Netflix’s RUSSIAN DOLL is “a Powerful Story of Empowerment and Self-Reflection” [REVIEW]

Writers: Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler
Directors: Leslye Headland, Jamie Habbit, Natasha Lyonne
Currently streaming on Netflix

I’m pretty sure by now that everyone has heard of a certain film involving Bill Murray and a certain rodent who either has an affinity for coming out of his home (or not) every spring. So much so in fact, that when we encounter any show or film involving any sort of time loop the immediate thought is, “not another Groundhog Day” (which is a statement I find not only pleasingly ironic but childishly funny.)

Well, imagine if you will the scene in the diner where Murray is gouging himself on coffee and every pudding on the menu, chain-smoking and claiming he is a god. Now remove the food and deism claims and replace them with meaningless sex and drug use, and a woman losing the plot at the prospect of turning another year older and not coming to terms with her past. Okay, now keep the chain-smoking and cast the fiery Natasha Lyonne (Orange is The New Black, American Pie), before locating the whole thing in the centre of the hipster mecca of New York. Done all that? Well, to be honest, you’re not even close to the insanity that is season 1 of Netflix’s RUSSIAN DOLL.

The brain child of Lyonne and Amy Poehler, Russian Doll is a strange and hilarious tale of self-discovery, told through the series of gory and repeated deaths of our main character Nadia. She comes round in a typically hipster bathroom of a friend’s house, before walking into a party full of people she doesn’t really know and the usual assorted riff raff out for a night of passion with anyone they can find. After a toke of a particularly potent joint she picks a nice and sleepy chap to take home.  It’s all well and good until she gets flattened by an oncoming taxi and our journey starts with her waking up back in the very same bathroom as before.

Lyonne absolutely shines in this role, her unique brand of instantly recognisable sarcastic humour fitting perfectly with the role of Nadia. A woman stubbornly looking for anything to ignore her past, now forced to dig deeper into it to try and find a way out of this loop. Faced with this situation she does exactly what most of us would probably do. Instead of changing her ways, she gets wasted again, then tries something out, then goes back to getting drunk, again and again.

It’s hilarious to begin with, but the tone gradually moves away from humour, giving us little glimpses of the real emotional core of the show to the point where by the end of the series you’ll find yourself in tears before going back to pick up on all the brilliantly subtle breadcrumbs that the showrunners hid in plain sight.

The rest of the cast have the knack of completely owning their characters, with practically each one, no matter how small, given at least one memorable line to reduce you to giggle fits. That said, the best one-liner still goes to Lyonne with her “looks like somebody threw a gauntlet right into my puss puss.” One honourable mention I have to draw attention to is Charlie Barnett (Men in Black 3) who, for reasons that will become clear, definitely stands out above the rest.

Russian Doll is a flawless blend of sci-fi, mystery, comedy, sex and drugs, with a soundtrack of thumping techno tunes and classic singalong indie classics that will leave you crying and scratching your head at the metaphysical implications of it all. Female led, written, produced and directed, RUSSIAN DOLL is a moving story of empowerment and self-reflection recommended for any viewer.

Rating: 5/5.

The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
Indy Tweets from @smokingpunkindy

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