutes) is a garishly effective and overdriven South Korean crime drama about a police detective taking down a maniacal drug syndicate with an informer’s duplicitous help; it’s not as good as the original, but Incredibles 2 (2018, 114 minutes) still has a terrific animated vitality as it plunge back into superhero life and the mysteries of marriage.
>> Want BINGE-R sent to your inbox? Click here for the weekly e-mail.