Adam Goldman’s follow-up to his (hit?—it’s certainly got a following in NYC) webseries The Outs is the equally bleak series Whatever this is. Instead of following the intense break-up of a couple, this series tackles a more expansive look at what living in NYC is like, especially for those penniless millennials. Based on the first episode (which you can watch here), Whatever this is seems to be an entertaining series guaranteed to capture the struggle of making it in NYC—without all that privilege that the cast of Girls flaunts.
Speaking of Girls, the female lead Lisa (played by Madeline Wise) comes off as a hard-up Marnie, struggling in a state of poverty she’s uncomfortable with but desperate to appear as a kind person. Her equally hard-up boyfriend Sam (Hunter Canning) works as a PA with fellow friend and roommate Ari (Dylan Marron) to help pay the rent—they have a jar of cash to calculate how close they are to the monthly payment. Whatever this is follows this trio as they navigate the ofttimes cutthroat world of NYC.
With a heterosexual couple at the center, Ari comes off as the cliché GBF. His role seems to exist solely as an enticement to fans of The Outs. That is, until his confessional monologue to a wasted “Real Housewife” emphasizes that he’ll be an equally well-developed character. He also reveals an interesting fact about one of his roommates, adding some emotional mystery to the other characters.
Goldman’s tone here is more comedic than The Outs, but it doesn’t lose any of its bleak outlook on life. However, his “playwright style of writing” proves much more awkward in this series. A scene between the three roommates and friends feels like a terse recital of Neil LaBute dialogue instead of a natural interaction between friends. Goldman’s intensity, which worked for The Outs, doesn’t translate to this “lighter” drama.
Fans of The Outs will certainly revel in the differences between The Outs and Whatever this is. Sasha Winters plays a fellow PA who delivers one or two snarky comments (one can only hope that she’ll play a larger a role in the upcoming episodes). Beloved Scruffy (Tommy Heleringer) also plays a fellow PA—this time he’s clean-shaven—in a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo (Spoiler Alert: previews of the rest of the series—and his inclusion in the publicity photos—imply that he’ll reappear in a greater capacity). And, in amusing contrast, Canning sports some of the scruff that Heleringer now lacks, adding to his heterosexual look that’s perfected by his white ankle socks and cargo shorts. Playing against their previous types seems almost too obvious an acting choice, but the actors are very capable in these roles.
Having only seen the first episode, this series feels unsure of what it wants to be; but paired with the preview of the rest of the series, you can rest assured that intriguing drama will follow (and another cameo by Alan Cumming). Yet that unsurety of tone drives home Goldman’s message of how disappointment and desperation fuels this generation’s struggle in unfulfilling jobs as they strive for success.
[As of this posting, the kickstarter for this series is still accepting pledges. And if you pledge $30 or more you can get a download of The Outs!]
Posted by xoxojk on July 31, 2013
I’m sure you’re familiar with actress Lauren Graham—you know, from Gilmore Girls and Parenthood—but did you know she wrote a novel? Someday, Someday, Maybe is in the same vein as Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing: a look at the world of film & television from a newcomer’s perspective. But, whereas Weiner’s novel is a thinly-veiled account of her recent attempts to helm a TV show, Graham’s is just a predictable account of a struggling actress in NYC in 1995.
Franny Banks (named after the eponymous J.D. Salinger character) has a deadline of six more months to “make it” in acting. While she’s not sure what exactly that constitutes, she doesn’t want to end up one of those failed actresses who doesn’t know when to quit. She lives in Brooklyn with best friend Jane who works as a PA and quiet, tall Dan who’s diligently penning a sci-fi screenplay. Through her acting class she lands an agent who helps her get into auditions and meets handsome, charming, up-and-coming actor James. From there builds an obvious love triangle and obvious career arc as Graham explores those six months of Franny’s life.
Despite of all its frustrating predictabilities, Graham remains an amusing writer. Franny’s sense of humor, expressed in the first person, is funny enough to elicit many laughs even when she overthinks most moments with frustrating tedium. And Graham’s reflections on life in NYC in the 90s is amusing as well, although it does make the story feel especially outdated. I would like to see Graham attempt a more contemporary and original story instead of this unnecessary retread of chick lit tropes.
I really wanted to love this novel (she even incorporates lyrics to one of my favorite Sondheim songs), which is what makes its mediocrity so much more disappointing.
Posted by xoxojk on July 22, 2013
A Nearly Perfect Copy tells two very different yet tangentially connected stories about copies—one involving cloning, the other art forgeries. Reeling from the devastating loss of her young son, Elm falls down a rabbit hole of science-fiction proportions when she discovers a way to potentially clone her son, thus returning him to her. Meanwhile, struggling painter Gabriel Connois gets involved in a lucrative art forgery plot as he puts to use his skills at creating paintings in the style of his great-grandfather, the renowned painter Marcel Connois.
Both stories could be compelling, fully-imagined stories in their own right; but author Allison Amend mashes these two stories together in a very trite and arbitrary way. While both characters are well developed, the parallel worlds they inhabit are hard to jump back and forth between. And Elm’s professional life as an art expert in an auction house distracts from her cloning plotline as Amend tries to make her career relevant to Gabriel’s life.
In the end, A Nearly Perfect Copy suffers from trying too hard. Amend is desperately trying to engage the reader in a conversation about copying, whether in art or in our personal lives. And although she has some valid arguments to present, her convoluted novel is not the ideal setting for such a discussion—especially with such depressing storylines weighing down the central characters and the novel’s tone.
Posted by xoxojk on May 9, 2013