This 10 part Netflix series takes place mostly around Abbot Kinney Bl.
SPOILER ALERT – I am going to critique the entire season, including late season reveals.
Go watch it first, because after this you will see it with different eyes.
Marxist Summary: a lumpen bourgeois fakes everything, Save’s Venice, and gets the Girl. It lacks any activist perspective, and dwells on the corruptions and frailties and exploits of it’s characters. It is a bourgeois story because it is all about individuals, and not about collective action. It is a funny and writerly piece, with a quite complicated plot and a lot of deception and mendacity, which I liked, in the end.
The Lead, “Chip”, played by Will Arnett is a slacker/self-help guru(?) with a storefront on Abbot Kinney where he makes stools. Chip has used it for 10 years, but it seems obvious that he is not really running a business, he is just hanging out at AA meetings at the Dog Park to pick up women. Chip fucks a few women but none of them seem to really want to hang with him. Chip is a piece of work. Chip lives major lies. Chip hamms it up for the AA Meetings where he goes to pick up chicks. He took the blame for a manslaughter charge for his ex-wife in exchange for tenancy in the studio. Her dad wants to sell the studio now, the deal being limited to 10 years. Chip allies with the “Save Venice” movement, who want to prevent a large hotel being built on the property. But for him it is really all about his ex’s family who he is trying to manipulate. He drips sincerity when sharing his pain, but things are not what they seem.
Overall the plot has a wicked layering of duplicity, sequenced into reveals. It takes our community struggles as backdrop to a existential and dark comedy. Knowing as many of the real-life players as I do, this feels like a bit of a rip-off.
Many have criticised the awkwardness, even the unbelievability of the major hook-up between Chip and London. I believe this is deliberate because Chip and London are both enormous liars, hiding secrets. London (she is using a fake name) is seeking the man who killed her brother (publically Chip, privately, his ex-wife), and fleeing a wedding. Chip really didn’t do it, but he can’t tell her. Yet she seems to want to cling to him like a broken person. In this existential mess swims Chips motivations to support “Save Venice”….really?
The Lead character, Chip, saves Venice, in a monologue before the Venice Neighborhood Council, going on far longer and with more melodrama than anyone would tolerate at those meetings. This is what heroes and anti-heroes do in mythology and screenplay, fair enough. This reduces the gentrification issue to a dispute with Chip’s Ex-wife’s family. Putting Will in the center of the anti-gentrification movement does a dis-service to that movement. The Hotel is stopped because Chip manipulates his wife’s family, but his ex-wife’s father evicts him anyway, for spite. In a final reveal of his despicable character, Chip has been stealing his best bud’s wine (he is a high end wine seller), and drinking it, and not telling his AA Sponsors.
At one point a lot of (staged) anti-gentrification demonstrators march down Abbot Kinney (on the sidewalk, they probably couldn’t get street closure for the shoot).
The location shooting is nice because they utilize many of the older bungalows as the residences of the characters. It looks funky, like funky Venice. Perhaps too much Venice lore and jargon is used because I can’t imagine most people getting the jokes about streets.
The AA backdrop to the story is appropriate, there are up to seven AA meetings in Venice per day, and we have a lot of Halfway Houses and rehab clinics.
There is one Black character, a policeman, with a perverse sense of humor. At one point he bursts into his friend’s apartment in uniform and with gun drawn, just for fun. It’s disturbing to see Police portrayed as dangerous clowns, however, from reports I have heard, this is how police joke with their friends, privately.
One flaw so obvious it must have been on purpose, is that the characters would leave their bikes and skateboards out in the open without locking them up.
There is an slimy evil nerdly Silicon Beach Billionaire dickhead caricature, which we like to see, but we are easily pandered to. He and his ex-wife’s lesbian fiance turn out to be the financiers behind the Hotel.
This is broad humor and dark satire and ultimately does more harm to Chip’s character than to the “Save Venice” movement. Still it feels weird to see our community’s struggles fictionalized.
The Marxist Critical Razor asks
Does it portray the oppression of the working class. – negligible
Are the Workers shown to be aware of their oppression. – a little
Are the workers struggling to overcome their oppression. – mmmmm
Are the workers victorious in overcoming their oppression. – ambiguous.
Conclusion: This is a bourgeois piece of trash that does a disservice to our community’s struggles. Chip, who Saves Venice, get’s called “Mayor of Venice”, and gets the girl, is a complete dick. It is quite funny however in that uncomfortable embarrassing observational humor sort of way.
But what about the overall gestalt of the thing.
Metacritic: Critics: 43/100 User: 2.4/10 – …pretty bad. I think it’s hard on viewers when they finally realize what a dick Chip is.