The great defining moment from the final episode of season 6 was Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) standing in pouring rain in the middle of the night readying his barbed-wire baseball Lucille to rain down bloody death on one of Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) crew. We didn’t see who died but the threat of imminent death was real and apocalyptically present.
It didn’t go down well with a lot of fans – a furore that left many others nonplussed since it was, after all, simply a good old-fashioned cliffhanger – but it was impossible to walk away from that episode with any other impression than everything was about to change bigtime for the Alexandria crew.
No longer the main game in town – to be fair that was only in their hubris-addled minds and reflected only their big vengeful fish in a small pond of survivors status – they are at the mercy of Negan and his army of loyal subjects.
But an even bigger development than Negan’s bloodthirsty bruatality is that it reveals a post-civilisation world bigger than anyone could have imagined. Given the scattered nature of most settlements, it had become all too easy for Rick and the gang to assume that this was the full extent of life now, that humanity had lost its ability to draw together in big cohesive city states and build something real and lasting.
That’s not the case at all as Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) discovered when they were rescued by the members of The Kingdom, a group that opposes Negan bloody dictatorship and is ruled over with benign but firm idiosyncrasy by King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) who sits astride a throne with a toger, yes a tiger by his side. But he’s one of the good guys so let him have a whole menagerie if it makes him happy right? Throw in Hilltop, which the Alexandrians have already visited – it was the arrogant decision by Rick to help them face off against Negan that got everybody into their current mess – and who knows who else out there and you have the makings of a tribal sprawl of powerful city states that could see humanity rebuild its civilisation, at least in part.
It’s all encouraging on one level but wholly terrifying on another since it means that the small world that has become so familiar and knowable by the Alexandrians and in which Rick and the group has forged a very accomplished niche thank you very much, has been blown wide open and nothing will ever be the same again.
All of which augurs for a seventh season in which nothing will ever be the same again and as the featurette intimates, will change The Walking Dead for good.
Swing that bat Negan and let’s get this bad, brave new world started.
The Walking Dead returns 23 October on AMC in USA and on 24 October on FX in Australia.
Oh and if you don’t think there is humour to be mined from the apocalypse, let comedy great John Cleese persuade you otherwise with his hilarious recap of the first six seasons of The Walking Dead, and a pithy summation of the rules of this bad, brave new world including one we should all heed – “Don’t look at the flowers”. (source: Cinemablend)
If you ever wanted a master class in how to kick off an episode of dramatic TV with as many character and narrative boxes ticked as humanly possible without it all feeling too busy or rushed, then the opening scene in “Nick & Nora / Sid & Nancy”, crafted by the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, is it.
In a few short but utterly delightful minutes in Luke’s Diner we are witness to:
Rory (Alexis Bledel) stressing, in her delightful nerdish, excited way, about getting to school on time, wondering where her locker will be and whether this will deleteriously affect her walking time around school which she has yet to work out in any coordinated fashion.
Lane (Keiko Agena) continuing her quest to not be her strict, religious mother Mrs Kim by completing her record collection of key 1960s pieces of music which she asks Rory to collect from an amazing record store near Chilton.
Taylor Doose (Michael Winter) being Taylor, this time the strictly-by-the-rules Scout master who predicts ruin and and decay for life for anyone who dares to flout convention, using Lorelai (Lauren Graham), who jumps the queue in search of coffee and donuts, as his example A.
Luke (Scott Patterson) revealing his (a) hatred of Scouts, (b) his less than stellar view of their merit badges and (c) his poor, fractious relationship with his sister who is packing off her son Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) to Stars Hollow from the mean streets of NYC to supposedly reform and better him.
That’s a lot of meat put on the narrative bones of the episode very quickly and yet in typical Gilmore Girls fashion, a show where a huge amount of anything was never really enough, it flows effortlessly and with cheery joy, proof that the show, in common with West Wing, could cram insane amounts of quirky character drama and plot in without suffering a beat.
Drawing its title from two pop culture sources – the “Nick & Nora” of the title is a reference to fictional married couple Nick & Nora Charles, a crime-solving married couple introduced in Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Thin Man, while “Sid & Nancy” are the fated twosome at the centre of the 1986 biopic of the same name about the life of punk rocker Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy – the fifth episode of the second season saw a great deal many things in train, as was Amy Sherman Palladino’s perpetual wont.
