In case you haven’t noticed, yes, I have a bit of a soft spot towards Netflix Originals. That’s not to say they are all wonderful or perfect, check out my critical review of 13 Reasons Why, however, for the most part they tend to have great film quality, casting, acting, scripts, etc. Although, I am prone to skip some of their more problematic looking shows and movies, such as To The Bone which looks like it glorifies eating disorders or Atypical which adds to the narrative that disabled people and/or autistics are, in general, undateable.
Ozark, however, was one of the Netflix Originals that was truly astounding, yet has received very little buzz. It’s not edgy or controversial, so perhaps that’s why it seems to have slipped under the radar of most Netflix viewers, but it is incredibly deserving of, not only viewership, but praise as well.
The story seems simple enough: Marty (Jason Bateman) is a financial adviser whose business partner decides to cheat the head of a drug cartel with deadly results. Marty, who is quick on his feet, strikes a deal with the deadly dealer and relocates his family to the Ozarks in hopes of buying enough time to figure out a way out of this disaster he suddenly finds himself in. It sounds like a pretty straightforward crime drama/thriller, yet, it feels fresh and new. Perhaps this is due to the stunning acting, well written scripts, or incredible directing.
Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses) is typically known for his comedic skills. Yet, he does an amazing job portraying the raw fear, constant moral conflict, and palpable anger that his character requires. There are times when he’s talking with his onscreen kids and you can hear a little Michael Bluth come out in his tone, but this only makes his character’s family relationships more believable. What parent of a teen hasn’t muttered a sarcastic or snarky quip at your teenager? Especially when you are trying to save their lives but can’t tell them that’s what you’re doing? And, as if his acting wasn’t impressive enough, he also directed four of the 10 episode season!
The incredible Laura Linney plays Bateman’s wife for the series. I tried to think of a defining movie or show to put in parentheses next to her name, and honestly can’t decide, though she was most recently seen in Nocturnal Animals and Sully. I truly can’t think of a performance of hers that I’ve disliked. Even if I didn’t like a movie or show that she appeared in, I am always left impressed by her talent. She doesn’t seem to need to go all Daniel Day-Lewis or Jared Leto* on a character to be able to fully step into their skin and make every word uttered believable.
*Yes, I have a bit of contempt towards Day-Lewis’s brand of “Method Acting” as a method trained actor who finds his, and others like him, “methods” for getting into character dangerous and unnecessary…but that’s a rant for another time.
Other notable performances were given by Esai Morales (NYPD Blue), Jordan Spiro (My Boys), relatively newcomer Sofia Hublitz, and Jason Butler Harner (Ray Donovan). However, it was Julia Garner (Electrick Children) who surprised me the most. She has a whopping 26 credits on imdb.com, including movies that I’ve watched, yet it was her performance in Ozark that made me take notice of her. Not only does she do a believable southern accent, something that seems to be very difficult for many of Hollywood’s actors, but she made her character simultaneously terrifying and sympathetic.
Another noteworthy part of this show, at least to this disabled writer, was the inclusion of a character/actor with Down Syndrome. Evan George Vourazeris plays the recurring role of Tuck. He doesn’t get a lot of screen time, which is a shame. He is used as a tool in one episode, to show how caring Bateman’s character is as he tells someone off for calling Tuck “retarded,” which unfortunately colors his character as some kind of helpless victim…something that happens far too often for disabled people. However, the rest of his appearances on screen didn’t seem exploitative. I’m hoping they will give him more screen time in season two, but simply as a character who happens to have Down Syndrome, not as an instrument used to measure the goodness of each character.
I highly recommend this show for anyone who enjoys a good crime drama or thriller. It managed to keep the tensions high through every episode of the season, unlike many other shows in the genre that only seem tense in the beginning and end of the season, but mostly relaxed throughout the middle. There is a lot of violence, death, and torture, so it should be approached with caution by anyone who is triggered by those things.
All in all, I think Ozark is an incredible show and I’m excited to see what the next season has in store for us. Note: it was announced that Ozark will be renewed for another season.
Do you have a show or movie that you’d love to see reviewed? Let me know in the comments and I’ll get on it!
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