peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 03 16 PokerFace

Poker Face (2023)

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And yet more proof I'll still watch anything by Rian Johnson despite the abiding lack of returns over the last decade. Hats off once again to the marketers on this one, an Agatha Christie/Miss Marple/Hitchcock (?) confection in the style of Glass Onion.

This 10-free-standing-episode TV show has one conceit: the leading lady (Natasha Lyonne, who I now see was in American Pie) can always tell if someone is lying. The format is always the same (and signalled by Pulp Fiction on a TV): a scene gets set, then reset and retconned with her on the edge of the frames we were shown. The murder-mysteries are therefore a bit trying as the latter halves devolve into sorting out her epistemics; she mostly, implausibly, rapidly zooms straight in to whoever did it. Similarly her drinking, smoking and verbal ticks wear thin as we go along. Powerful and dangerous people allow her to bang on at length, and there is generally way too much exposition. I guess this is how you stretch limited footage/budget/concept to hour lengths. Most couples are mixed-race.

I found the first three episodes to be mostly bust. (#1 has Noah Segan as a cop, #3 Danielle Macdonald from The Tourist as a Southern Lady Macbeth in a war on the war on woke.) Things picked up a bit with #4 (Chloë Sevigny as the weary lead singer and Nicholas Cirillo as a full-of-beans drummer in a metal band, a strong 17 minutes without Lyonne) and it became clear the template was to explore a different subgenre in each episode. #5 was a bit like Running on Empty: a hat-tip to the direct-action activism of the 1970s that is perhaps swinging back into fashion, set in an oldies home, cliche city. We're at the theatre in #6, go-karts/car racing in #7 (Tim Blake Nelson and a quickly-aborted romance for Lyonne). #8 ramps up the referentialism, parking lion-in-winter Nick Nolte in an old school manual special effects garage and Luis Guzmán in a basement with a busted plot; they should've stuck with Sidney Lumet. Finally Lyonne gets romanced properly in #9 though it doesn't last into the winter (good to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt as more-or-less SBF as things got a bit more Twin Peaks). The season finale does some epic retconning to clean things up for another go around.

Heavily marketed. Dana Stevens: more references, episode summaries, sometimes the clues are just too obvious/the plots too dumb.