film fatales #51: mikey and nicky (elaine may, 1976)
minding the gap (bing liu, 2018)

russian doll

Pretty much everyone I've read who offers up an introductory review of Russian Doll says the same thing: the less you know going in, the better. The trailer, which you can find at the bottom of this post, does a decent job of making you believe you know what the show is about without actually telling you, so it's safe. But for the most part, it's true: you don't want to know anything before you watch Russian Doll. So what I say here will be purposely vague and fragmented.

A friend asked me if they should watch it. I replied that I couldn't decide about Russian Doll, at least as something I'd recommend. If, like me, you think Natasha Lyonne can do no wrong, then it's a no-brainer to watch an 8-episode show she co-created, co-wrote, directed an episode, and is the star. And if she drives you crazy, don't watch! I thought it was kinda funny, then mid-way it took a darker turn, then I guess maybe it had a happy ending, not sure. It's one of those confusing shows. And even there, I've said more about it than I should ... it's best to come at it blind. I liked it.

My friend's comment was, "You had me at Natasha Lyonne", and so yeah, if you are a fan, by all means, jump right in. The 8 episodes are all 30 minutes or less, so it's not a big batch of time to watch the whole thing. I'm not big on binging, myself, but I watched Russian Doll in two days.

On the other hand, when I mentioned the show to my brother, he was basically "who's Natasha Lyonne", so it didn't do him any good to say his feelings towards her would affect how he liked the show. I mentioned But I'm a Cheerleader, but he hadn't seen that. He knew the name from Orange Is the New Black, but hadn't seen the show. Movies like The Intervention are too obscure for anyone to have seen them. And he's 71 years old and not really the target audience for the American Pie movies. He finally remembered her when I mentioned her role as Opal in Pee-wee's Playhouse, which was interesting since she was only 7 years old when she made that show, and she was only in the first season (clearly she made quite an impression!).

This gives me an excuse to show a favorite YouTube video, if you can get past the rather slimy interviewer:

I suppose I should say something about Russian Doll. I could mention the cast, which includes Charlie Barnett, Elizabeth Ashley, Dascha Polanco, Burt Young, and Chloë Sevigny, all of whom are great. (When Ashley and Lyonne get together, it's a marvelous blend of two wonderfully scratchy voices.) I'm not usually a fan of stories that are complicated enough to confuse me, but Russian Doll moves so quickly and Lyonne is so watchable that I didn't mind in this case. And I can't say I understood the ending, but it brought me to tears of joy. Go figure.

Honestly, if after reading the above, you think you'd like Russian Doll, you are probably right. Which I guess is my thumbs-up recommendation.



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