Russian Doll

natasha-lyonne-russian-doll-netflix

!!!! I loved it!!!! So much attention to detail, so interesting and beautiful and well-made. Complex but not trying to be just for the sake of complexity! Very rare these days!!! Eight episodes was perfect, Farran was hot, Oatmeal was the perfect name for that cat, what more could you want???

Natasha Lyonne plays Nadia and Charlie Barnett plays Alan, two people who die but then keep coming back to life in their bathrooms to relive the same day over and over until they die at the same time. (Same time as each other, different times each day). Eventually they meet in an elevator and realize they’re linked in this Groundhog’s Day Death Parade and begin to try to help each other and figure it out.

Nadia keeps coming back during her 36th birthday party, thrown for her by her friend Maxine (Greta Lee) whose eye makeup and comedic timing are so perfect you fall in love with her each time even as she is tasked with singing “Birthday Babyyy” in a torturous loop. Over time we learn Nadia is superstitious about this birthday because it is the one where she outlives her mother, brilliantly played in a single episode (Maybe two?) by Chloe Sevigny. Her mother was erratic and mentally ill and eventually had to surrender the care of Nadia to her friend/therapist Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley) then died a year later.

We begin with Nadia and don’t learn until a few episodes in that she shares this repetitive fate with Alan, a man forced to return to the night he was going to propose to his girlfriend (Dascha Polanco) but finds out she is cheating on him, is broken up with, and ultimately decides to kill himself.

There are interesting intersections and overlaps between their lives, Alan plays one of the video games Nadia coded, Nadia fucked the man Alan’s girlfriend was cheating on him with, they’re both deathly allergic to bees-but most notable is their respective relationships with Farran (Ritesh Rajan). He is Alan’s longtime friend and Nadia’s deli guy who has joint custody of her cat.

There’s so many twists and turns each of them try to go down to fix what’s happening, only to be met with a wrong answer in the form of death. Nadia drags this guy John (Yul Vazquez) she broke up with to a synagogue to see if Maxine’s apartment is haunted, she also keeps getting blown up in Ruth’s apartment by a gas leak trying to get a book for his daughter. In all these mistrials we learn more about each of them. Nadia is headstrong and independent to a fault, never allowing anyone to help her and always choosing herself over others. Alan is more isolating in his refusal to get help, remaining in a relationship for nine years despite not communicating his worries and feelings of failure with her and refusing to get therapy. (If any of this sounds like you, do everyone a favor and get therapy!!!).

I also loved how the more they entered each other’s lives, the more details about people they thought they knew shook loose-like how Alan learned about Mike, or that Farran’s girlfriend cheated on him in the beginning of their relationship, or how Alan told Lizzy that Nadia felt bad for telling her not to adopt the Bullmastiff puppies. I liked that reminder that you can feel like you know someone really well but truthfully they’re responding to you in a pattern and if you break up the pattern you’ll get a different response. I think that’s a helpful reminder.

Normally I post about the plot and what happens but I don’t really feel the need to do a recap with this, so I’ll just say all the things I liked.

That fucking bathroom door. Carved wood with a lit blue gem abyss and a working gun handle??? Hello??? Incredible. (Also the overhead bathroom shot where they shared a wall was so satisfying it made me breathe different). Lizzy, (Rebecca Henderson) was amazingly performed and written-the dialogue in general was knockout. There’s a part where Nadia is talking to Farran about a script he is writing and he says he’s caught up on dialogue and it makes him feel as if he doesn’t know how people talk and she says it’s like breathing, if you start paying too much attention to it you fuck it up-it only highlighted how INCREDIBLE the dialogue in this was, everyone felt real and had depth and was funny and endearing and succinct and fresh. Every SINGLE character, even Lizzy’s hookup who gives Alan the scarf and probably has three lines in the whole thing, felt like a fully formed unique person. No one felt like a trope or something you’ve seen before or a throwaway.