The biggest show in narrative town was of course the arrival of Jess who steps off a bus in Stars Hollow, brimming with attitude, hidden books and a patent desire to be anywhere but in picture-perfect postcard Connecticut.
Just how unhappy he is about his uncalled-for new life is illustrated in deliciously musical fashion when he walks out of the diner after barely looking around his new digs to see the town in all its autumnally cute glory, all to the counterpoint soundtrack of Elvis Costello’s “This is Hell.”
He hasn’t met Rory yet, of course, launching by default the great Jess/Rory/Dean love triangle which finds its end just a short season’s worth of episodes later in “They Shoot Gilmores Don’t They?”, nor has he discovered that life in Stars Hollow isn’t so bad after all, but then he’s been shipped off with no say in the matter so you can understand his nasty attitude.
What isn’t so pleasant in the town’s storied surrounds is seeing Lorelai and Luke having the mother of all arguments, a rarity in a relationship usually defined by teasing, warmth and crotchety bonhomie – Luke always supplies the former, Lorelai the latter, their dance of pre-romance long and hilariously tactical – with Luke, overwhelmed by sudden, difficult parenthood furiously rejecting any input from Lorelai who has gone from warmly welcoming Jess to sternly reprimanding him as a Grade A douchebag.
They make up, of course, but not before Danish Day at the diner is ruined for Lorelai when Luke refuses to sell Rory, who he knows is a proxy for his confrontation-avoidance mother, two coffees and two Danishes, leading to a King Solomon-esque division of breakfast spoils that pleases no one, that leads to this hilarious mother-daughter exchange:
Lorelai – What is a Danish without coffee? Rory – The eternal question springs up again. Lorelai – Sad Danish. Lonely Danish. Step-Danish.
Lorelai eventually gets her Danish – Luke breaks the rules by way of apology the next day and gives her an impromptu replacement day – and all is well; but for a moment everything pivots on a flaky, fruit-filled crust, the very equilibrium of Stars Hollow hanging in the balance.
The initially virulent antagonism between Luke and Jess also gifts us with possible the finest, yes finest, piece of visual slapstick in the show’s seven season history when Luke, fresh from arguing with Jess over his theft of money from a charity pot in Taylor’s grocery store, pushes his nephew straight into the town’s pond as they walk angrily across the quaint wooden pedestrian bridge.
Done flawlessly and with one effortless push of Luke’s muscular left arm as they walked side-by-furious-side, it is hands down a glorious piece of theatre, not simply because it is damn funny but because it underscores in one simple scene just how far off being ready to be a parent Luke is, illustrated too by his insecurity-fuelled argument with Lorelai the night before.
Granted Jess isn’t exactly Nephew of the Month and he did blow off yet another of Sookie’s (Melissa McCarthy) anxiety-suffused cooking extravaganzas in honour of his arrival – in his favour he quickly realises Rory is a literature-loving soulmate, a rare tender moment in an episode full of angsty interactions including a series of tense moments between Rory and Paris (Liza Weil) in full mean girl mode as editor of school paper The Franklin – but clearly the man needs help and is sensible enough, when the epiphany arrives, to ask for Lorela’s more than capable help.
The episode, as always is packed to the brim with pop culture references, an elegant shorthand for a whole series of rich character moments:
Music: The aforementioned Elvis Costello and “Girl From Mars” by Ash and a whole lot more including the Bee Gees, The Sonics and The Doors.
Film:The Breakfast Club and The Godfather get a look in, as does of course the titular sources for the title and even West Side Story.
Books:Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, The Mojo Collection: The Greatest Albums of All Time, from which Lane draws her under-the-Mrs-Kim-radar record requests, and Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg, a slim volume that Jess purloins from Rory’s bookcase and which is returned, thanks to Jess having read it 40 times or so, packed full of pithy, insightful margin notes.
And no episode would be complete without life in Stars Hollow being given a cinematic frame of reference, with Lorelai supplying this gem when pitching the disastrous welcome dinner to Luke:
“Sookie will cook, Rory will be there. It’ll be a little ‘Hey, welcome to Stars Hollow and see, everyone here’s not straight out of a Fellini film’ kind of an evening.”
