Feel­ing right at home in Ozark

Laura Lin­ney and Ja­son Bate­man make cor­rup­tion lik­able in Net­flix’s crisp se­ries

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - ROBERT LLOYD

Ja­son Bate­man, Amer­ica’s sweet­heart, is the star, an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and the di­rec­tor of nearly half the episodes of “Ozark,” a se­ries pre­mièring in its 10-episode first-sea­son en­tirety Fri­day on Net­flix.

Bate­man plays Marty Byrde, a Chicago fi­nan­cial ad­viser. He is cau­tious, bor­ing and, for the mo­ment, ob­ses­sively dis­tracted by a snip­pet of what looks like am­a­teur pornog­ra­phy. He drives a 10-year-old Camry, “with cloth seats,” while his more flam­boy­ant busi­ness part­ner Bruce (Josh Ran­dall) lives it up. For a while, you might think you are em­bark­ing on a rather dreary, and drea­rily fa­mil­iar, drama of do­mes­tic break­down, one of those things where soul death is rep­re­sented by watch­ing the His­tory chan­nel and An­der­son Cooper, shop­ping at Costco and re­cy­cling. And by din­ner-ta­ble scenes in which fam­ily mem­bers — wife Wendy (Laura Lin­ney, an­other of Amer­ica’s sweet­hearts), 15-year-old daugh­ter Char­lotte (Sofia Hublitz) and 12year-old son Jonah (Sky­lar Gaert­ner) — can barely sus­tain a con­ver­sa­tion.

And, in part, you are em­bark­ing on that drama. But slowly the story turns into some­thing dif­fer­ent. Back story is com­ing, even­tu­ally, for even more sym­pa­thetic tragic con­text, but not un­til Episode 8.

Be­fore long, we learn that he’s laun­der­ing money for a Mex­i­can drug car­tel and that his part­ner has been se­cretly tak­ing a lit­tle home for him­self. This prompts the ar­rival of up­per-mid­dle-man­age­ment crime fig­ure Del (Esai Mo­rales) and the drama proper.

One thing leads to a hor­ri­ble an­other, and in a mo­ment of im­pro­vi­sa­tion — Marty talk­ing his way out of po­ten­tially deadly tight spots is some­thing of a mo­tif — based on a travel brochure crum­pled on the floor, he per­suades Del not to kill him but send him down to the Lake of Ozarks. Marty paints “the red­neck Riviera” as a po­ten­tial crim­i­nal par­adise, far from the much-see­ing eye of the feds.

The ob­vi­ous ques­tion is whether the hard­ship, dan­ger and en­forced close quar­ters will bring the fam­ily closer to­gether, soften their hearts, strengthen their bonds and re­new their vows. I will not tell you whether the ob­vi­ous an­swer is the one that has been cho­sen here.

An­other, more cen­tral ques­tion is whether one ac­tu­ally cares whether they make it out alive. (For most of “Ozark,” I did not, which is not to say I was un­in­ter­ested.) The se­ries takes pains to point out that Marty is com­plicit in other peo­ple’s real-world suf­fer­ing, not to men­tion the suf­fer­ing un­der his own roof; Wendy has plenty to an­swer for too. But some peo­ple pre­fer their he­roes “anti”; acres of New Golden Age tele­vi­sion have been ded­i­cated to that pref­er­ence.

At the same time, “Ozark” treats him as ba­si­cally a good guy. Both he and Lin­ney are highly lik­able ac­tors whose ear­lier roles we fold into the present one. In­deed, a bit of Michael Bluth from “Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment” hap­pily makes it­self felt in Bate­man’s de­liv­ery now and again, as when he as­sails a team of movers who have left his fur­ni­ture in the yard. “I want you to tell me one ex­am­ple of some­one who said, ‘We want you to take ev­ery­thing that we own and dump it on our front lawn just make sure you don’t put any­thing on the in­side of the house.’”

And though you can’t quite call them good par­ents, the Byrdes love their chil­dren, even if they do not seem so at first. (Ev­ery­one is in a bad mood to be­gin with.) And they are not the worst peo­ple we will meet, by a long shot.

But the show comes fully alive in the com­pany of its sec­ondary char­ac­ters, par­tic­u­larly an ex­tended fam­ily of petty crim­i­nals — the press ma­te­ri­als call them “ruf­fi­ans,” quaintly — who fall athwart of more se­ri­ous sorts; as their teenage de facto ma­tri­arch, Ju­lia Gar­ner is es­pe­cially good, and her story line is ar­guably the most en­gross­ing that “Ozark” has to of­fer. Pay at­ten­tion too to Jor­dana Spiro as the owner of a wa­ter­front bar-cafe Marty in­vests in and Har­ris Yulin as the un­hur­riedly dy­ing old man who comes with the house the Byrdes buy.

Cre­ated by Bill Dubuque and Mark Wil­liams (both of whom worked on “The Ac­coun­tant”), “Ozark” does most things right. Not ev­ery plot point feels com­pletely plau­si­ble, but the show looks good and plays well; the writ­ing is crisp and not too colour­ful; the per­for­mances are un­forced and be­liev­able.


Laura Lin­ney and Ja­son Bate­man as Wendy and Marty Byrde in Net­flix’s 10-part drama "Ozark."

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.