Binge-r #137: Tuca & Bertie + I Think You Should Leave
TUCA & BERTIE S1
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All 10 episodes now streaming
A vividly animated paean to friendship’s all-encompassing reach, Tuca & Bertie is exceptionally good at capturing the idiosyncratic ways we relate to those closest to us and how it’s both a joyous release and a means of reassurance. The lead characters in this anthropomorphic world may be birds – Tuca the toucan (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) and a songbird named Bertie (Ali Wong) – but their dynamic is wholly human. Former roommates who’ve just parted ways, with Tuca moving one floor up so Bertie’s architect boyfriend Speckles (Steven Yeun) can move in, the duo of 30-year-old’s mutually provide affirmation, encouragement and a second opinion as required. Their connection is so vibrant that the show’s idiosyncratic mood draws energy from it.
If this suggests Netflix’s animated mainstay, BoJack Horseman, there’s a ready link: Tuca & Bertie’s creator, Lisa Hannawalt, was a production designer and producer on that wildlife-rich series [full review here]. Given her own purview, Hannawalt sets a distinct course – the self-contemplative undertow of BoJack, with its perpetual tide drawing the title character back into trauma and depression, isn’t duplicated here. There’s a raft of issues for these two contemporary bird-women to face, whether at home or in the workplace, but it’s presented with a mazy, digressive tone that allows for listed inserts, surrealist fantasy sequences, and nutty, mutating graphic art. There’s a touch of Keith Haring, plus a nod to Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python patchworks.
Tuca is very much a representation of Haddish’s screen persona from her breakthrough in 2017’s Girls Trip onwards, all brash declarations and improvisatory energy, but the buttoned-down Bertie, whose latent anxiety can easily tip over, is a change for Wong, a stand-up comic whose Netflix specials are delivered with a withering sense of command. Together they’re a genuine partnership, even if fans of Broad City will quickly sense a similarity to their Brooklyn heroines, and Hannawalt keeps them juggling outbursts and inhibitions with such dexterity that you get a tapestry that feels everyday and relatable even as the brightly illustrated world they’re moving through flips over into the fantastical. The quirkiness in Tuca & Bertie is just a starting point, and this offbeat show consistently gives you more than you might expect.
I THINK YOU SHOULD LEAVE WITH TIM ROBINSON S1 (Netflix, six episodes): Not so much hit and miss as demented mindbender and miss, this American sketch comedy series has some of the most bizarrely brilliant concepts – taken up to and then beyond their limits with absurdist dedication – that I’ve seen in years. At the centre of it is the show’s co-creator, comic actor and writer Tim Robinson, whose benign face screws up into furious and fascinating shapes every time he gets riled, which is often. The writing’s forte is characters who can’t comprehend or simply accept social norms and angrily attempt to defy them, to the blistering discomfort of those around them. As much as I want to describe a sketch such as Baby of the Year – a bilious, astounding piece that includes an assassination attempt – it’s close to impossible, but I recommend you sample the first two (short) episodes to see if you click with the material. It is the full bunch of bananas.
NEWLY ADDED MOVIES
New on Netflix: A break-up romantic comedy that leans on female friendship, Someone Great (2019, 92 minutes) has great leads in Gina Rodriguez and LaKeith Stanfield, but it never breaks the genre’s bonds; Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are amusing as mismatched Los Angeles investigators in The Nice Guys (2016, 116 minutes), Shane Black’s deadpan 1970s action-comedy.
New on SBS on Demand: Todd Solondz’s career as an independent filmmaker has been defined by misanthropic circumstances and bitter sympathy: the connected anthology Wiener-Dog (2016, 84 minutes) continues that with a dissection of contemporary mores from an ensemble cast that includes Julie Delpy, Greta Gerwig, and Ellen Burstyn.
New on Stan: A triptych about tenuous relationships in a trio of different eras, Three Times (2005, 130 minutes) is a piercing introduction to the masterful Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien with subtle tonal changes and the inability to attain emotional freedom; Book Week (2018, 102 minutes) is a deadpan dry Australian comedy about a churlish writer whose second chance at a career comes unstuck at the school where he teaches.
>> Want BINGE-R sent to your inbox? Click here for the weekly e-mail.