Saturday, July 9, 2016

BSN Mini-Review: "Puck"

Hey guys, and welcome to my regular mini-reviews of Bright Summer Night. In the unlikely event that you’re coming to these reviews not knowing what that is, BSN is a webseries inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set in the modern day at a Wellington house party. It’s by The Candle Wasters, who previously produced the Shakespeare-inspired webseries Nothing Much to Do and Lovely Little Losers

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“Puck” is our introduction to the world of Bright Summer Night, and as introductions go, it’s an efficient one. In six minutes, we meet most of the major characters (the Mechanicals being the sad exception); check in on two relationships that are going to drive a lot of plot (Bryn and Awhina’s fracturing romance and Puck’s desperate desire for Bryn’s attention); and get a sense of the mood of the party that we’ll be attending for the next ten episodes (sprawling and quiet enough for interpersonal drama; drunken enough to make the drama worse). We also get a fairly deep dive on the character of Puck: their insecurities, their troubles, their desires.

The Candle Wasters have a lot of practice, from Lovely Little Losers, at packing a great deal of information into a very few details, and it shows here: In only six minutes, Puck makes perfect sense as both an adaptation of the Shakespearian Puck and a person in their own right. Like the original, BSN’s Puck is an outsider who leans into that status, delighting in disturbing the peace. Like the original, they seem to sense a ridiculousness about their world that no one is willing to admit to. Like the original, they would do anything to please Oberon/Bryn. But with BSN’s Puck, we get to see possible reasons for why they’re an outsider (their gender) and why they’re so disdainful of the world (growing up in a home that that displays “dream” and “FAITH” figurines on the outside while being poisoned by anger and resentment on the inside). And we get to see why they hang so desperately on Bryn: Despite their nihilism, they desire connection and acceptance, and Bryn gives that to them, in tantalizingly small doses. In short, Puck is a teenager you might meet in any high school in the world.

There is one element of Puck’s life that I find myself unclear on, and that’s the specific nature of their relationship with Bryn. Puck and Bryn speak to each other as if they were siblings, and certainly their relationship makes much more sense if they’re siblings, but then Puck and a partygoer describe Puck as Bryn’s “friend” and his “buddy.” It makes you appreciate the opportunity that even a hyper-low-exposition vlogseries like Lovely Little Losers provides for characters to just stare at the camera and say, “This is my brother/friend/whatever.” (Not that TCW always availed themselves of that opportunity.) There may be good reasons for the confusion that have yet to be revealed, but if so, TCW haven’t made the job of revealing it easy on themselves; BSN has only the slightest bit more exposition than LoLiLo, and there’s no possibility of talking heads—and only nine short episodes left to work with.

Random Bits

It goes without saying that BSN looks and sounds fantastic. TCW are putting their budget to good use, going all out with evocative lighting, a well-timed soundtrack, and a nice thematic overhead shot that I can’t for the life of me figure out how they pulled off. (Is it computer-generated? Did they rent a freaking crane?)

The best line of “Puck” is Awhina’s, from the trailer: “Good news, everyone, climate change is over because Bryn took a class in English fucking Lit!” But my nose for theme makes me think that the most important line may be Thea’s: “The Dean’s List doesn’t mean anything, Bryn. It doesn’t help anyone except you.”

I assume Bryn and Awhina’s relationship is going to continue to get some of the spotlight going forward, which is why I haven’t discussed it in depth here, but I should at least say that so far, it’s just as efficiently and realistically laid out as Puck’s character.

Bryn clearly tells Puck that Awhina’s purse is flowered, yet Puck goes through every purse on the table and takes things from them. That’s perfectly in character, but there’s another weird purse-related moment earlier on: Puck gives a long loaded look to their mother’s purse before they leave the house. Possibly LoLiLo has just primed me to read too much into things, but the framing of the close-up on Puck’s mother’s purse certainly seems meaningful.

It must be such a relief for TCW to be able to just show text messages on screen.

The fairy lights falling down is a nice kicker for the episode.

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