It is but one choice piece of expertly-crafted dialogue in an episode which flawlessly introduces a new character, sets up a slew of future plot points including the complicating prospect of future romance for Rory, and yes Luke and Lorelai too, and reminds us that even the gilded halls of fairytale Stars Hollow could be pleasingly tarnished with dramatic tension now and then to great, ongoing effect.
Since 2011 when EA’s Stars Wars: The Old Republic was released, players in this Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game, and according to MAXIM, it is massive indeed, have been able to imagine themselves in the roles of Jedi Knight, Sith Lord, Bounty and Smuggler with the added bonus of being able to earn their own Wookie companion along the way.
Its been riotously successful likely because it gives everyone what they secretly, and possibly not-so-secretly want, which is to immerse themselves into the galaxy “far, far way” and a “long time ago” as if they live there.
It’s an exciting concept which is about to be become even more so with the addition of an appropriately gigantic expansion pack later this year.
To announce the existence of said expansion pack to the game’s many enthusiastic adherents, EA has created a lavishly cinematic trailer Knights of the Eternal Throne which is quite rightly described by MAXIM as “the best Star Wars movie you’ve never seen”.
In just six all-too-short minutes, you are immersed into the utterly engrossing of a young Padawan named Vaylin who finds the lines between the competing sides of the Force more malleable than she expected. It is such a compelling and dramatically and emotionally-redolent narrative, that you’ll wish it was coming out as an additional movie in the ever-burgeoning Star Wars Canon.
Speaking of new Star Wars movies, a new trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been released and it is every bit as epic as you might expect.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story releases 15 December in Australia and 16 December in USA.
That may sound like an odd question to ask since the monstrous creations of Davros are more likely to exterminate than engage in mirth-filled jocularity, but it’s a play on the question asked by Adam Hargreaves back in 1971 (“What does a tickle look like?”) to his dad Roger, the man who would go on to create the Mr. Men and Little Miss series of books.
And it points to a new imaginative collaboration between Gallifrey’s biggest fan of Earth and Hargreaves’ emotions-given-human-form, which will be published by Puffin Books next year and will initially feature the First (William Hartnell), Fourth (Tom Baker), Eleventh (Matt Smith) and Twelfth (Peter Capaldi) with the rest to follow.
Of course, as a died-in-the-wool David Tennant fan, I am not thrilled that the Tenth Doctor didn’t make it into the first four books to be released, but then given how timeless the Doctor is, there’s plenty of time for the rest of the books to be released right?
We love it , we hate it, we want it, we have it, we hope someone will love us, we despair when they don’t.
All those freewheeling, cartwheeling possibilities, love’s inherent contradictions, joys, possibilities and soul-crushing disappointments provide a rich well from which a music artist can draw and the five artists featured today make impressive use of it in wholly different ways.
So go ahead, dance with love but don’t be surprised by the many surprising places it, and the music that is its soundtrack, takes you.
Styling her music as nouveau jazzy pop, French chanteuse Petite Meller seems to revel in her pleasing oddness, with many of her explanations for what fuels her artistic drive, such as the one featured The Guardian, revealing a fascination with our dreaming unconsciousness.
“I’m just creating realities that for me are more real and more close and honest to the unrepressed content that persists in our minds. Bringing libidinal unconscious dreams into reality is what fascinates me.”
The music that goes with images of her doll-like self dancing in Kenya or Tibet is far more straightforward pop, propelled by her little girl lost voice and a knack for channelling irrepressibly catchy melodies such as the one in “The Flute” but always underpinned by the intelligence that underpins her approach.
Meller, for all her playful imagery, is the thinking person’s pop artist, who understands that the best place for surprising people with weighty insights is where they least expect to find them – in pop sings so gloriously hook-laden that you can’t help but sing and dance and yes, muse on life.
English pop band Bastille, based in London, have a thing for dismembered heads.
Not so much personally of course since that would likely derail their burgeoning pop career but in their video for “Good Grief”, we’re treated to images of lead singer and songwriter Dan Smith’s head lying discarded on the floor, burning teddies and a little NSFW imagery, all of which go to create a fantastically weird clip, perfect for a song about missing someone so much you’re sleeping in their clothes.
