Netflix Review – Ozark (Seasons 1-3): The Best-Acted Crime Drama on Television

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star as a couple who are forced to work for a drug cartel.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free for Season 3)

Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) is a financial advisor who has been laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. His partner Bruce (Josh Randall) is caught skimming millions of dollars. Facing his own execution, Marty tells the cartel that he has a plan to launder millions of dollars in the Ozarks. The cartel gives him a short time to replace all of the money that Bruce stole, so Marty moves with his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and his children Charlotte and Jonah (Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner) to the Ozarks and sets up buying properties to launder money. He hires local criminal family member Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), is pursued by FBI agents Petty and Evans (Jason Butler Harner and McKinley Belcher III), and tries to work with local drug growers Jacob and Darlene Snell (Peter Mullan and Lisa Emery). Eventually Marty and Wendy set up a casino in the Ozarks to increase the amount they can launder.

Ozark - 1Byrdes
That feeling when you have to launder money in the middle of nowhere or die.

END SUMMARY

I should start by saying that I was almost certainly going to like any show that included both Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in the cast. I think that they are both unbelievably good dramatic performers who also can deliver killer laughs when the occasion calls for it. Putting them together in a dark crime drama allows for a wide range of performances, including playing very strongly into Bateman’s deadpan comedy moments that he did so well on Arrested Development

Ozark - 2Byrdes
He’s a much better father on this than Arrested Development

However, even though they are both amazing, the supporting cast in this show really brings it to another level. Julia Garner’s performance as the abused outcast of her redneck crime family is phenomenal, as is Janet McTeer’s performance as Helen Pierce, the cartel’s ruthless attorney who shows up in Season 2. Everyone has very well defined motives and watching all of them interact never ceases to create amazing scenes. 

Ozark - 3Julia
She’s just the right level of redneck. 

The writing and pacing of the show are both amazing. The show frequently escalates the stakes and changes the status of the characters, but it always feels appropriate and organic. Similar to Breaking Bad, we see the members of the Byrde family forced to take greater and greater measures to protect themselves from the cartel and the FBI, but we also see that they start to enjoy aspects of the dangerous lifestyle. 

If you haven’t checked it out, I recommend it strongly.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Amazon Prime Review – Modern Love: The Highs are Worth the Lows

Amazon gives us a series of interesting portraits of love in the modern world. 

SUMMARY

It’s an anthology, people. I can’t summarize every episode without kind of ruining the surprise. Just know that each of the stories focuses on something about love between people. Mostly romantic, but not always.

ModernLove - 1Cast.jpg
Such a cast. Much wow.

Eh, fine, here’s a 1 sentence summary of each episode:

WHEN THE DOORMAN IS YOUR MAIN MAN

A woman (Cristin Miloti) has a doorman (Laurentiu Possa) who’s a gatekeeper for more than just her building.

WHEN CUPID IS A PRYING JOURNALIST

A woman (Catherine Keener) interviewing a tech billionaire (Dev Patel) about his lost love (Caitlin McGee) reveals her own (Andy Garcia).

ModernLove - 2Dev
Journalism at its finest.

TAKE ME AS I AM, WHOEVER I AM

A bipolar (Anne Hathaway) woman tries to have a relationship with a guy (Gary Carr), despite her condition getting in the way.

RALLYING TO KEEP THE GAME ALIVE

A married couple (Tina Fey and John Slattery) start to realize that they might not be meant to last, but don’t want to quit. 

AT THE HOSPITAL, AN INTERLUDE OF CLARITY

Two people on their second date (Sofia Boutella and John Gallagher, Jr.) get a crash course in each other after an injury derails their evening.

SO HE LOOKED LIKE A DAD. IT WAS JUST DINNER, RIGHT?

A young woman (Julia Garner) tries to replace her father with an older co-worker (Shea Wigham), but he misunderstands her attention.

HERS WAS A WORLD OF ONE

A couple (Andrew Scott and Brandon Kyle Goodman) tries to adopt a baby from a homeless woman (Olivia Cooke).

ModernLove - 3Couple
They’re so cute together.

THE RACE GROWS SWEETER NEAR ITS FINAL LAP

A woman (Jane Alexander) who found a new love (James Saito) late in life takes a run around the rest of the series in his memory.

END SUMMARY

The upside of the show is that it’s an anthology, so if you don’t like an episode, you can still try the next one and it’ll be different. The downside is that it’s an anthology and if you really like the way an episode is done, the next one is probably going to go a different way. The episodes, though they all focus on love, are varied in style and also in their focal interpretation of love. Since love comes in all different colors, flavors, shapes, sizes, sexes, Tex-Mexes, and Shrekses (guess what I’m drinking? Hint: Whisky), that also means that a creator is pretty much allowed to justify whatever interpretation they want to put into their story. Apparently, each of these stories were taken from a column published in The New York Times every week, but I have to confess that I don’t think I ever read it, even when I read the paper. Not that I don’t enjoy a good love story, I just never did.

ModernLove - 4Column

The quality of the episodes also varies a lot, although, on balance, I thought the series was pretty good. I do admit the finale montage is weird to me. Since there were only eight episodes, it seems kind of unnecessary to spend a bunch of time recapping the series, particularly since the clips don’t really interact, so they don’t give us a ton more perspective on the characters. They could just as easily have added the post-credits epilogues to the actual episodes and maybe spent ten more minutes on the narrative of the last story.

So, since I don’t want to spoil the show too badly, I’m going to do a 1-2 sentence review of each episode, in ascending order of quality. 

8) SO HE LOOKED LIKE A DAD. IT WAS JUST DINNER, RIGHT?

This story is super creepy and includes a girl trying to force herself to sexually fantasize about her fake father figure, which is double creepy. Emmy Rossum directed this, and it’s only a slight step up from Dragonball Evolution

ModernLove - 5Goat
Seriously, it’s awful.

7) AT THE HOSPITAL, AN INTERLUDE OF CLARITY

Two good actors are absolutely ruined by stilted dialogue and pacing taken from a silent film. The ending feels forced, as do a lot of the moments of supposed clarity.

6) THE RACE GROWS SWEETER NEAR ITS FINAL LAP

The story of finding a second love late in life is adorable, but too much is wasted on the series recap. Still, it was cute.

5) RALLYING TO KEEP THE GAME ALIVE

Tina Fey and John Slattery are great, but honestly it has a melancholy that never feels either closed or cemented as unending to me. 

ModernLove - 6Movies
Also, how did these two meet? I mean, that’s a real story.

4) WHEN CUPID IS A PRYING JOURNALIST

A cute story, but even with the epilogue, the story just doesn’t feel like it’s that significant. 

3) TAKE ME AS I AM, WHOEVER I AM

By far the most artistic episode, the representation of Bipolar may not be accurate, but it does make the condition more relatable. Also, Anne Hathaway’s breakdown is just damned heartbreaking.

ModernLove - 7Market.png
It’s a musical.

2) HERS WAS A WORLD OF ONE

This one is the most complex story in terms of characterization and Andrew Scott’s performance is just damned perfect.

1) WHEN THE DOORMAN IS YOUR MAIN MAN

The person who requested I review this series said that if I don’t end my review of this episode with “I cried like a tiny child,” then I have no soul. Well, I may have no soul, but I definitely cried like a tiny child.

ModernLove - 8Museum.png
Like. A. Tiny. Child.

I hope they keep this show going. Even though some of the episodes weren’t great, I think they’ve got a lot of stuff left that they could cover. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.