Natasha Lyonne Anchors The Riveting ‘Russian Doll’
A lady whose wavy red hair spills past her shoulders remains before a washroom reflect as a gathering seethes outside. She looks at her reflection. people slam into the way to get in. She turns and leaves, through an entryway with a handgun for a handle, out of the bathroom where the zones of the walls and door glow with blotches of chilly blue light.As she leaves, two women push their way past her into the bathroom, and she moves into the room where the party is. Companions swarm around her. A lady cooking in the kitchen offers her a joint bound with cocaine. Something isn’t right. She is a clever New York game designer who appears to smoke to some degree for the smoking itself, yet but also in part so she can gesture, in quick little jabs, with her cigarette. And she can’t figure out quite what’s going on. “What was I just doing?” she asks her friend.
This is, I think, as much as I can tell you about the premise of Russian Doll, an eight-section arrangement debuting on Netflix Friday, then again, actually the women is named Nadia, and she is played by the really supreme Natasha Lyonne. Lyonne made the arrangement alongside Amy Poehler and playwright/director Leslye Headland.
Lyonne has been around quite a while. She was a child actor on-screen character on Pee-small’s Playhouse and in Dennis the Menace. She was in American Pie. She did little, very much respected movies in the late 1990s, most eminently Tamara Jenkins’ Slums of Beverly Hills and Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader.Most recently, she’s one of a group of actresses who got wonderful boosts from appearing on Orange Is The New Black. There, she plays Nicky, whose addictions continue to haunt her in prison. Lyonne was nominated for an Emmy for the role.
She’s dependably been a decent on-screen character, and still, Russian Doll feels like a disclosure. Lyonne isn’t just the most flawless form of herself in it, however Nadia is an enhancement, in this task Lyonne co-created, on each character she’s played that has about caught her specific vitality. Nicky on OITNB, for instance, is a very Natasha Lyonne role, as it were, but Nadia is more so. Lyonne can seem, as a Guardian profile once noted, like someone who “has a weird ability to grow more appealing the gnarlier her character and surroundings get.” But Nadia isn’t a character bigger than Nicky. She’s not broader. She’s just so specifically conceived. It’s a performance where the actor understands the character so well, down to every little gesture she makes, every twitch of her face, that it’s startling, at times, to remember she’s fictional.
It’s an intense show to survey, since I’d like to tell to all of you about its pleasures — how intelligent about people, how intelligent about the isolation of knowing you’re the only person who knows the truth about your own situation and even you know only some of it.
But I don’t even want to tell you what kind of show it is, because its tonal turns are among the narrative elements that make it effective. That gun-shaped doorknob. Those glowing blue splotches. Is it supernatural? Is it a crime show? Nadia certainly has a way with a clever line; is it a comedy?
Not exactly, not exactly, and not exactly.
This much crown jewels nothing: in contrast to many gushing shows, Russian Doll is just as long as it should be to recount its story. The eight half-hour scenes keep up their energy, which is especially tough in a story that, by its nature and its exploration of a certain kind of déjà vu, isn’t precisely linear. The series bends and breathes, introducing other characters into Nadia’s life (I don’t even want to tell you who!), giving away more and more of her fundamentally New York kind of humanity, never wavering in its conviction that she is fascinating enough to carry this entire story.
And at the center is Natasha Lyonne, playing a character so human that if you opened your own bathroom door and found her standing there, it wouldn’t be all that surprising.