Russian Doll on Netflix

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by hybrid_77, Feb 1, 2019.

  1. R. Cat Conrad

    R. Cat Conrad While the moderators jest... Well, you know

    Location:
    D/FW Metroplex
    I'm curious about this one, but on the fence. It looks like a one-trick pony without a plausible story. The ultimate question will be whether it can sustain audience interest and deliver something surprising.

    :cheers:
    Cat
     
  2. hybrid_77

    hybrid_77 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Yeast Coast
    "We all know hard, abrasive people. Some of us are those hard, abrasive people. Nadia, the central character in Netflix’s hallucinogenic yet moving new series “Russian Doll,” is a hard, abrasive person, New York City-style. Not a please-and-thank-you type, she can drop insults that ring true enough to bruise her friends’ self-esteem. She’s funny, with a knack for quips, and admirably honest, for those who aren’t scared off by her brusqueness. But let’s just say that the hammer is not cloaked in soft velvet.

    “Russian Doll” is about what’s inside Nadia’s heart and soul, what you find if you keep opening the Russian nesting dolls to get to the innermost one. We immediately see Nadia’s emotional callouses on the Netflix show, whose first eight-episode season is available Friday, but we know that we’re also going to get to the hurts that created them. And fortunately, Nadia is played by one of the best hard, abrasive actors I know of, Natasha Lyonne, whose Nicky on “Orange Is the New Black” has been a gift of spiky repartee masking inner struggle. Lyonne, who co-created “Russian Doll” with Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland, was born to play Nadia, and that’s part of the magic of “Russian Doll”; with her frizzy hair, her swagger, and her piercing eye contact, she and Nadia seem to become one very specific, layered person.

    The show has a gimmick, which recalls the anarchy that drives both “The Good Place” and “Forever,” similarly death-minded series whose premise always seems to be shifting. The night at the center of “Russian Doll” keeps repeating, “Groundhog Day”-like, as Nadia leaves a party given for her 36th birthday to prowl the wilds of the East Village with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. Each time she leaves the party, she somehow dies — from falling, from getting hit by a car, from a heart attack — and each time she is instantly reborn, once again looking at herself in the bathroom mirror of the party, Harry Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up” on the soundtrack. The title carries the image of linear discovery, but the story line is set up as a series of loops.

    At first, Nadia is crazed by what is happening, and she is alone in her confusion since no one else is having the same experience. She becomes convinced it’s related to the cocaine-laced pot she smoked at the party. Then she begins to wonder about the history of the building in which the party is being held; it was once a Yeshiva, and it may be sending her ancient vibes of some sort, based on her Jewish roots. Is she undergoing a religious phenomenon? Or, as someone suggests, is she suffering payback for moral wrongs in the past? Should she be spending her extra lives apologizing to people and making up for indiscretions?

    As Nadia gets used to the death-rebirth cycle, though, her panic disappears and her questioning becomes more inner-directed. Her turmoil isn’t about whether she’s a good person or a bad person, so much as her resistance to self-understanding. Meanwhile, the people in her life, including an old boyfriend (Yul Vazquez), a creepy one-night stand (Jeremy Bobb), a street person (Brendan Sexton III), and her therapist and mother figure (Elizabeth Ashley), begin to combine in ways that are wonderful and surprising. At times, the show, with its vivid New York setting, made me think of Martin Scorsese’s urban epic “After Hours.”

    Charlie Barnett — he was on “Chicago Fire” for a few years — is an essential member of the cast, as a neurotic guy named Alan who wants his longtime girlfriend to marry him. I’m not going to spoil his connection to the story, but his scenes with Lyonne are deeply satisfying, as each tease out different parts of the other, with gender stereotypes nowhere to be found. He’s not particularly convinced when she announces, “I don’t want to be attached to anyone,” which is precisely what she needs. Barnett has a gentle face, so his fury, when he feels it, carries a lot of weight.

    The elements in “Russian Doll” may sound somewhat familiar, particularly the “Groundhog Day” repetitions; but they are all recombined to form something that is both fresh and revelatory. There’s no sentimentality in the air when it comes to Nadia’s journey, and no reductive life lessons. The show is a great celebration of complexity, of choosing life, and of self-awareness."

    From the Boston Globe
     
  3. woody

    woody Forum Resident

    Location:
    charleston, sc
    Binged three episodes tonight and it is great. Writing could be a bit more sharp but they really play with the concept more than just a groundhog thing. Some attention to music is nice to hear. If you want something a bit different to watch, something like Mr Robot, then check it out.
     
  4. bopdd

    bopdd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I thought this show was completely average, and the adoration it's been receiving scares me.
     
    Jvalvano likes this.
  5. Why be scared ? Move on to something else. People of the world have different tastes :tiphat:
     
    Bender Rodriguez likes this.
  6. bopdd

    bopdd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR
    You taking me so literally scares me.
     
