About: If you’re looking for a review, this isn’t it. I do not believe in the entire act of reviewing cinema – I mean, is that even possible? Cinema can be analysed or even critiqued but not rated on a numerical scale. I mean, how do you quantify a feeling? Look, there’s two types of cinema – one where a shit-ton of effort is visibly put into audio-visual story-telling – and the other that’s just outright lazy. Now, I have no interest in watching or even talking about cinema that’s made with a petty retailer mind-set that blatantly disrespects the audience’s intellectual capabilities. But even beyond that, cinema that’s actually good can leave audiences divided. What might bore one to death could actually have profound meaning for another. Cinema is subjective, and many a times, can cater to niche factions within the larger audience. So, how do you tell which one suits your taste? Well, this is where this weekly column of mine comes in. My role here is basically to tell you what exactly is fit for watching for the week – especially on streaming and what to expect from it. Oh, by the way, the movies or shows I recommend won’t necessarily be latest releases.
Am I crushing on Phoebe Waller-Bridge? Probably – yes! Not the first time I’m crushing on a fictional character though. (Teresa Ruiz from Narcos: Mexico has previously been a recipient of this attention.) Damn! Funny women are such a turn on – and by funny, I don’t mean women who share memes on social media. You know, to be funny in real life, you do need a bit of originality – duh!
But why are we talking about Phoebe Waller-Bridge? (This is one long name. Let’s settle on just Phoebe from now on – not to be confused with the one from F.R.I.E.N.D.S.) Well, Phoebe has a series – you can call it a TV show ‘cause it aired on BBC but you can even stream it on Amazon Prime Video, so, you can call it a web series as well. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was walking into when I decided to watch this. For some odd reason, I thought the show’s title was interesting because I didn’t know what it meant and I just blindly jumped into it. Turns out it is one helluva series that leaves you asking for more. Six episodes per season aren’t really enough, but it is what it is. There are two seasons so far. Also, if you’re still thinking about it, just google the meaning for fleabag – it’s not so deep or anything. Interestingly, spoiler alert, throughout the two seasons, they don’t mention the name of Phoebe’s character even once – so you just end up calling her fleabag anyway.
You remember House of Cards? That Netflix show starring one of those creepy perverted men who went down in the wake of the #MeToo movement? Yeah, you get it, right? I did like his acting though. But you gotta pay for what you do, sigh. Anyway, why am I talking about House of Cards? Well, Kevin Spacey – there I said it – used to break the fourth wall every now and then in the show. It was a character trope – the viewer could actually listen to him think out aloud. Okay, for the uninitiated, breaking the fourth wall is a cinematic element where the actor directly looks and speaks into the camera. So, Frank – Kevin Spacey’s character did that a lot – but Phoebe actually takes it a notch higher. While Frank would take a lone moment to tell you what he was thinking, Phoebe actually does it in the middle of her dialogues with other characters on screen – and it’s so goddamn spontaneous that you’re left in awe. She keeps doing it relentlessly – and she makes it look so easy. Such a natural. It might look simple but trust me, it’s no joke to interrupt one’s own dialogues and break character so frequently. Plus, her humour – it’s all tongue and cheek! The entire thing makes for great watching. In fact, here’s some trivia, the first season is actually adapted from her own stage-monologue with the same name – fleabag.
Oh! And you remember Moriarty right? I mean, Andrew Scott – that’s his real name. Moriarty from Sherlock, the BBC TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Now the fandom for Sherlock is obviously huge – you’ve definitely got Cumberbitches but there’s also a giant ass fandom for Moriarty as well. If you have the time, which I guess you have in plenty these days, try looking up the fan-fiction for Sherlock. It’s quite something – can even get pretty scandalizing for some people. So, if you are a Moriarty fan, the point is, you’ll find him here – in the second season – however in a somewhat different role. He’s no psychopath here but a priest – and quite a heretic one at that as you’ll find out. Ah! It feels so fresh and liberating to watch something blasphemous and heretic. Damn, I envy western society – still waiting for a day when Asians will be a little less uptight about their religious beliefs. But, as of now, we can only dream of a society like that.
I think, one of the things that stands out about this show for me, as a man, is how women think on the inside when they’re falling for a man. Now it’s no secret that most women are better than most men when it comes to disguising or veiling emotions and inner thoughts but there’s this one fun scene where the Priest is talking to Phoebe and she is so obviously crushing on him but obviously can’t really blurt it out, so as she’s talking to the man, she spontaneously keeps breaking the fourth wall every time they make physical contact – telling you exactly how she’s feeling and what she’s thinking. It’s difficult to put across in text. You’ve to see it for yourself to admire the skill that it takes to do that. Plus, if you’re into women, it’s really interesting to see how they mentally react in presence of men or women they’re attracted to. In reality, it’s really difficult to tell – most women hardly give anything away and you’re left guessing.
So, why should you watch it? Well, there’s good drama in it and the humour’s also quite dark and edgy. So, long story short, if you are a lady who’s struggling to be the quintessential woman that society expects you to be, then this show is for you. (Obviously men will equally enjoy it as well.) Fleabag is about a woman with a considerable sexual appetite – shaky feminist principles – a failing business – a hell lot of guilt – a dysfunctional family – a pointless relationship – feelings for someone she cannot be in a relationship with and so on. If you identify with any of that, maybe the show can be quite a delightful yet cathartic watch for you. Fleabag is a show that unapologetically celebrates a flawed woman – one who is goofy and not so slick and suave as you often expect them to be. Maybe you can binge Fleabag over the weekend – currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
(You can follow the columnist on Instagram @digvijay_g)