“Philadelphia” takes Abbi and Ilana out of their usual New York City environment as they go on a nostalgic adventure in Pennsylvania. While visiting Abbi’s dad (played by an endearing Tony Danza), the duo must confront physical and emotional memories and see how well they fit in back in Abbi’s hometown. Needless to say, things get awkward pretty quickly.
Given New York City’s notoriously high rent, it makes sense to wonder how Abbi and Ilana even manage to afford their apartments in Broad City. “Rat Pack,” the fourth episode of Season 3, plays with the contrast between the women’s love of nice things (food, men, homes) and their readiness to sink or rise to extremes given the reality of their less-than-ideal circumstances. They respond to questionable circumstances with clever logic that, though it leads to an entertaining evening of cat and mouse, doesn’t exactly improve those circumstances.
New and old, YouTube and MTV collide in “Game Over,” the third episode of Broad City’s third season. The episode looks at overlaps between Abbi and Ilana’s personal and professional talents and troubles. As Ilana faces new responsibilities and the threat of termination from her job at Deals Deals Deals, Abbi fears a team-building day at Soulstice where her aggression is bound to take over. The characters here consider how to figure out where to draw the line and to recognize once you’ve crossed it.
Broad City continues its take on the New York 20-something life with “Co-Op,” an episode that explores concepts of maturity and identity in relation to food and sex. With Ilana off to an important doctor’s appointment, Abbi agrees to stand in for her at the food co-op where she owes six hours of service by the end of the day. At the start of the episode, Abbi seems to be on surer footing than Ilana, who has slacked off instead of doing her co-op shifts and whose outrageous clothing, language, and overall persona seem like a fun impersonation challenge for Abbi. By the episode’s end, however, it’s clear that playing Ilana, and then choosing to taking advantage of a romantic opportunity the experience provides, allows Abbi to fall into a trap of dishonesty. She’s hardly in the clear on the morality scale here. That becomes a theme throughout the plot: both women try to do their best to do what seemsright, and in doing so they miss the mark—the mess multiplies.
Broad City is nothing if not self-aware, often at the expense of its hilariously oblivious main characters. The third season starts off on a strong note by playing up the contrast between Abbi and Ilana, the 20-something best friends whose adventures in NYC make up the plot of the show, and Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the dynamic duo of writers, creators, and stars who also serve as executive producers alongside comedy veteran Amy Poehler. Jacobson and Glazer demonstrate in this premiere their by-now-familiar mastery of comedic timing, topical dialogue, and the relationship between the irreverent and the relevant. After a long hiatus, the wit and wonder with which the writers imbue their characters comes as a welcome breath of stinky New York air—and it should bring just as much comfort and laughter as hoped to an audience of millennials stuck in a proverbial rut.
In The Big Short, everyone is sold short. No one wins and there’s no real protagonist, as we’re reminded to root more for an entire populace than any individual character. Based on Michael Lewis’ book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, the movie shows that, when it comes to the housing bubble that burst in 2008, we all lost. Adam McKay’s comedy-drama focuses on what it meant to see the crisis coming. What it meant, that is, for an audience already aware that the crisis wasn’t averted.
Peggy Guggenheim comes across, in Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s new documentary Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, more as an art enthusiast than an art expert. This is, in fact, one of the most appealing aspects of the film – the sense of discovery that we enjoy along with the subject, even though it also ensures that the content stays largely above the surface of Peggy’s historical context. Peggy initially embraced modern art due to her own curiosity in the community it involved. No artist, she inserted herself into the art world partially as a way to latch onto and then sell what she chose as her ideas and values. She became a collector because she could and wanted to; the privilege of being born a Guggenheim allowed her to entrench herself fully in her chosen hobby-turned-career, even as she struggled with a sense of alienation within the family after her promiscuous father’s death on the Titanic.
Finders Keepers balances the rollicking humor of its subject matter with a surprising level of compassion. The documentary stems from a viral news story that seems like fodder for a horror movie or niche reality TV show, and directors Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel don’t shy away from the weirdness as they lay out the basic plot. As we see in the film, Shannon Whisnant, an experienced bargain hunter, purchases a grill at an auction in 2007 and later discovers an amputated human foot inside. The foot’s original owner, John Wood, wants the embalmed limb back. The ensuing battle is as sad as it is bizarre, with commentary from the two men along with their families providing enough emotional context to ground the documentary in reality.