    Jvalvano and Mazzy like this.
  7. Alone Again Or :tiphat:
     
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  8. the pope ondine

    the pope ondine Forum Resident

    I like Natasha but it felt like she was playing a caricature of herself, and the writing was almost too clever just to be clever. i might try it again but I bailed after one ep
     
  9. Deesky

    Deesky Forum Resident

    Her performance is basically identical to her character's in Orange Is The New Black.
     
  10. the pope ondine

    the pope ondine Forum Resident

    yeah? I felt like she leaned into it more here but you might be right. i only watched the first two OITNB
     
  11. daglesj

    daglesj Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    Three episodes in and will keep going. Intrigued!
     
  12. woody

    woody Forum Resident

    Location:
    charleston, sc
    I guess average depends on what else you watch. I agree there are better shows and that the constricts of this show will limit it’s appeal. It doesn’t seem like it is going to be any philosophical masterpiece but I like the cleverness of the writing and editing. I like Natasha but understand she doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, like my wife for one. She would hate this show.
     
    bopdd likes this.
  13. George P

    George P Smellin' Like The Rose

    Location:
    NYC
    Also three episodes in, my second time through the series.
     
  14. daglesj

    daglesj Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    We watched the first episode and felt quite 50/50 about it. We were concerned it was going to be a straight Groundhog day thing (even though we realised that would be too stupid a thing to do) so we watched another and sure enough some other intrigue creeps in and by the third there is enough going on to make you want to watch more.

    Sure it's not the most amazing thing I've ever seen but it's that fairly rare commodity of a 25 minute show that fits perfect for teatime viewing before putting the plates away and settling down for something of longer duration.
     
  15. woody

    woody Forum Resident

    Location:
    charleston, sc
    True, the short episode length is great to catch a decent show in those in between times.
     
  16. bopdd

    bopdd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I hear ya, though the casting of Natasha Lyonne has no bearing on my interest in the show itself (or lack thereof). And to be fair, I did watch the entire series in a day. I just think it's a completely average TV show, maybe slightly above average when compared exclusively to what else is currently on the air. Generally speaking, I find the characters pretty weak and the execution mundane. That said, if they make a second season, I'd probably still watch.
     
  17. woody

    woody Forum Resident

    Location:
    charleston, sc
    The bar used in several episodes seems to be the same one from Jessica Jones where Luke works.
     
  18. George P

    George P Smellin' Like The Rose

    Location:
    NYC
    Anyone recognize the "who doesnt want to wear the ribbon!!?" guy? My girlfriend didnt.

    :laugh:
     
    Daryl M likes this.
  19. conjotter

    conjotter Forum Resident

    Best show on Netflix for a long time.

    Natasha Lyonne rocks. The writing and performances are razor sharp. Great music too.

    Two more episodes to go.
     
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  20. jh901

    jh901 Forum Resident

    I watched the first two episodes this week. Entertaining!

    Never will understand binge watching. I know "everyone" does it, but pacing of series isn't intended for hours of consecutive viewing.

    Sincerely, consider dismissing popular convention. There is SO MUCH content. No reason to binge watch.
     
  21. VU Master

    VU Master Forum Resident

    I enjoyed it but felt that the acting and production were better than the writing. The story seemed to meander a little too much for me and there wasn't really a cohesive center to the plot. I had a "less than the sum of its parts" feeling, overall. But it was interesting and the woman who played Nadia was amazing. Alan was great too.

    Netflix has a lot of adventurous offerings these days and I give them big props for that. A lot of great classic films were added to their lineup this week, too.
     
    Deesky likes this.
  22. Deesky

    Deesky Forum Resident

    No way - I hate it when I can't binge watch a series! The exception to this rule is for episodic series, where each episode is self-contained, then I don't mind watching a new story each week.

    However, since most shows these days are heavily serialized, binge watching is a must because it helps to keep all the various plot developments in mind and so one is better able to appreciate the story, character development and narrative nuances. Shows like Counterpart, Maniac, The Man In The High Castle, Mr Robot, Westworld, Legion, etc are excruciating to watch on a weekly schedule. I often wait for the season to end so that I can binge watch.
     
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  23. jh901

    jh901 Forum Resident

    Weekly?

    Daily is a compromise. Every other day.

    Single sitting and the like is ridiculous. None of us can tell anyone else what they like or hate, but shows such as Russian Doll were not developed for viewing as if it was a movie.

    Anyhow, there are few who seem to read thoughtful opinions and then actually consider them in good faith. Binge away!
     
  24. will_b_free

    will_b_free Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boulder, CO
    Russian Doll was absolutely meant to be binge watched, the episode breaks are almost arbitrary. It is one long Twilight Zone episode.
     
    George P likes this.
  25. dougotte

    dougotte Vague Waste of Space-Time

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I agree with you that I don't binge, but how can you say whether something was "intended" for it or not? Others obviously enjoy it. My wife does.

    My attention span can handle two episodes of anything consecutively.
     

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