“It is like a mad visual Rubik’s cube that takes a load of archetypal narrative scenarios and then twists and collides them together. We wanted to make something fun and chaotic and surreal that would serve as a fittingly odd accompaniment to the song.” (Fuse)
The song that goes with all these delightfully bonkers visual moments is beautifully upbeat pop, anchored by pounding drums, a clear melody throughline and ethereal, deeply-harmonised vocals redolent with the emotion of loss.
Driving brilliant pop this might be, and it drives forward with all the passion you’d expect of someone grappling with someone’s stinging absence, but it’s full to the brim with the kind of self-reproachful romantic feelings that anyone can identify with, adding universality of human experience to the wide-appeal of its endlessly-appealing melodies.
There is romantic longing aplenty in Canadian producer Jeff Hartford’s aka Attlas emotive song “Colors”, a midtempo number that uses Kye Sones’ passionate vocals to emphasise the crushing weight of love denied.
It’s a melancholic track in many ways, not the least lyrically with the refrain “I always wanted to be yours” repeating itself over and over much as the regret-filled wishing goes round and round the mind of this thwarted Romeo like a broken record.
The music is disarmingly upbeat in some ways, providing the perfect counterpoint to the song’s sombre, frustrated lyrical musings.
It’s a powerful statement on the sheer unpredictability of love true love, made all the more emotionally redolent by Sones’ plaintive pleas and Attlas’s gift for introspective but engaging melodies.
American singer/songwriter is How To Dress Well, and while we can’t comment on the strength of his sartorial talents, “What’s Up”, a song pulsing with the giddy joy of new love confirms he knows the effervescent joy of emerging romance.
Described by Bitcandy as “a luscious, tropical-flavored slice of synth pop” the song is suffused with an appealingly-hopeful sensibility that can’t help but make you smile and recall what the throes of new love feel like.
Try these heartfelt, giddily-happy lyrics on for size:
I said I love your thoughts The way they wander with such energy I also love your thighs Yeah, now you know what’s up Yeah I said what I said and I meant it I know that you feel it But I feel like you could change at any minute Been by your side since the beginning If you gotta run yeah you know that I’ma be here when you finish.
Married with the gorgeously bright upbeat melody that screams hope, promise of new and god things and the sheer carefree feel of unlimited possibility, “What’s Up” is love on its best behaviour, still developing but promising so much you can almost taste it.
There is groove in “Electrify”, oh my lord there is GROOVE.
Throbbing with a cold yet accessible mechanical beat and a sensuous unremitting melody that is enormously catchy, the song from LA-based duo is a take-no-prisoners kind of experience.
It’s well nigh impossible to listen to it and not feel all the hairs on your arms rise up such is the power and yes in-your-face emotional resonance of the track that comes with the duo’s trademark heady mix of electro, funk and techno wizardry.
There is an edge to the song but ultimately what makes the song so fantastically danceable and under-your-skin appealing is the way it dominates in the best possible way.
This is music that will not take “No” for an answer so say “Yes” and see where it takes you.
Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand. (official synopsis via Coming Soon)
Based on one of Marvel’s lesser-known properties, the film was a breath of fresh air, jettisoning the conventional narrative structure of the standard superhero movie and much of its serious undertone for a carefree, emotionally heartfelt, brilliantly well-soundtracked romp across the galaxy with an eclectic bunch of characters who felt more like family than the Avengers ever could be.
Everyone from Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) to his lady love Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and the now quite-diminutive Tiny Groot (Vin Diesel) were flawed and prone to be antagonistic than embracing but by the end of the film, which moved with speed, action and wit-laden charm, they were closer than close and yes, responsible for saving the galaxy.
And they’re back – well somewhat, with a teaser trailer dropping for the film which showcases the humour we’ve come to expect from the Guardians – Drax counsels a romantically-mournful Star-Lord to get someone “as pathetic” as he is and forget about Gamora who, it seems can dance (Star-Lord, it seems, cannot) while space suits are labelled as being for emergencies and fun (the mind boggles) – as well as great music (Suede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”) and all kinds of space-defying action.
In other words everything we loved about the original but I suspect, freed from the expository needs of the first film, able to dial it all up to off-the-chart levels.