Although Homme Less functions as a documentary, the experience of watching the film feels more like tuning in to a voyeuristic reality TV special about a has-been star. Mark Reay’s nomadic, exciting way of living lends itself well to Thomas Wirthensohn’s cinematic exploration of what it means for a creatively inclined, staunchly independent person to call New York home. Deeply entertaining and frank, the film never compels viewers to pity Reay, who revels in offering us a tour of his scrappy, persistent existence. Reay’s sense of pride pervades the film in a way that underscores the difference between the actual content of the film and what its title might suggest. This film definitely isn’t Homeless, and what forms the core of the film is Reay’s self-confidence, rather than any social or political commentary on homelessness in New York.
Episode 11 creates opportunities for escape and confrontation. From Angie (Julie Lake) capitalizing on a clerical error to Healy (Michael J. Harney) ousting Berdie (Marsha Stephanie Blake) from her stint as a counselor, we see both inmates and officers toiling with the paths they’re on and, in many cases, turning in a new direction. Caputo (Nick Sandow) features prominently in flashbacks that detail how he ended up in his not-so-glamorous role at Litchfield. He wrestles with the idea that he may relate more to the guards’ push for unionization than to MCC’s hands-off, profit-based approach to prison management, and how standing up for the guards might mean becoming a more confrontational person.
When we first met Leanne (Emma Myles) in Season 1, she was a follower of Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning)—and a follower in general. Her willingness to subscribe to a belief system and to admire a leader isn’t new. In Episode 9 of Season 3, our exploration of Leanne’s back story delves deeper into the life of a familiar character, one whose behavior related to the dogma surrounding Norma (Annie Golden) might otherwise seem less justifiably bad.
Taylor Schilling plays Emily in Patrick Brice’s film The Overnight, also featuring Adam Scott, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche. Last week, Cut Print Film had the chance to speak with Taylor about the accessibility and immediacy of the movie, Piper’s embrace of power in Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black, and what it means to believe in yourself.
Sometimes the people who say the least hold the most power. In Season 3, Episode 7, we’re blessed with an increased understanding of what it means to believe in something—and how a believer can become someone revered. Norma (Annie Golden) is featured heavily here, and it’s a welcome exploration of another character we, and the other inmates, always see but seldom (and never literally) hear.
The fifth episode of Season 3 provides a compelling reminder of the relative, transient nature of home. While Flaca (Jackie Cruz) jumps at the chance to leave her comfortable position in Gloria’s (Selenis Mendoza) kitchen, Red (Kate Mulgrew) yearns for a return there at any cost. Red needs a sense of the familiar in order to feel powerful and to find a purpose now that she’s estranged from her husband and sons. Flaca, on the other hand, needs more than the comfort of her kitchen family and believes her ambition sets her apart from her friends. Even in prison, the idea of sticking to a situation just because things are “gelling” seems awfully simpleminded. She’s determined to find something better, to stave off the assumption that she should just go with the flow. “When I wear that apron in the kitchen,” she explains to Maritza (Diane Guerrero), “I’m really wearing it ironically.”
Since Season 1 of OITNB, Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) has been an intriguingly hardened yet sympathetic character. Using sarcasm as a constant defense mechanism, she puts up so many barriers that it might be easy to dismiss the character as a drug-dealing trope off of whom other characters bounce their troubles. What makes Nicky a more sustainable character than that is her honesty. She tells everything like it is, at least concerning others. She’s fiercely loyal to mother figure Red (Kate Mulgrew) and provides a serious level of support for Lorna (Yael Stone).
Patrick Brice’s The Overnight better resembles a journey than a romp—evidence of the director’s respect for the story he tells. Instead of simply catering to our curiosities as the predictably unpredictable night unfolds, the film compels the audience to take a step back and look through a few different lenses, avoiding the oversimplification of its hyped-up storyline. Brice’s evident ambitions remain humble, and the film never suggests it’s trying to comment too broadly on anything aside from the characters and plots it features. The story is extremely well paced as a result of being deliberately contained to this one shared experience, without excess exposition to drag things out.
The premiere of Orange Is the New Black’s third season doesn’t waste any time with exposition. The show assumes you’ve already spent over twenty hours in rapt attention and, as such, caters to those already interested in its ensemble of characters. Even if you don’t remember what happened at the end of Season 2, you’ll appreciate this introduction best if you have some stake in the major relationships and storylines at play. That’s partially because the players shaking things up in last year’s main climax—like Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) and Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat)—have left behind a group of familiar faces in the regulars who have no way out.
Orange Is the New Black’s highly-anticipated third season launches on Netflix on June 12. I’ll be reviewing the entire season here at CutPrintFilm in the coming weeks, and I’m lucky enough to have seen the first six episodes already. You are in for a ride, as these episodes contain the stark humanity, dry humor, and bits of the bizarre we’ve come to expect from the show, many seeming even more tightly woven by theme and emotional content.