It is not often that you get lucky enough to have a show with a fantastic premise that not only works but also excels at what it is attempting to do. Netflix’s new original series, “Russian Doll,” is a beautiful example of that.
“Russian Doll” not only retains the interesting nature of its premise, but builds on it the further into the show it goes. The premise follows the idea of movies like, “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Happy Death Day,” where the main character is constantly dying and trying to break the loop.
This show does so many things right that it’s hard to really write about it in a way that is not just constantly singing the praises of it, while also trying to not spoil it. I feel the best way to review this show is to go over it in three parts, since these all combine into a great show; these are the soundtrack, acting and cinematography.
The main character we follow is Nadia Vulvokov, played by Natasha Lyonne. She’s a 36-year-old woman who is trying to figure out what to do with her life as she is having a pretty strong existential breakdown. Her character can be a little grating at first, with her not seeming to really care much about anything, but as it progresses, Nadia slowly becomes someone you are rooting for and wanting to see escape this nightmare.
Co-starring with her is Charlie Barnett, who plays the role of Alan Zavari. He is a breath of fresh air in the show. While Nadia is not willing to care about anything, Alan is constantly trying to be the best person he can be, sometimes to a point where it is too much. Both of the characters they play can be described as “broken,” and that only makes their acting better.
The soundtrack is fantastic, and I keep finding myself going back and listening to it even as I am writing this review. It’s a rare case where music is used effectively in a show to deliver to the viewer a better understanding of what’s going on.
Some other great examples of this would be how “Mad Men” uses music as a subtle nod to the personality of Don Draper, or the Edgar Wright film, “Scott Pilgrim Versus the World,” where the music is used in a way to build up hype through the movie and control it by changing certain parts here and there. This show is up there with these films through its amazing use of songs like “Gotta Get Up” by Harry Nilsson, which is used to establish how everything is restarting over and over.
The cinematography is really the selling point for me. There are interesting sets that range from underground drug labs to parties inside of old Jewish schools. This show makes these spaces effective as well, with none of them simply being there.
The shot work in the settings benefits them with fantastic panning shots that help to show everything, or continuous shots that follow Nadia or Alan as they are moving through a space. The way this show is shot is just beautiful, and it isn’t too flashy, which makes it even better.
This has easily become one of my favorite Netflix shows, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. If I hadtorateitonascaleofone to 10, I would give it a solid nine.