This is going to be fun, so much fun in fact that you can only hope the galaxy keeps requiring saving for many, many years to come which I suspect will always be the case.
It’s early on in Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train, based on the bestselling book of the same name by Paula Hawkins, that you realise how supremely broken Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) has been left by recent events in her life.
Riding to and from New York each day to a job that no longer exists, Rachel takes the commuter train that snakes along the curves of a scenic bay right past the house where she used to live with her husband Tom (Justin Theroux).
Now remarried, Tom and his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), Tom’s ex-mistress, have the life and the baby that Rachel so desperately craved when she lived in what, to all intents and purposes, looks like an idyllic picture-perfect slice of the American suburban dream.
Each day she looks on Tom and Anna’s life together and that of her neighbours, Scott and Megan Hipwell (Luke Evans and Haley Bennett respectively), convinced that true happiness waits for her just beyond the tracks on which her train conveniently stops each day.
A chronic alcoholic, who swaps her water for vodka in the drinking bottle she carries with her everywhere, Rachel is ruinously trapped in a suffocating miasma of regret and loss, playing what might have been over and over in her mind.
She is particularly convinced that Scott and Megan have the perfect life she’s always dreamed of; based on the extraordinarily brief snatches of their life that she sees, Rachel concocts a romantic union so blissfully serene and complete that it couldn’t possibly exist in the real world.
Rachel, however, pays this no heed, preferring her alcohol-soaked visions of the Hipwells’ supposed cozy domesticity to the fractured reality which is revealed in increments through Megan’s sessions with her shrink, Dr Kamal Abdic (Édgar_Ramírez), with whom she is having an affair of sorts.
No one has the perfect life, least of all Rachel, with the tightly-played out screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, playing fast and loose with our perceptions, reality and fantasy mixing together until it’s hard to be sure what is real and what is not.
It’s a thoroughly effective sleight-of-hand that keeps you guessing throughout much of this expertly-paced film.
While on the surface pitched as a film noir crime thriller with Rachel, by virtue of her drunken blacked-out wanderings through her old suburb the prime amnesiac suspect – she can never recall what happened during those sloshed ramblings, relying on Tom when they were married and now friends and strangers to fill in the blanks, not always accurately – the film is every bit as much about the brokenness of people, how it manifests itself and the way in which those responsible for that brokenness wreak their carnage.
Moving between the viewpoints of Rachel (mainly), Megan and Anna, and filling in the pieces with an enticing glut of red herrings and clever misdirects, The Girl on the Train builds a picture of a world fractured along almost-irreparable lines.
Far from Rachel’s vodka-soaked perceptions of lives untrammeled by discontent and sadness, there’s almost no one in the film who isn’t scarred in some way or gravely disappointed in the unsatisfying route on which life has taken them.
What’s key though is how the brokenness is handled.
As Rachel, Emily Blunt in quite possibly one of her finest performances to date, all anguished nuanced and visceral pain and tortured introspection, projects a woman at a loss to know how to move forward.
She drinks to forget, much as she did during her marriage, stumbling through the wreckage of her life with little sense of meaningful direction, trapped in a past that didn’t even really exist when it was the present, she can’t conceive of what form the future might take since the only thing filling up her view is her broken, regret-laden past.
Through every anguished close-up of her eyes, every slurring attempt to engage with the world, captured in all their miserable intensity by Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s darkly-lit, grey-washed cinematography, we see someone who can’t leave the past behind, can’t fully interact with the present and who has no idea of where the future will take her.
The thing is that she is not alone in her torment, and even as the cops pursue the case of Megan’s disappearance – her loss troubles Rachel deeply primarily because it represents an intolerable rupture of her alternate fairytale-esque lifestyle – with one in particular Detective Sgt. Riley (Allison Janney) simultaneously playing good and bad cop, it becomes apparent that life in upstate New York is not even remotely close to what Rachel imagined it to be.
An artfully-shot, highly-intelligent tale of humanity’s propensity to gloss over or wallow in its misery, depending on what’s needed to get through the day, The Girl on the Train deftly reveals its secrets in such a way that you remain utterly engrossed right to the end.
