A Coen classic, cut short sci-fi and current comedy are all commended as Matt brings the latest of our next best recommendations on Netflix.
With the recent release of the follow-up series of the same name airing on Channel 4 this past summer, now would be a good time to watch this cult classic if you haven’t already.
Written and directed by the Coen Brothers, Fargo is a dark comedy crime thriller set in and around the sparsely populated town of Fargo, North Dakota. The protagonist and main star of the movie is Marge Gunderson (played by Frances McDormand), a cheery Minnesotan police chief who is seven months pregnant. The humour of the film comes from the contrast between her jolly, courteous demeanour, and the grotesque nature of the homicides she has to investigate.
The film stars William H. Macy as Jerry Lundegaard, a struggling car salesman who hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife. His plan is to convince his wealthy father-in-law to pay the huge ransom fee to get her back, which Jerry can then split with the kidnappers. What could possibly go wrong? (Hint: everything.)
In classic Coen Brothers’ style, the nonchalant portrayal of the various atrocities in the film is what makes it so stylistically brilliant. At every turn you will be truly unable to predict what will happen next. If you’re craving a movie that breaks typical plot conventions and leaves you smiling in suspense, then Fargo is a must see title on Netflix.
If science fiction rather than dark comedy, and TV rather than film are more your scenes, then perhaps Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse is the Netflix selection you’ve been searching for.
This two season series follows the work of the ‘Dollhouse’, an illegal underground establishment which has the technology to erase peoples’ minds and reprogram them with newly crafted personalities. These new personas are then rented out for a large fee to perform specific tasks: crimes or fantasies – whatever is required by the company’s clients. The ‘dolls’ (or ‘Actives’) in the Dollhouse have all agreed to sign five years of their life away to this corporation, after which they will be given a huge sum of money, have their old personalities restored and have no memory of the assignments they completed.
“In their resting state, our actives are as innocent and vulnerable as children. We call it the “Tabula Rasa”. The blank slate. Now imagine the imprint process filling it, creating a new personality. A friend, a lover, a confidant in a sea of enemies. Your heart’s desire made flesh. And when the engagement has been completed, all memory of you and your time together will be wiped clean.”
The favourite and most frequently used Active is Echo, played by Eliza Dushku. Due to the nature of the role, you really get to see her full potential as an actor as she plays a new character every episode, showcasing Dushku’s commitment even in this short-lived series.
The plot usually revolves around Echo’s personas being endangered due to assignments gone wrong, with her often having to use her newly programmed skills to get herself out of these rogue situations. In its typical American action/sci-fi style, Dollhouse definitely follows a formulaic sequence each episode, but the complex overarching plots and fleshed out characters which come into fruition as the show progresses, make for a consistently thought-provoking and refreshingly action packed series.
Orange Is the New Black
Now if you’re looking for your next Netflix binge, you needn’t look beyond Orange Is the New Black. A Netflix original, the series follows the story of Piper Chapman, a middle class white woman in her 30s who finds herself sentenced to do time in an all-female New York prison.
The stark contrast from her pristine life of privilege to the (literally and figuratively) girl-eat-girl prison world she now finds herself in, provides a brilliant combination of tension and comedy. The show takes a few episodes to get into full swing, but once it does, you’ll be so involved with the characters that you might just feel that you too have been incarcerated into Litchfield Penitentiary.
“I have been here for less than two weeks. I’ve been starved out, felt up, teased, stalked, threatened, and called Taylor Swift.”.
Though the show is a black comedy, its greatest moments come from when the focus gradually shifts from Piper to her fellow inmates (particularly in season two), each of whom have their own heartfelt back stories and crimes waiting to be revealed through flashbacks.
The portrayal of these non-white, non-straight, working class, female characters is what puts OITNB at the forefront of many social issues which are commonly neglected in modern media, which include transgender issues, racial inequality, and the broken state of the American justice system. Though Piper’s integration into prison life is the initial fishhook of the show, the phenomenal and diverse supporting cast is what make its two seasons so unique, entertaining and poignant.