The Latest Streaming Options: Drama and Comedy
Two highly anticipated drama series dropped on Amazon Prime the past weekend, and new comedy releases on Netflix
The third weekend of May brought drama and comedy to the forefront on both Amazon Prime and Netflix. Happy binge-watching!
Little Fires Everywhere (Amazon Prime)
Based on the excellent 2017 novel of Celeste Ng, the 8-episode series should be a fitting farewell to its director, Lynn Shelton, who just passed away May 16 from a previously undiagnosed blood disorder. It stars Reese Witherspoon as Elena Richardson, mother of four and living with her husband in upscale Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Kerry Washington as African-American single mother and artist Mia, who travels from town to town, with daughter Pearl in tow. Set in the 1990s, it’s a penetrating domestic drama that speaks eloquently of race, class, and the different manifestations of maternal love.
The series opens with the Richardson house being consumed by a fire, and the mystery of how this happened becomes the story that unfolds in flashback form. Witherspoon is impressive as Elena, the brittle, seemingly perfect Mom, but the acting nominations that may come will go to Kerry Washington and her Mia, an altogether more complex portrayal. To be commended is how the series makes full characters of the children. Elena has the rebellious goth daughter, and one mini-me, while Pearl has her own issues. This one has substance; and we anticipate the confrontations between these two proud mothers.
The Lovebirds (Netflix)
Kumail Nanjiani and director Michael Showalter reunite for this new romcom on Netflix. Previously, the two had worked on the semi-autobiographical The Big Sick, written by Nanjiani. Here in Lovebirds, the love (or break-up) interest is Issa Rae. I mention break-up as that’s the premise for the start of the film, how the relationship is screeching to an end when an unexpected cyclist ends up crashing on the windshield of the couple’s car.
It’s from that point that a madcap, modern-day screwball comedy gets started. It’s one misadventure after another, string by the repartee between our two lovebirds. It’s also the same point when you either allow yourself to be suckered in, and appreciate the few laughs this film produces. Or, categorize this as just another if the disposable films Netflix buys and drops on us to maintain a steady stream of content. I loved The Big Sick, so I have to admit how disappointed I was to find myself so underwhelmed by this film. Nanjiani seems to be stuck in this persona, and it’s Issa Rae trying to keep the material afloat. Pleasant diversion, but forgettable the moment the credits start rolling.
Homecoming (Amazon Prime)
Last season’s Homecoming starred Julia Roberts, and provided a dark and mysterious premise of a Center that transitioned military veterans into civilian life in a manner that raised questions of ethics and propriety. Critically acclaimed, it has naturally spawned a second season and Roberts now acts as co-Executive Producer. The central character this season is Jackie (Janelle Monáe), who we first encounter abandoned on a rowboat in the middle of a lake. Expunged of any memory as to who she is or why she should be there in the lake, are the questions that form the main narrative strand of this 7-episode drama series.
Is Jackie a military vet who served with the Airborne, or is she a junkie, or an attorney, or none of the above? The series concentrates on unraveling the mystery; but honestly, it doesn’t have quite the impact of the first season. A number of the more interesting support cast of season 1 are back—like Hong Chau as Audrey Temple (but Bobby Cannavale as Colin isn’t back). Chris Cooper and Joan Cusack are among this season’s cast; but it takes more than committed acting and creepy music to spark real interest in this series that operates far too much in the shadow of the first season.
Huge in France
This 8-episode drama/comedy series has one wonderful premise, and stars noted French comedian Gad Elmaleh as himself. With over 1.6 million followers on social media, Gad is a certified success story in his native France, but when he lands in LA to try and be a father to his only son (who lives with his mom and ex-actor/stepfather), Gad is virtually a nobody. It’s this fish out of water, or fish in the wrong pond, storyline that propels this series. The comedy comes from taking on fame, method acting, social influencing and entrepreneurship, and the world of male models.
Jerry Seinfeld, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Tyson Beckford play themselves, and it gives the series some punch in the surprise cameo department. If there is a fault to the series, I would say it could have used some editing. There’s a running gag about dick jokes that goes on for far too long; and the dramatic moments over-reach to our discomfort. Moments when they’re being straight-faced about male modeling and method acting are far more satisfying from a comedy standpoint. Enjoyable, and Gad is genuinely funny.
Lead photos from IMdB