Animal Kingdom is a stand out Australian movie written by David Michod. I can’t recall a better movie in 2010. From it, some of our amazing local talent got that much needed and well deserved global recognition (think Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, James Frecheville, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, and Sullivan Stapleton.)
It’s beyond dark, it’s gritty and when I read that it was being made into a TV series in the US I was in two minds…. It really could go either way depending on execution, location, character etc. I was strangely protective of this creation and story – patriotism can manifest in some interesting ways it would seem! Immediately I did my research on who was playing who – I love Ellen Barkin and Scott Speedman (Sigh,Ben..Felicity days) and was curious as to how it would look on screen being set out of southern California. I really didn’t want to have a point break feel happening…
I watched the first episode last night. I am happy to report that I was immediately uncomfortable. A sense of disease was present and I felt it set up the same dark and dysfunctional world for “J” to be thrown into. Some wonderful scenes have been constructed to show the co-dependent nature of the children towards their grandmother is particular unsettling. I know a lot of the ground work is from the pre existing text but it is the casting that would ultimately affect this show. The benefit of the TV format is that it can explore different elements and linger where a film can’t go. I know the Hollywood Reporter didn’t give it a hugely favourable review but we have to try these things, test them, see what the audience wants which is so hard to do these days. I personally love darker stories. The character complexities and consequences of their actions. This 10 episode set up allows for us to go deeper into the interpersonal relationships.
In particular, I think the casting is brilliant. Scott Speedman is likeable as Barry “Baz” Brown. Not a role I am used to seeing him in but I was pleasantly surprised. Charismatic and seemingly level headed you want to trust him. Physically, he looks clean cut as well which is crucial to his character. More importantly, Barry wants to believe that he is still separate from the others and seems to have more of a moral compass. I remember watching it all those years ago and you can’t help but hope he is decent at his core. I find myself already embarking on the same journey with this invocation of Baz.
Ellen Barkin brings a whole new level of trashiness to it and I am all for it – yasssssssssssssss it works. She is a dream! Jackie Weaver was the bomb in this role so big shoes to fill. Whilst I am not about comparing ,I do think it’s great to see what somebody else can bring to the character. I was transfixed on her cleavage always being on display and found her interactions with the guys so completely creepy and inappropriate always blurring that line of being too sexual. She certainly carries the attitude of ferocity with her throughout the episode and we know it simmers beneath that overly protective maternal exterior. This enabling matriarch is consistent with the Jackie Weaver character in this sense – she won’t take any shit.
Anyway, some musings on my part. I will continue watching this series. It can’t be an easy thing to adapt a critically acclaimed movie and split it into tv – different format, audience, elements, budgets etc. I look forward to seeing it spiral out of control and how the characters evolve …OH AND more Scott Speedman – oh my.
Bad is bred….