Granted the ending does cleave a little too closely to the standard finish of your average crime thriller – this is one narrative that would have benefited greatly from the police arriving just-in-time – and melodrama does creep in a little from time to time, but mostly the film holds its melancholy in check, its slow-burning plot and meticulous assembly of the true nature of Rachel’s reality rewarding those patient enough to stick with it to the end.
Draped in unremittingly grey visuals and a penchant for lingering, sometimes near wordless shots and carefully-spoken conversations, The Girl on the Train is a taut, utterly immersive thrilled that is less concerned with the whodunnit aspect of the plot than it is with the messy life decisions that got everyone to the point of no return in the first place.
What if your planet was massacred and you were the sole survivor? What if a legendary figure out of space and time found you a place to hide? But what if the things that want to kill you have tracked you down? And worst of all, what if you haven’t studied for your A-Levels…?
Coal Hill School has been a part of the Doctor Who universe since the very beginning, but that has come at a price. All the time travelling over the years has caused the very walls of space and time to become thin. There’s something pressing in on the other side, something waiting for its chance to kill everyone and everything, to bring us all into Shadow. (synopsis via Digital Spy)
Beware the dangers that lurk in the shadows.
That seems to be the overwhelming, quite unsettling message from the trailers for Class, a new spinoff from Doctor Who penned by noted YA genre author Patrick Ness (A Monster Calls), that centres on a group of students at Coal Hill Academy, a place of learning that has featured heavily in the Time Lord’s adventure’s and which sits, for want of a better term, on an extra-dimensional hellmouth.
That last reference points to the on point pop culture references littering the new show (try The Vampire Diaries, Buffy) which promises to add an extra dimension to humanity’s fight against the nasties out in the universe, a fight to which the Doctor is more often than not called to assist.
But what if he can’t be there all the time, reasons Capaldi’s voiceover, what then? Who stands in his stead?
Well, a bunch of kids named Charlie (Greg Austin) who is not of this planet, April (Sophie Hopkins), Ram (Fady Elsayed) and Tanya (Vivian Oparah), assisted by their physics teacher Miss Quill (Katherine Kelly) who challenges the Shadow Kin, who attack in the first episode in pursuit of an alien enemy hiding in the school’s midst that she is “war itself” and not to be trifled with.
Quite how warlike she is and how well the students of Class are at keeping alien threats at bay will become clear when the show debuts on BBC Three Online (followed terrestrial screening on BBC 1) on 22 October followed by Canada and Australia, where Class will screen on national broadcaster ABC’s iView service.
There’s something oddly compelling about antiheroes.
While they’re not as perfectly put-together as the Prince Charmings of this world, who take more than their fair share of damsels in distress and live happily ever after more often than not, they do have very important relatable quality – they are refreshingly, fallibly human.
In a world constantly cajoling us to better ourselves, to FOMO the hell out of life and to DO BETTER, antiheroes such as Flaked‘s Chip (Will Arnett), ex-alcoholic and bike-riding resident of Venice Beach, are a reassuring reminder that most people, even in L.A., don’t necessarily have it all together, all or even most of the time.
Created by Will Arnett and Mark Chappell, Flaked is one of a string of Netflix originals released this year which take existential angst and its messy outworkings, as the driver of their mid-tempo dramas (think Love, easy).
While the show has been criticised in some quarters as being far too aimless and lacking in any real substance, the fact is that it does an exemplary job of reminding everyone last one of us that humanity is, at best, a messily-flawed pursuit.
We might aim to be selfless, altruistic, the possessors of an exquisitely well-executed life but the reality is that more often than we’d like we come up wanting, disappointing ourselves and others, all our best laid plans looking a little worse for wear.
Chip is the poster boy for life’s disappointed people.
Separated from his ridiculously successful actress wife Tilly (Heather Graham) whose father owns, and is about to sell the shop is which Chip’s less than stellar successful wood furniture store barely sustains some sort of half-life existence, Chip is a man who on the surface is making inroads into his Oprah-esque best life.
He is self-employed (after a fashion), has no trouble attracting bed mates – including tough-as-nails Kara (Lina Esco), with whom he has an on/off/what the hell is this relationship, and London (Ruth Kearney) who is also being pursued by Chip’s best friend and housemate of sorts Dennis (David Sullivan) – and is on the surface a model member of the Alcoholics Anonymous community.
