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The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “Au Reservoir”

The pimps are the first to face eradication by the proliferation of porn and brothels.



The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “Au Reservoir”
Photo: Paul Schiraldi

David Simon’s The Wire helped to make the Momentous Penultimate Episode a hallmark of prestige television, so it’s fitting that tonight’s “Au Reservoir” ends with The Deuce’s first shocking twist of the season. When the usually docile Leon (Anwan Glover) snaps, killing Reggie Love (Tariq Trotter), the act dutifully provides gravity to an episode that fixates on the show’s peripheral characters. The Deuce has consistently balanced cynical appraisal of urban development with a humanist attention to individuals, and after last week’s focus on the broad influences affecting Times Square, the season’s second-to-last episode looks to the background, prominently featuring Ashley (Jamie Neumann), Paul (Chris Coy), and the now-listless crew of pimps.

The pimps are the first to face eradication by the proliferation of porn and brothels, and they spend most of “Au Reservoir” searching aimlessly for a way to kill time. It’s a new problem for the group, who began the season atop the Times Square food chain, bantering with patrolmen and effectively marshaling their hookers. Once masters of their domain, they’re left to gossip at Leon’s diner, where, in an odd, endearing exchange, Rodney (Method Man) reveals that he’s been repeatedly watching Fantasia at a nearby theater.

C.C. (Gary Carr) is less prone to diversion and spends most of “Au Reservoir” searching for Ashley after she abandons her post in the episode’s opening sequence. Again, the episode recalls the start of The Deuce, as it was Ashley who was tortured by C.C. in the show’s pilot, when the pimps still enjoyed unthreatened control. While Rodney’s affinity for Disney hippopotami is a hilariously specific character wrinkle, it’s Larry (Gbenga Akinnagbe) who offers the most insightful assessment of their new reality, wistfully reminding his colleagues that “there’s more than money to this.”

To be sure, the pimps have lost something besides money (the new arrangement is, ironically, a financial windfall for them). They’ve lost their routine and their sense of purpose, and it’s difficult to empathize with their ennui. When Ashley is asked out by Frankie (James Franco), her normally downtrodden expression transforms into sheepish excitement, and for the first time we see the potential normality she sacrificed in her time with C.C.

Ashley faces a similar realization upon witnessing Frankie’s untethered lifestyle, and her subsequent decision to leave New York for good is enabled by the weakened position of her pimp. The Deuce has spent enough time illustrating the cyclical abuse of prostitutes for us to believe C.C. when he brashly predicts Ashley’s return, but it never comes. And as she leaves New York in the episode’s last scene, there’s an undercurrent of optimism that’s been rare in the series thus far. The Deuce has hinted at an impending boom for New York City’s sex trade but has been less rosy about the prospects of sex professionals, at least until Ashley’s liberation.

Frankie’s date with Ashley isn’t classically romantic: The two attend a screening of Boys in the Sand, a landmark gay erotic film that Paul sells to Frankie as a swords-and-sandals epic. “Au Reservoir” continues Paul’s role in The Deuce as a window into New York’s burgeoning gay awakening, using Paul’s date with an actor from Boys in the Sand to illustrate the film’s place at the vanguard of artful pornography rather than a next step in Paul’s personal development. In a similar sense, the focus on Boys in the Sand seems to foreshadow the porn explosion primarily as a way to provide context for Candy’s (Maggie Gyllenhaal) scenes filming with Harvey (David Krumholz).

On set, Candy moves into a de facto directorial role, offering encouragement to Lori (Emily Meade) and the other actors from over Harvey’s shoulder. She appears to be working her way behind the camera by simply outshining Harvey in the role: She coaxes emotion out of Lori with sensual urging that starkly contrasts Harvey’s flat exasperation, and she alone decides that the colors of the set’s bed sheets need to be changed. Harvey sarcastically dubs her “Marshall McLuhan, all of the sudden,” but the financial success of Boys in the Sand signals a new emphasis on quality and an incoming meritocracy in porn production. With substantial money behind his film, Harvey’s disinterested direction would be unacceptable.

When Candy returns to prostitution between shoots, she’s less composed and energetic than on set, and visibly uncomfortable. She visits a wealthy client in an opulent hotel penthouse and is jarred by the ritual of dinner and drinks before sex, later describing her new gig to Harvey as “still fucking, just with more of the bullshit that comes before.” Her discomfort mirrors Lori’s initial discomfort filming and subverts our conception of progress. Luxurious hotel rooms and controlled porn studios seem like upgrades from the street, but for the women, they’re simply a new kind of fucking.

Adjustment is an overarching theme in “Au Reservoir,” and the episode frames adaptation as the only path survival in The Deuce. After Bernice (Andrea-Rachel Parker) falls apart at the parlor, Darlene (Dominique Fishback) makes exactly that argument to the novice hooker, telling Bernice that if she doesn’t go home, she’ll die. As Thunder Thighs (Pernell Walker) says to Darlene during Bernice’s episode, “Some just aren’t built for it.”

