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Girls Season Five

Comeback seasons are difficult, yet Girls pulls it off in season five. If season four felt like the natural deconstruction of the main friend group, season five brings them back together in an assortment of different circumstances. Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna have all matured in some capacity, and season five sets them on new paths as the show careens into its final season next year with heads held high.

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Season five saw the gang going in many different directions as they navigate careers, relationships, and hedonistic ambitions. Beginning with Marnie’s wedding in the season premiere, which we knew was doomed to fail, the first half of the season sees Hannah grow frustrated with her relationship with Fran (Jake Lacy). Hannah Horvath, possibly TV’s most detested protagonist, spends this season flashing her principal and satisfying Ray in a coffee truck, all while attempting to deal with her friend Jessa beginning a relationship with her ex Adam. And that’s not the worst that she does. I’ve always remained fond of Hannah despite her frustrating decisions and failure to learn from them. In season five, she does plenty of soul searching as she learns that Fran, the “nice guy” (despite his own misgivings), is not for her. She also grows as a writer, and delivers a knockout monologue in episode ten, a three-minute take that will leave you breathless. As the season closes, it ends with Hannah freed from Adam and Frankie Valli’s “I Love You Baby,” the “baby,” in this case, being herself.

These characters have all been so developed over the past four seasons, and it’s exciting to watch them grow and fail even more. The strength of Girls has always lied in the writing. Creator Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner know how to mine significant character development out of major life crises in their characters’ mid-twenties. Take Shoshanna, for example, who spends the first half of the season working abroad in Japan. While I would have loved to see her in Japan for the entire season, budget restrictions notwithstanding, sending her back to New York has forced her to put her always-bubbly personality to use. She breaks off a relationship and dives into Ray’s coffee shop with fresh ideas and a new work ethic and appreciation gained from immersing herself in Japanese culture. The third episode, “Japan,” is one of the series’ highlights, and Shosh will never be the same.

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Marnie, on the other hand, has always been the selfish one, yet this season that all changes. Marrying Desi may have seemed like a dream come true, yet it all falls apart in the brilliant “Panic in Central Park,” when Marnie spends a day with her ex Charlie, and ends with a dissolution of her marriage. Brilliant camera work and cinematography bring to life Marnie’s day of self-discovery, and it might be the best episode of the series to date. Following her breakup, she remains Desi’s music partner, and I’m excited the most to see how her journey comes to a close in season six.

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And then we come to Jessa and Adam. Jessa has always been the more carefree wild card of the group, but since she’s been seeing Adam, we see her struggle with reconciling her friendship with Hannah while dating her ex. Jessa is obviously aware of what Adam meant to Hannah, and while putting the two together might not make much sense in the scope of the show (there isn’t much chemistry at all) and we aren’t quite sure of what drew the two together, Konner and Dunham make significant strides in adding shades to Jessa while letting Adam remain relevant as Driver moves onto bigger and better things. I never particular cared for Jessa, but I’ve definitely come around following season five. A recurring theme of Girls has always been that the girls will always remain friends no matter where they are or what goes on between them. Jessa’s devotion to Hannah is significant because despite their nasty fights in ice cream shops, at the end of the day they’re still best friends.

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The big takeaway from season five of Girls, then, would be that creative renaissances can come at the most unexpected times. I’ve always thought of the show as under appreciated, as I’ve enjoyed the series’ take on femininity in a post-SATC TV world. Season five saw all the women growing from unexpected developments, whether its from a change in scenery in Shosh’s case or a more reflective change, such as Elijah’s refusal to be mistreated by his new beau Gil (Corey Stoll). As a show, Girls has matured significantly as have its performers, and the final season should wrap up the show neatly, wherever these girls end up.

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Posted by on April 18, 2016 in TV Reviews

 

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Midnight Special

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Midnight Special is part chase movie, part science fiction pulp, and the end result is fascinating. It’s simple sci-fi, but the depth within the material makes the film as complex and thought-provoking as the old classics. Director Jeff Nichols knows how to convey a moving and intimate story, filled with thrills and masterful performances, yet keep the more outlandish stuff grounded.

The film opens marvelously, and you’ll be hooked from the get-go. Roy (Michael Shannon) is on the run from the authorities with his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), who just so happens to have mysterious powers. He’s fleeing a cult with his pal Lucas (Joel Edgerton), and the three reunite with Alton’s birth mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), while avoiding militia who intend to turn Alton into a weapon.

Midnight Special may not seem like deep science fiction, and initially it isn’t. With its limited budget only allowing a few knockout effects, Midnight Special is limited to big ideas on a small scale, and Nichols has his work cut out for him. He knows this, and the best part of Midnight Special is its intriguing mystery. Opening in the middle of a thrilling chase sequence leaves the audience in wonder, constantly asking why Alton is so important and what exactly he is. We continue to ask these questions throughout, and some become answered while others don’t. The beauty of the film is its layering of the story, going back and forth between Roy’s exodus with Alton and the investigation into the boy by Paul Sevier (Adam Driver). Each scene is meticulous in revealing details and relationships, Nichols’s dialogue growing a bit frustrating towards the end yet intriguing nonetheless, and not a second is wasted.

Michael Shannon leads a tremendous cast, in what is becoming quite a fascinating director-actor relationship between the two. Shannon brings Roy’s faith and love in Alton to center stage, crafting a believable and intimate father-son bond, but it goes deeper than that. Shannon is able to conjure up such powerful emotions with just his eyes alone, he doesn’t even have that much to say in the film, yet we go along for the ride. Dunst and Edgerton also do fine work, the former playing an ex-cult member who hasn’t seen her son in years, and the latter being an underdeveloped state trooper whose blind faith in Alton adds interesting layers to the chase narrative.

I could see Midnight Special being a tad frustrating to certain viewers. Many questions are left open-ended and the finale is a bit rushed. But the film isn’t traditional science fiction; the self-contained story allows the world-building to remain simple, as the film is essentially a chase sequence mixed with disaster elements. But Nichols goes above and beyond in his characterization and production, making a beauty of a film.

 

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2016 in Movie Reviews

 

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