The Big Issue Australia #655 – Bon Jovi

Page 35

Small Screen Reviews

Claire Cao Small Screens Editor @clairexinwen




 | APPLE TV+

If you’re sick of (or disturbed by) the adult‑ification of teenagers in HBO’s Euphoria, then More Than This is a new kid on the block. Although gritty teen dramas about sexuality, drugs and complex issues have long existed, it’s rare that authentic young voices are ever at the forefront. Written and co-created by Australian actor Olivia Deeble (Home and Away) when she was 17, along with trans non-binary actor Luka Gracie, More Than This centres on five diverse high school students whose worlds collide in an English Extension class. Each episode focuses on a different student and the challenges they face, from dysfunctional family dynamics and body image to queerness, loneliness and bullying. Featuring a talented cast, their passion for telling these stories is palpable. Especially notable is Deeble’s performance as breadwinner Charlotte, exuding ferocity and vulnerability beneath her smudged eyeliner. In a world where adults fail to take teenagers and their problems seriously, More Than This is a rebel yell demanding that we see young people as more. CLAIRE WHITE

Those craving more work-life balance should heed the warnings of Severance, an off-kilter thriller that imagines a company where work and personal memories can be surgically separated for any consenting employee. The show begins as Helly (Britt Lower) starts work at the “severed floor” of Lumen Industries, with no memories of her life outside. Meticulous set pieces, labyrinthine hallways and a ghostly piano theme all add to the sense of corporate dystopia, as do its curiously unsympathetic inhabitants, including pen-pusher Mark (Adam Scott) and draconian executive Peggy (Patricia Arquette, playing a delightfully offbeat honcho). Directors Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle artfully tackle the moral ambiguities of the severance procedure, with each episode dissecting the hidden consequences of extreme compartmentalisation, which splinters identities and generates employees unbeholden to their personal selves. As the mystery unravels, Severance goes above the high-concept pitch and forms a deeply intriguing story. VALERIE NG


or connoisseurs of real-life scammers, Anna Delvey (real name Anna Sorokin) is a particularly alluring figure. In the 2010s, the Russianborn fraudster whisked away more than US$275,000 from New York City’s premier socialites, hotels, gallerists and banks – simply by posing as a German heiress with a bloated trust fund. She’s the perfect subject for TV powerhouse Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Bridgerton), who’s always been fond of go-getters, feverish schemes and generous helpings of melodrama. Inventing Anna, on Netflix, begins each episode with a cheeky disclaimer: “This whole story is completely true…except for the parts that are totally made up.” But the joy of the show is discovering that the wildest beats are real. Yes, Sorokin really did stay at a luxe hotel for months without paying a cent! Yes, she tricked City National Bank into giving her that much money! Julia Garner (Ozark) is great fun as Sorokin, at turns implacable and vulnerable, with a hilariously odd accent that speaks to her vague origins. Despite all her manipulations and crimes, she’s often presented as a modern folk hero, who exposes the naivety and silliness of the mega-wealthy. Rhimes’ love for ensembles means that journo Vivian (Anna Chulmsky), who popularised Sorokin’s exploits, gets equal screen time. Vivian’s struggles against her gatekeeping male editors don’t quite cohere with Sorokin’s dizzying schemes – but Inventing Anna is a compulsively bingeable Shondaland title, cementing Sorokin’s place in the pantheon of mastermind girlbosses. CC

18 FEB 2022




Rarely a week passes these days without a conservative commentator decrying Sesame Street for getting “political”. They ought to watch this energetic, edifying documentary, as it surveys the radical origins of the preschool edutainment staple. Debuting in 1969, Sesame’s opening gambit – relayed here by some of its main players – was to combine Madison Avenue marketing methods with irreverent humour and social justice objectives in order to “sell the alphabet” to disadvantaged kids. Director Marilyn Agrelo (Mad Hot Ballroom) assembles a wealth of archival footage from the show’s golden years, peppering in talking heads with key creatives and, befittingly, their children, who grew up while their virtuoso dads – puppeteer Jim Henson, director Jon Stone and composer Joe Raposo – were dedicated to Sesame’s hectic schedule. The breezy pace means some tougher aspects feel skimmed, and there’s little sense of where Sesame’s at today (when we need its lessons in sincerity more than ever). However, the film is a playful primer on a TV pioneer and enduring force for chaotic good. AIMEE KNIGHT

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