‘Mrs. America,’ ‘White Lines,’ ‘Hannah Gadsby: Douglas,’ and More—Stream Away!
Now that we’re under June GCQ, let’s check on the latest streaming options
No end of the month blues with a slew of new selections dropping on our favorite streaming services. My personal recommendations would be Mrs. America; with Cate Blanchett a shoo-in to fetch some acting nom’s; and the stand-up comedy show of Hannah Gadsby, for being intelligent, while stretching the boundaries of what we categorize as stand-up.
Space Force (Netflix)
Created by Greg Daniels and Steve Carell (who worked together on The Office, the US version), and with a cast led by Carell, Lisa Kudrow, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Noah Emmerich, and comedian Jimmy O. Yang; you’d expect that above all other things, this limited series would be funny. There’s a great premise of how in this Trump era, POTUS loves his Twitter and social media platforms so much, that he creates a new military arm—'Space Force'. Tasked with protecting satellites and reigniting space travel, it was ripe with possibilities making fun of the military-industrial complex, ambition and hubris, military life in peacetime, and the current President.
Unfortunately, despite all these strong ingredients, the final result is at best, underwhelming. You’re in trouble when one remembers the first episode more for Gen. Laird (Carell) singing to release tension, rather than any of the lines and repartee. Lisa Kudrow as Laird’s wife is relegated to a very minor role; and Chan, a reliable stand-up is completely reined in and wasted. Halfway through the series, the comedy picks up, but it never makes us forget The Office. Carell in Foxcatcher and Battle of the Sexes was truly interesting; here, he just seems to be slumming his way through the role for a Netflix paycheck.
Mrs. America (FX/Hulu and FoxLife)
It’s the 1970’s, and the Women’s Liberation Movement is in full flight. At stake is the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA); and the Movement is sideswiped by the appearance of Republican counter-feminist Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). After unsuccessful runs for Congress, she latches on to fighting the ERA as a way to have conservative American women rally around a cause; and eventually, usher in the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. It’s this juncture of recent American history that’s covered by this compelling Drama series, as created by the people who gave us Mad Men.
Blanchett is nothing more than fantastic as Schlafly, as rather than portraying her as some villainess in a black and white world, there’s a lot of color filled in, and the complexities of the issues are properly raised. The leading lights of the movement—Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, and Shirley Chisholm—are vividly portrayed, and their stories help form our understanding of why and how things happened as they did. Fully expect the top female acting nominations of this year to come from this series.
White Lines (Netflix)
Ibiza in 1999, and Ibiza in the present day, are the two time periods that form the double-helix narrative of this drama series created by Alex Piña, who gave us Money Heist. A British-Spanish production, it chronicles the hedonistic lifestyle that gave birth to the popularity of Ibiza, and how it became the paradise for clubbing and DJ’s. And of course, there’s the crass, commercialized life that’s part of today’s version—aching to be a gambling mecca, and evolve to something altogether different, but still money-motivated and lucrative.
Zoe (Laura Haddock) heads to Ibiza from Manchester when the corpse of her older brother Axel (Tom Rhys Harries) is discovered in Almeria. He had disappeared 20 years ago, a successful DJ, owner of his own club, and seemingly in love with the young daughter of one of the big families in control of the resort island. Much is made of Axel’s back story, his life in Manchester and the move to Ibiza, and the whirlwind life that ensued—and who could have murdered Axel. The music, the drugs, the sex, and the crazed lifestyle are all put in the spotlight, and while the narrative can have gaping holes, you can’t fault the enthusiasm, and fun that the series provides. Incidentally, assistant director Chris Downs is half-Filipino.
The Vast of Night (Amazon Prime)
This debut feature of Andrew Patterson is one gem of an introduction to a director who may be one to watch for the future. It’s that confident, assured, and effective. Set in the late 1950’s, it’s about a young DJ and a switchboard operator in New Mexico discovering a strange audio frequency that carries ominous repercussions for their small town. The title of the film refers to a TV program running at the time, that’s a direct salute to The Twilight Zone. The switchboard operator Fay is played by Sierra McCormick and she’s an entertaining chatterbox, while radio DJ Everett is portrayed by Jake Horowitz.
In any other year, this film, a mash-up of American Graffiti meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind, would be Patterson’s calling card for being given a big project, like a Jurassic Park installment or a minor Star Wars stand-alone. Control of narrative, performance, and camera work are the marks of a promising new director; and on this film Patterson is impressive. You’ll love the one take tracking shot that starts from Fay’s switchboard, through the streets of the town, to a gym and an ongoing basketball game, and ending up at the radio station where Everett works. It’s tension created with nuance and simple, yet effective elements, and all done on a shoestring budget.
Hannah Gadsby: Douglas (Netflix)
If you’re looking for stand-up comedy that dares to challenge, stretch the definition of comedy, and is articulate and intelligent; you’d do well to watch this second special of Australian comedienne Hannah Gadsby. After her successful Nanette, which turned personal trauma into comedy; she switches gears and gifts us with Douglas, named after one of her pet dogs. Her lesbianism, the male patriarchy, male entitlement in Art History, America vs. Australia, her autism—these are just some of the themes of her comedic spiels, and they’re highly original and super-potent.
You’ll love how she connects the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to classical Renaissance art, and her diatribe on how men have made such a bad job of running the world. She calls golf the biggest waste of land, time, and water. And when she talks about her personal experiences as a lesbian and being autistic, she manages to turn comedy into strong social commentary about gender and living on the spectrum. Gadsby’s shows have won awards, and it’s easy to see why. It is comedy of a different order, with so much serious stuff also being talked about.
Lead photo from IMdB