That was one of my favorite things about this, how intentional everything felt. There were these thematic echoes that I’m sure had meaning if I thought about it more but I just enjoyed feeling of being taken care of in the world-like the fish in both Maxine and Alan’s place. And the color of the title cards, when it was just Nadia they were red, then when we started with Alan they were light blue, then them together was this light pink. The one with her mother was burnt orange and the final episode with their potential Real Deaths were black. I live for that shit.

I do also need to take a moment to commend whoever did the styling and makeup for this show. Natasha Lyonne’s makeup was honestly almost a character in this for me-the first time she dies, she looks SO striking-the angle of her head and the severity of the eye makeup was magical. Also it became a marker for the resets, the longer she went without dying the more messy and faded it became, then when she would reappear in the bathroom it was intense and fresh again. Maxine’s blue negative space eyeliner??? her whole outfit–gauzy blue sleeves with a delicate gold chainmail overlay with STIRRUP pants and camel leather slides?????, Lizzy’s white overalls with her pixie cut and charcoal v-neck, also that lite bondage lingerie piece Natasha wears in the scene where she fucks Alan MADE me want to go buy a bra with straps which I’ve NEVER understood before. Everyone’s outfit fit them perfectly and communicated something about them and was so GOOD. 90 percent of the time clothes are boring or just regurgitating trend. To see something unique and communicative, it literally sang to me. The shade and shape of Natasha Lyonne’s hair in this movie and the line about her being the amalgam of Andrew Dice Clay and the girl from Brave was absolutely everything. The writing in this thing!!!! (Ketchup and Mustard for the fish names were great and I loved that we never learned Alan’s fish’s name!!!)

I loved how the fruit was dying?? And that we only got a mini lecture on the time space continuum and dimensionality and that a woman gave it to us.

Also lol how everyone was fucking Mike (Jeremy Lowell Bobb) (lol) and he was awful!! The line, “You’re the hole where a choice should be” was such an interesting way to describe that destructive relationship a lot of people find themselves falling into. I loved Nadia’s roof speech where Alan is like, “Do you promise if I don’t jump I’ll be happy?” and she’s like, “Absolutely not but I do promise you won’t be alone.” That shift from happiness to community was really cool to me and then at the end, even though they did fuck, they weren’t holding hands as they walked under the tunnel together, they were just walking beside each other and I like that romantic relationships weren’t the solution in this case, simply people seeing you and caring. Like I don’t think they end up together in the end and I love that- I think they’re just friends and as someone turning 30 who values so many of my close friendships and doesn’t think I’m ready for a romantic partnership in the way I would want to have one, I loved it!!!!

I loved the detail that the homeless guy (Brendan Sexton III) always came to the realization that he wanted to cut her hair, that was such an interesting piece of this. His character was one of my favorite because he was one of the only ones who morphed depending on timeline, you couldn’t tell if he was good or harmful or what his deal was. His power dynamic kept shifting as well, sometimes he needed protection (when she kept someone from stealing his shoes), sometimes he was in the position of helper (when he had Oatmeal), and sometimes he seemed a little nefarious (when he brought drunk Alan back to his friends and it felt like they were going to rob him). He was the only one who kept coming up who didn’t know them personally, but Nadia thought she recognized him in the first episode, then in the last episode he is the horse in the death parade so maybe he’s a God figure or some other-worldly element. I’d have to think about it more or watch it again and right now I’m happy just to bask in the art.

The artistry of it was incredible, the ideas not too far behind. I REALLY enjoyed this, I worry that it is a series and they will make more and I’ll be disappointed I kind of want to live in this perfect bubble but maybe they’ll make more and they’ll be great or maybe they’ll never make any more and I’ll be sad. Life is about not knowing and accepting change and telling people you love them and looking for cats!! This review wasn’t funny, only earnest and it’s because I haven’t done one in a while and I keep expelling bloody mucus because I’m sick with a virus but also sentimentality. Ok bye!

152,780.86 out of 152,780.86 gold Krugerrands, will masturbate again.

 

 

 

 

 

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