The pimps in The Deuce aren’t built for adaptation; C.C. admits as much during the Fantasia conversation, when he initially confronts the fact of their irrelevance. They’re dinosaurs awaiting extinction, which in Reggie Love’s case arrives literally. Leon has, in his minimal screen time throughout the season, sympathized with the prostitutes that frequent his diner, but his niceties have been spurned by the pimps, then Times Square’s apex predators. That such a peripheral character should strike the first and only substantial blow against a pimp is no coincidence. The winds of change have reached the margins.

For more recaps of The Deuce, click here.



Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.



Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie as actress Sharon Tate, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.



Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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Who Killed My Father Is Heartbreaking but Prone to Pat Sociological Analysis

Édouard Louis’s latest is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts.



Who Killed My Father

Author Édouard Louis’s father has been an important figure in each of his previous works, even when he’s never seen or mostly at the periphery (as in The History of Violence). With his latest, Who Killed My Father, Louis finally turns to directly examining his most important, damaged relationship. Both in his previous books and interviews, Louis has repeatedly acknowledged this broken relationship, largely stemming from the author’s open homosexuality. Alongside this, Louis’s prior works have circled around a number of themes to which he returns here: the French political and working classes, the small-town prejudices that surrounded his upbringing and drove a closeted homosexual boy to escape to more cosmopolitan Paris, and the role of state power in producing social and physical illness.

With Who Killed My Father, Louis invites inevitable comparisons to Abdellah Taïa, another talented French writer who’s also gay and largely estranged from his place of origin, and also primarily an autobiographical novelist. Like Louis, Taïa incorporates his complicated relationship with a parent into several of his books. Taïa also connects that relationship, his writing, and his experience with the society he left behind in Morocco and the one he found in France. But what distinguishes his writing in, for example, Infidels or Salvation Army from that of Édouard Louis in Who Killed My Father is a strong sense of meaning. Taïa incorporates his relationship with his mother, M’Barka, to convey something more meaningful and developed.

Louis begins down this same road before clumsily inserting a political tract at the end of Who Killed My Father that doesn’t knit as effortlessly with parts one and two. The book situates Louis’s relationship with his father front and center as compared to his previous work. It’s clear that he’s exposing the painfulness of their relationship for the purpose of speaking about political power and its physical and social toll on those who don’t possess it, but Who Killed My Father stumbles in conveying its message adequately.

Louis’s account of his father’s suffering and violence toward those around him is both painful and sharp. Who Killed My Father is strongest when Louis is demonstrating his father’s most private acts of kindness, as when the father gives Louis a copy of Titanic for his birthday after trying to convince him to ask for a more “masculine” gift. After Louis realizes that his carefully planned tribute to the pop band Aqua at a family dinner has embarrassed his father, the man reassures Louis that “it’s nothing.” In the book’s first and strongest part, Louis expounds not only on the relationship with his father, but also excavates what might have made his father the man he grew up with. At one point, he recounts finding a photograph of his father in women’s clothes—undoubtedly some adolescent joke, but also inconceivable from the man who insisted to his son that men should never act like girls.

Regrettably, part one ends with a trite conclusion that says everything and nothing at the same time. In part two, the story attempts to braid together all the malignant threads of Louis’s family narrative. Louis recalls igniting a violent outburst between his father and older brother as a result of his mother shaming him for acting too much like a girl (“faggot” is what some others in the neighborhood more precisely call him). The insinuation hurts and angers him so much that he betrays his mother’s confidence on another family secret, setting loose a new wave of violence. Part two is short and important to moving Who Killed My Father toward some wider evaluation of the questions Louis begins the book with, but it ultimately fails to find its footing by pivoting in part three to an unearned polemic against the political classes.

Who Killed My Father is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate (except in brief moments of tenderness) through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts, but the book at its weakest when trying to ham-handedly force this narrative into some broad theorizing about power and society and structural violence. Part one aligned beautifully with a narrative of meaning more comparable to Taïa at his best. Unfortunately, the story quickly falls apart when Jacques Chirac is indicted for destroying Louis’s father’s body through changes in health care coverage. It’s not that the questions Louis ends with aren’t necessary and important ones; it’s that there’s so little threading the narrative together into anything cohesive. What was the point of the first two-thirds of the book? His father was cruel, occasionally loving, but never mind because the state is killing him? The life of the poor is one of abject powerlessness against an unremittingly powerful and callous “ruling class”?

Louis deserves credit for the attempt to tie it all together into some grander commentary on the political class and its ambivalence, but the conclusion is simultaneously glib and condescending. Perhaps Louis didn’t intend it, but the book’s conclusion drains away responsibility for the cruelty and bigotry of those like his father, and patronizes them as with a quick How could we expect any better of the noble, working poor? Is it the state’s or the ruling class’s subjugation of his father’s body that’s somehow also responsible for his inability to sympathize with gays or immigrants? Of course, the poor are subjugated by the rich and Louis has written more meaningfully about the implications of that relationship elsewhere. But in Who Killed My Father, he inadvertently demonstrates that the answer isn’t to sanctify them any more than it is to demonize them.

Édouard Louis’s Who Killed My Father is now available from New Directions.

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