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Excellent Ensemble, Clever Storytelling Give Showtime’s Yellowjackets Its Sting | TV/Streaming

If Shauna’s trauma has turned into recklessness, Natalie’s has become white-hot rage. Passionately played by Juliette Lewis as an adult (and Sophie Thatcher, also great, as a teen), Natalie is ready to close some of the loops on what happened a quarter-century ago. She reconnects with Misty (Christina Ricci/Sammi Hanratty), the girl who seemed the most harmless on the plane but one who may actually be a sociopath, then and especially now. Ricci nails the kind of unsettling smile that hides deep pathology. Finally, there’s the truly troubled Taissa (Tawny Cypress/Jasmin Savoy Brown), who seems to have it all—a wife, son, and even a campaign for State Senate—but is deeply haunted by what happened to her, even if she’s spent much of her life trying to bury it.

There’s a fascinating tonal balance in “Yellowjackets” in that the wilderness stuff plays out like a slow-motion car crash. Because of what is revealed in the premiere, we know things are going to get very bad. So seeing the girls talk about rescue, hunt for food, and even have moments of happiness have the air of a slow-burn horror movie. At the same time, the writing develops the characters in present day with depth, even playing out like a traditional drama at times such as when Shauna meets a man who tempts her with potential infidelity or Taissa struggles with raising her son. The writing very smartly doesn’t draw direct lines from the teen years to the adult ones—there’s a much worse version of this show that does that very bluntly—and yet we come to see the characters as one. 

The cohesive nature of “Yellowjackets” wouldn’t exist without a truly great ensemble, and what I admire most about the show is how much there’s not a single weak link here and plenty of standouts—every time I thought one performer like Lynskey, Lewis, or Thatcher would start the steal it, I was impressed by another actress. It’s also a wickedly funny show, both literally (such as when a girl laments that a dead teammate won’t get to hear “Wonderwall” again) and in production choices (I laughed out loud when they played Jane’s Addiction’s “Mountain Song” over a flashback of the plane crashing into, well, a mountain).

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