You (TV Series)

[If you’re interested in a full discussion of the Netflix series, You, check out the You episode of the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

It’s tough to make a show about writers. We’re generally dull people, but besides that, externalizing an internal process…that’s fraught with issues, meaning lots of cheesy voice-overs of bad writing.

There’s a disproportionate number of movies about writers, because writers know about writing and think what they do is really important, when it really pales in comparison to, oh, neurosurgery.

Which brings us to You, a Netflix Series that’s got the glossiness of Melrose Place, and its brain too, depending on your perspective.

Guinevere Beck (“Beck”) is an MFA student with aspirations of holding down a John Updike New Yorker gig, or maybe becoming the next Robert Pinsky. Problem is, she’s neither inquisitive nor creative, procrastinating like it’s everybody’s business and with a work-rate to rival JD Salinger. Speaking of whom…one of Beck’s friends is a distant relation to Mr. Catcher in the Rye.

Beck crosses paths with dashing Joe (pictured), a literate Midtown Manhattan book store manager who can match her with verse and is no slouch in the flirt department.

Soon, they hit it off, but paranoid Joe stalks her immediately, gazing into her palatial brownstone walk-up (seriously, if this is what passes for student-subsidized housing in New York City, I can reasonably expect to rent a 1,000 square-foot dorm). This then escalates into social media stalking, admittedly not too difficult as both Beck and her cadre of friends are so self-absorbed they could double as infomercial sponges.

What Joe sees in her is anybody’s guess, and where You keeps you guessing is that it’s not the usual “if I can’t have her, no one can” boilerplate. Instead, Joe is more than happy to play the long-game to wait out a revolving door of sub-par lovers before he can tee off.

There are some fun subplots where our charming stalker stepdads a neighborhood boy on his stoop, and there are enough references to good writers to let the occasional sloppy writing pass.

Pure, sugary junk, this Netflix show is oddly enjoyable even if its writers have already painted themselves into a narrative cul-de-sac in the first season (no spoilers here).

*** (out of 5)

The Night Before

“This is the kind of movie that’s so bad, you gotta tell someone about it.” Can’t take credit for that, as it was my viewing companion, but she’s dead-on. The Night Before is a putative Christmas comedy that’s putrid in execution and puts the rank in rank amateur.

Three stoner dramatis personae have a tradition, as mindless as whoever concocted this as a plot device: to hang out and get blotto together on Christmas (and also to try and seek passage to an exclusive party, The Nutcrackers Ball).

Their leader is soon-to-be-dad Isaac (a frumpy-dump Seth Rogan), so if this is a Hero’s Journey, this is more of the sandwich variety. Milking the lazy stupefied Peter Pan-t-load mien he’s come to adopt in just about everything, Rogan’s Isaac is terrified at the prospect of growing up and pending fatherhood. His wife, sensing this, enables Isaac in a kind of last night of freedom: giving him a container full of pharmaceuticals so he and his pals can cut loose Hangover-style, minus the charm, direction or the comic timing.

That an 8 month-along mom-to-be would do something that stupid beggars belief, but even dumber, that her “rock,” (“Like Dwayne Johnson”, she ‘jokes’. Seinfeld eat your heart out) would actually indulge….well, that’s the set up, for a movie that’s so tonally off, it needs a tuning fork, and is about as enjoyable as a set of cymbals clanged upside your noggin.

The usually reliable Joseph Gordon Levitt (Ethan) cuts a wan, labored Kevin Spacey figure as a loser who’s still hung up on an ex years later and resorts to side hustle work as a Santa elf (he’s even the butt of a joke: “a 33-year old elf?” In terms of age-inappropriate behavior, though, he gets off easy)

And to round out the idiot triumvirate (the name “Three Stooges” is already taken) is Chris (Anthony Mackie), a star NFLer, who — and kudos here for the realism — is suddenly a breakout star due to banned substances.

The Night Before features repugnant bathroom sex, steroid abuse, dick pics, a nose-bleed into a Martini, projectile vomiting during midnight mass, and a host of indignities too numerous to be unaccompanied by even the slimmest shred of wit or joy. And also James Franco and Miley Cyrus. The state rests, your honor.

As willfully ugly as a Christmas sweater, and as actively repellent as any comedy ever made.

* (out of 5)