The fantastic dark comedy is more than a parody of Beyoncé

By now you’ve probably heard about the new TV series Loft it’s about Beyoncé fans, but not Beyoncé fans. Donald Glover and Janine Nabers’ new Prime Video show, out today, follows a troubled young woman (Dominique Fishback) whose obsession with a pop star resembling the “Crazy In Love” singer leads her down a disturbing path.

Such an inventive description of the show would typically sound reductive. But Loft is so blatantly designed around Beyoncé’s cult fan base (known as the BeyHive), from its name to various other references, that it feels fitting. At the same time, Loft‘s grabby status feels like a partially designed lure. In fact, it’s the tension between the show’s satirical elements and those that strive beyond that that make it so engaging.

Throughout the show’s seven episodes, I wondered if I had been more impressed Loftn ruthless depiction of stan culture and the novelty of Black, a female anti-hero, rather than the actual story at its core. Fortunately, as the series progresses, it reveals itself to be much more than a stylized parody that focuses on what many might consider obvious internet bait. Instead, it’s a provocative and surprisingly humanistic portrait of the people who get left behind.

Warning: Spoilers for Loft below.

Meanwhile Loft Featuring several supporting players and guest stars, the show is essentially a one-woman show due to the magnitude of Fishback’s performance. The actress plays Dre, a socially awkward twenty-something woman with few relationships outside of her sister Marissa (Chloe Bailey) and her favorite artist Ni’Jah (Nirine S. Brown) — the latter, of course, being parasocial. Dre and Marissa have the kind of darkly co-dependent sisterhood that calls to mind Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek in a Robert Altman film 3 Women. Their bond is based in part on their shared affection for Ni’Jah — though Dre’s is far more intense.

We understand the urgency of their relationship when Marissa is dumped by her freeloading boyfriend Khalid (played to fucking perfection by Damson Idris) and suicidal when she can’t reach Dre on the phone. Elsewhere in the pilot, we learn that Dre is not only estranged, but his family seems to despise him when he tries to attend his sister’s funeral. Marissa’s death, in particular, prompts Dre to commit the first of several murders throughout the series, first as revenge for his sister and later in the name of Ni’Jah – or perhaps someone else.

The 30-minute premiere alone, especially its final scene, will leave you feeling a little shaken. However, the rest of the series progresses in the same way and at the same pace as Glover and Nabers’ previous collaboration Atlanta, featuring strange excursions and darkly funny encounters with curious strangers. Episode 4 Dre finds himself at a wellness retreat (read: cult) with granola-white women following a ringleader played by Billie Eilish. The episode is a familiar, somewhat tired take on liberal white women, unlike certain episodes Atlanta. Another episode borrows the actual Beyoncé headline as its primary gag. Still, the writers manage to keep their primary focus on Dre amidst the other gossip, feeding viewers more confusing details that you hope eventually make sense. (Thankfully, they do.)

The last three episodes are where the series finally hits its stride. Episode 5 manages to be more disturbing and head-scratching than any violent and unpredictable behavior seen before. When Dre returns to his childhood home for temporary refuge, he is anything but welcome to his parents. The dynamic between him and his father (played by the excellent Leon Robinson) raises more questions than answers – though the extent of Dre’s loneliness is also in stark relief. And if you think the writers are going to easily debunk everything you just saw, you’ll have to sit through a true-crime spoof set in a different universe in the next episode to find out.

As chaotic and confusing as Loft it might seem, luckily it doesn’t abandon any of the plot points or ideas it presents. The finale, which initially feels more like a detour than a conclusion, manages to tie up most of the show’s loose ends—though not in a way that undermines its ambiguity.

When discussing Loft With The Daily Beast’s Obsessed before its premiere, Nabers said he was primarily interested in evoking emotion among viewers. The writing and progression of Dre’s life after his sister’s death certainly makes it easier, but Fishback’s deft performance does the job. Watching the actor who starred in the Oscar winner Judas and the Black Messiah and HBO is now cancelled The Deuce, Embody Dre is like watching someone complete an emotional obstacle course. In one moment, Dre radiates an awkwardness that makes you laugh. And in another, often during the same scene, his wounds are on full display, making the audience feel complicit in the loneliness and exclusion he feels.

Beneath it all Beyoncé, Loft is ultimately a story of grief and isolation. It’s a common assumption that anyone who spends hours of their life obsessing over something they’ll never know feels some kind of emptiness. Culturally, however, these feelings are rarely questioned. However, Loft forces you to stare at these often nameless people – even if it’s a dramatized version of them – and experience the full intensity of their inner lives. The end result is horrifying, hysterical and refreshingly empathetic.

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