On Changing into a God in Central Florida, Showtime’s new Kirsten Dunst automobile, has a relationship to the movies of the Coen brothers that’s much like the one between one thing like Mr. Robotic and the movies of David Fincher and Stanley Kubrick. It’s not a pastiche, not precisely, however in the event you requested 10 movie followers, “What feeling does this present appear to be it’s going for?” 9 of them would instantly point out the brothers behind Fargo, The Huge Lebowski, and No Nation for Previous Males.
This isn’t essentially a foul factor, thoughts. Mr. Robotic is eager to showcase its influences, but it surely blends them along with a really 2010s sense of political and financial collapse to create one thing that’s distinctly its personal.
Likewise, On Changing into a God in Central Florida (which premieres Sunday, August 25) combines the American milieu of the time interval wherein it’s set — the “historical past is over and western capitalism gained!” hubris of the 1990s — with the “is that this a comedy or a drama?” tonal oddness of the Coen films of the identical period (which embrace Fargo and The Huge Lebowski). Add in a few of the darkly comedian crime shenanigans of Elmore Leonard’s neo-noir novels set in Florida — one other seeming affect — and you’ve got a potent brew.
The present loses its approach a bit throughout the course of its first season; I’ve seen all 10 of it, and I used to be by no means fairly positive exactly what story it was making an attempt to inform. However I discover the Coens comparability helpful. The pair makes a number of films about individuals who delude themselves into doing reckless and even unlawful issues, primarily based on the idea that they deserve one thing good as a result of America lied to them. On Changing into a God in Central Florida is that, however with certainly one of Kirsten Dunst’s most interesting performances and a water park.
On Changing into a God attracts a vicious line between pyramid schemes and capitalism
Dunst performs Krystal Stubbs, a lower-middle-class spouse and mom who learns, after an unlikely tragedy, that she’s in a considerable quantity of debt to FAM, a multilevel advertising and marketing group that quantities to the very actual firm Amway with the serial numbers filed off.
As with Amway, a serious query surrounding whether or not FAM is a official firm or a pyramid scheme has to do with whether or not the merchandise it sells have any precise worth or are simply low-cost junk. FAM exists primarily to promote ineffective merchandise to its many distributors, who in flip attempt to promote these merchandise to individuals just a bit bit worse off than they’re. It’s a nebulously authorized ploy to revenue off the poor and provides to the wealthy, and the one people who profit are these on the tippy prime of the pyramid (right here represented by Ted Levine as Obie Garbeau, a mustachioed cowboy sort who wouldn’t really feel misplaced in The Huge Lebowski).
Krystal has no nice love for FAM, however she’s additionally so in hock to the corporate that the one approach out is thru. So she throws herself into promoting its merchandise with clear eyes (she is aware of a lot of the stuff is crap) and the form of gusto that solely a former magnificence queen who as soon as imagined a brighter future for herself can muster. She tells herself she’s constructing one thing higher for her household, however the nature of FAM signifies that she primarily has to bilk her closest buddies and lure them right into a place she is aware of would possibly properly bankrupt them. To play the sport is to lose the whole lot, even once you win.
That final sentence is a fairly nice summation of unchecked capitalism to start with, and On Changing into a God in Central Florida isn’t shy about declaring all the methods FAM would possibly simply be a microcosm of the nation that gave delivery to it.
What’s extra, the present is fascinated about how the informal sexism and racism of the American dream Krystal grew up with solely serves to perversely maintain feeding its personal ends. Krystal’s concepts — good ones! — are continuously written off as a result of she’s a lady and the lads round her can’t think about viewing the world via her perspective. However to show that her concepts are good means additional feeding and enriching the beast that may in any other case dismiss her completely, a catch-22 that loads of individuals who aren’t cisgender straight white males have discovered themselves in all through American historical past. To develop into her most worthwhile self, she should additionally develop into her worst self.
On Changing into a God in Central Florida veers wildly between basically comedic scenes (particularly these involving Krystal’s important level of contact with FAM, a tryhard failson named Cody, performed by Théodore Pellerin) and deeply tragic ones (particularly these involving Krystal’s neighbor Ernie, performed by Mel Rodriguez, who will get additional and additional enmeshed in Krystal’s scheming however doesn’t have her innate savvy).
The present doesn’t all the time appear significantly well-balanced on this regard, and a number of other sequences all through the primary season that tilt towards dreamy surreality have a contact of flopsweat to them, as if the present’s writers’ room (headed up by creators Robert Funke and Matt Lutsky) had a extremely cool thought for one thing that may be visually beautiful however couldn’t determine a option to information their story organically towards these factors. (With that stated, when these sequences work — as with a montage mixing tooth horror, waterslides, and Jesus Christ Celebrity within the second episode — they actually repay.)
And the season’s pacing is downright weird. Showtime has launched the primary two episodes of On Changing into a God in Central Florida totally free on YouTube, and that’s seemingly as a result of it takes Krystal each of these episodes to finish up within the place you count on her to finish up in: working for FAM. Then the center hours of the season are a lot stronger, however because it concludes, it awkwardly pivots to establishing for a second season, as if it had by no means beforehand thought-about the chance.
However even when the present is veering everywhere, Dunst is there to carry it collectively. Unfairly pigeonholed as a love curiosity for an excessive amount of of her profession, Dunst has all the time been finest at enjoying black-hearted schemers. At the same time as a baby, she made Little Ladies’s Amy March really feel like a sociopath in ready.
Now, much less involved with film stardom, she’s made a collection of daring selections over the past 10 years, and On Changing into a God in Central Florida is likely one of the boldest. She’s a dirtbag as sponsored by Glamour Photographs, and it’s all the time a surprise to see her smile and understand her mouth isn’t crammed with shark’s enamel. Not the whole lot about this collection works, however the whole lot about its lead efficiency does. And for a primary season, that’s greater than sufficient.
On Changing into a God in Central Florida debuts Sunday at 10 pm Japanese on Showtime.