Boxes ticked, life happening, existential disaster on its way to being averted. Or is it?
Thing is that much of what Chip displays to the world is a mirage – his sobriety is undercut daily as he drinks wine disguised in a bottle labelled Kombucha, a tea favoured by the alcohol-averse – a house of cards of lies that is barely kept upright.
He is a man endlessly self-victimised by a propensity to promise big and deliver little; he wants the accolades, the love but constantly puts his own temporary self-interest against the his longer-term good and that of people like Kara who wise up pretty quickly that the spin doctor of wise words and platitudes is all shadows and no substance.
It would be all too easy to consign people like Chip and many of the hopers and dreamers who form his idiosyncratic community of misfits and wannabes, none of whom quite get a passing grade or gold star in life, to the dustbin, censuring them for not making it to the finish line of a successful life.
The reality though is that Flaked, and Chip in particular, who is played to nuanced perfection by Arnett, gives voice to the flawed human beings among us which when you think about it is pretty much all of us.
We don’t want to admit to the fact that we’re not quite measuring up to the lofty expectations we and those around us have of us, and granted Chip et al are overblown characters who fall into a quiet, benign melodrama as things progress (which quickly becomes less benign as the season progresses), but the fact remains that in their on the surface at least chilled beachside lives, they aren’t what the packaging of life sold.
That’s raised some criticism that Flaked doesn’t leave you feeling too good about life.
But in its own quiet, gentle way, punctuated by finely-judged, often-witty dialogue and some glaringly insightful home truths and fine performances across the board, the show does what any drama worth its salt should do and shines a light on the human condition.
It’s not attractive, not always appealing, and possibly not always executed as well as it could be – things do get a tad sudsy towards the end to be fair – but it is real, and that’s reassuring to those of us who feel like we’re destined to never quite reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves.
And in a weird kind of way that’s actually comforting, a pat on the hand, and a knowing nod that life can be a confounding beast at times and that we often slip up far more than is good for us or those around us.
But it’s all part of being human, and Flaked, for its lapses into melodrama and overwrought plots, nicely shines a light on our collective fallibility, taking some of the pressure off and maybe, just maybe, helping us to better appreciate what we do have rather than what we think should be ours.
It’s October, 2008. Young nun Colleen (Addison Timlin) is avoiding all contact from her family, until an email from her mother announces, “Your brother is home.” On returning to her childhood home in Asheville, NC, she finds her old room exactly how she left it: painted black and covered in goth/metal posters. Her parents (Ally Sheedy and Peter Hedges) are happy enough to see her, but unease and awkwardness abounds. Her brother (Keith Poulson) is living as a recluse in the guesthouse since returning home from the Iraq war. During Colleen’s visit, tensions rise and fall with a little help from Halloween, pot cupcakes, and GWAR. Little Sister is a sad comedy about family – a schmaltz-free, pathos-drenched, feel good movie for the little goth girl inside us all. (synopsis via Coming Soon)
Going home to your family, particularly when your life has diverged significantly from what it was when you were with them, is one of those times when the much-quoted axiom that you can never go back makes a whole lot of sense.
Things can never be the same and in all honesty they rarely are, with the same production that has been staged for years still playing to a packed dysfunctional house and the same roles still being acted out.
And naturally you resume your role almost unconsciously.
But the reality is that you can’t avoid going home, which for most of us isn’t a problem but which comes with a weird sense of paradox where we have changed but the dynamic has not.
Fertile ground indeed for an engrossing indie drama and, according to Variety, one that filmmaker Zach Clark uses to impressive effect:
“As sweetly funky and improbably pure-hearted as its young heroine, a trainee nun and erstwhile Goth making peace with her troubled North Carolina family, Clark’s fifth feature is marked by his characteristic brand of distorted realism, though a classically redemptive arc — with even a hint of spiked sentimentality — sounds a new note in his oeuvre. A shade less emotionally daring than the career high of 2013’s White Reindeer, this not-so-twisted Sister could nonetheless prove the helmer’s most audience-friendly work to date — with an added draw for Brat Packers curious to see a potent Ally Sheedy in problem-parent mode.”
Little Sister opened in limited release USA on 14 October.