Sneaky Pete

Ever thought about starting over? Wanted to avoid your past coming back to haunt you? How about completely remaking yourself settle a debt? That’s exactly what con man Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) Josipovic does when he takes his cellmate, Pete Murphy’s identity. After hearing story after story of Pete’s grandparents idyllic farm Marius decides to try and swindle them under Pete’s identity.

He needs to settle a 100,000 debt with crooked cop Vince (played by executive producer Bryan Cranston) who took Marius’s brother Eddie as collateral to work at his poker den. Marius believes that the con should be fairly quick. However, things become much more complicated than they appear.

I watch enough television where I’m usually able to predict a lot of a series plot within the first fifteen minutes. What is brilliant about Sneaky Pete is that it treats the viewer a bit like they are the mark, revealing the con little by little, while using side stories of characters as a distraction from the real issue. This is highlighted by the exceptional casting of the Murphy family as well as Ribisi.  Who is able to carry the show’s twists and turns with such depth and pain that Amazon should be thanking him for not needing to budget in an Emmy campaign. Margo Martindale continues to steal every scene she is in as the family Matriarch Audrey. Her relationship with Otto (Peter Gerety), the patriarch and his downward health spiral adds a wonderful depth to the characters that makes the viewers empathize on multiple levels. Throughout the course of the season the viewer sees the whole ensemble (including a standout performance by the youngest Murphy child Carley played by newcomer Libe Barer) grapple with everything from familial strife to warring businesses.

Bryan Cranston is no stranger to playing morally flawed characters. He plays the villain Vince with a sadness and loneliness that allows the character not to become a caricature. The plot and dialogue moves forward swiftly, at some points it reflects the traditional tongue in cheek nature of heist movies where Marius’s true identity almost gets revealed to the Murphy family. Like those old movies, the slick anti-hero always manages to stay safe. The tension is maintained so well that at some points I didn’t know if I wanted to keep watching or turn it off.

The series is incredibly refreshing, with great writing and an even better cast. The plot and pacing starts out quick and is able to maintain it’s twists and turns right up to the final shot. I would definitely recommend Sneaky Pete, though be careful because it might consume your whole weekend!

Sneaky Pete is available to stream on Amazon Prime with a subscription.

 

 

One Mississippi

I’ve been a fan of Tig Notaro’s stand up for a while now and loved her Documentary “Tig” (now streaming on Netflix). So when I saw that she had a new series streaming on Amazon Prime I immediately added it to my list. One Mississippi is a loosely biographical dramedy about Tig, who  -after having serious health problems of her own – returns to her childhood home in Mississippi after her moms death.

The series opens with Tig  heading back to Mississippi from LA to watch as her mom is pulled off life support after a fatal fall. She is joined by her brother Remy (Noah Harpster) and her Stepfather Bill (John Rothman). The show is loosely chronological and follows the aftermath of Tig’s mothers death as well as presenting some flashbacks from her complicated childhood.  Tigs sharp and often brutally dry humor is peppered throughout every scene. This is evidently displayed in the character of Bill, whose lack of compassion after Tig and Remy’s mothers death is written so astutely it garnered a fair amount of laughs along with a tinge of heartache. Remy and Tig’s relationship is incredibly nuanced and a core center of the series. It is quickly clear that they don’t have anything in common but they are forever bonded through their slightly tragic childhood.

The sleepy setting of the Mississippi Bayou adds wonderful scenery that allows for a colorful cast of supporting characters, from Tigs and Remy’s drunken father to the old southern ladies that head the Mardi Gras festivities. Some of the best comedic moments involve Tig’s LA girlfriend (Casey Wilson) asserting her culture of probiotic shakes and crystals on that of Bill and Remy’s Mississippi southern lifestyle. The flashbacks with Tig and her mother are not overdone and help to balance how Tig viewed her mother before her death and helps to paint a fuller picture as Tig discovers secrets about her mom after her death.

Throughout the series Tig suffers a series of personal and professional setbacks. Like in her standup, she doesn’t make the viewer feel sorry for her or play the victim. Although it compares quite closely to Tig’s real life it also distances the realism through a series of over the top secondary characters. The series is incredibly refreshing but still is able to carry the emotional weight of the dark subject matter. Combined with a great cast, dialogue, and setting and should be next on your streaming list.

One Mississippi is available to stream on Amazon Prime with a subscription

 

Fleabag

As the weather has quickly turned from sweltering summer to grey chilly weekends, I’ve returned inside for hibernating mode. This includes, baking, knitwear, and excessive binge watching.  This weekend I discovered the wonderful Amazon Prime show (originally BBC) Fleabag. Dubbed the British answer to Girls Fleabag is a wonderful feminist comedy that highlights the struggles and joys of trying to figure out your 20’s. Similarly to Dunham, Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes, produces, and stars as the main character Fleabag (a childhood nickname).

The Girls characters are known for being narcissistic millennials and Fleabag is no exception. Though her self-awareness separates herself by managing to remain endearingly vulnerable and relatable. Part of Fleabags charm has to do with Waller-Bridges’ wonderful acting and witty dialogue, the other has to do with her breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the viewer . The commentary ranges from her making excellent faces to updating the viewer on the lies she tells others in the show. This makes the viewer connect with Fleabag on another level – as if she’s saying what everyone really thinks.

The joy of Fleabag is that for all of her misgivings everyone else in her life is equally awful, from her uptight sister, absent father, and evil stepmother (played by the always wonderful Olivia Coleman). Rounding out Fleabags family is her best friend Boo, obnoxious brother in law and a parade of men. From her too sweet off and on again boyfriend Harry to various hookups Fleabag manages to expertly show the range of relationships young single millennial women deal. Throughout the season Fleabag uses the men for physical relationships, though often it seems she is getting nothing from them at all. As one scene with Harry she only achieves orgasm on her own, showing that really she’s using these men to hide her loneliness or to show her family she’s successful.

The show has this feminist perspective throughout and passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Especially in scenes with Fleabag and her perennially uptight sister Claire (Sian Clifford) and how they deal with the loss of their mother. It expertly captures the nuances of a older/younger sister dynamic while making both characters appear relatable despite their many flaws.

All in all Fleabag is a wonderful, crude, feminist look into the mind of young 20somethings in 2016 and says what most are thinking. Accompanied by a great soundtrack and a well rounded cast Fleabag is your next show to binge watch this weekend.

Fleabag Season 1 (6 episodes) is available to stream on Amazon Prime with subscription