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Russian Doll 2019 *****


Natasha Lyonne is well-known from her turn in Orange Is The New Black, but her film career is varied to say the least; the star of American Pie, Yoga Hosers, Scary Movie 2 and Show Dogs would not necessarily be your first port of call for an existentialist drama. As executive producer, creator and writer of Russian Doll, Lyonne deserves a multitude of credit for pushing the boundaries to create a fresh, original and ground-breaking television programme for Netflix. As a Netflix production, the home of the portal, the narrative demands alternate realities a la Maniac or The Good Place, and so Russian Dolls follows Nadia, a young woman with a good-time attitude, an appetite for drink, drugs and men, and a strange predicament by which she keeps dying, and finding herself leaving the bathroom cubicle at her own birthday party over and over again. This scenario sounds a lot like Groundhog Day, but twists neatly in new directions when Nadia meets Alan (Charlie Barnett), a young man whose day begins over and over with him shaving and breaking up with his girlfriend. Russian Doll has layers, as the title might suggest, but it avoids conventions and manages to suggest how reparative patterns in human behaviour might be changed. It’s fast, scabrous, rude, adventurous, and everything that a new TV show should be.


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