Sunday, April 15, 2018

REVIEW: 'Barry' - Barry Struggles with Trying to Be More Assertive in His Life in 'Chapter Four: Commit... to YOU'

HBO's Barry - Episode 1.04 "Chapter Four: Commit... to YOU"

Barry finds that distancing himself from Fuches and the Chechens might be harder than he thought. Sally is dismayed to learn that an audition arranged by a prospective agent has strings attached. Gene promises Moss a bombshell, but only over dinner. Barry invites a Marine buddy and his two pals to a party given by his classmate Natalie, where Zach threatens Barry's claim on Sally.

The supporting characters of Barry are all so incredibly selfish. It's the show commenting on the type of people one typically finds in Hollywood. Gene has convinced everyone in the acting class that he is this legend in the entertainment industry. He has written a bestselling book and knows famous people. But he's actually just a struggling actor like the rest of them going out for the smallest roles in any production. He's self-managed as well because no one could ever try to control him and his artistic integrity. Then, Sally is a free spirit who always accepts help from others. She's so endearing to the rest of the acting class in demanding them to help her with her work. But she also has no time to give that back to anyone else. She's so focused on her career. And yet, she's caught in the ironic cycle of needing an agent to book an audition but can only get an agent after booking a significant piece of work. Then, Fuches built this whole business proposition with the Chechens around the promise that Barry would eliminate their competition and steal their stash house for them. He did so without consulting Barry and addressing his desire of getting out of this kind of work. The forces have finally aligned to keep Barry and Fuches in the city for the foreseeable future. But it's also apparent that Barry stands in opposition to all of this. He's the most selfless character in the entire show. He's always willing to give himself to Fuches, Sally and Gene. That generosity doesn't exactly pay off. Fuches only puts him into more dangerous situations while Sally and Gene are taking advantage of his time and money. But Barry is willing to give that because he doesn't know exactly what he wants in this world or how to get it.

As such, it's fascinating to see Gene work to try to get a great performance out of Barry. Barry has not been excelling in this acting class at all. He finds it a freeing experience because he is embraced by a community that welcomes him completely and openly. He sees a new path forward with his life that could actually become something meaningful. He has tapped into emotions he didn't realize he had before. But he's still not a good actor. He delivers everything in the same monotonous way. He doesn't know how to express the intent of the material given to him. Gene gives him this monologue from Glengarry Glen Ross in the hopes that it will bring something new out of Barry. Gene gave it to him as an assignment to go crazy. But Barry's instincts with the material are still wrong. He simply has no context for what's actually going on in these famous pieces of work. He hasn't fully immersed himself in the world of Hollywood. He doesn't understand the stories being told. He just sees everything with the same optimistic perspective. He doesn't know how to relate to the world or use the space in an appropriate way. Gene yells at him the same way he did to Sally in the series premiere. That inspired her to dig deeper and deliver a more emotional performance. It was quite a transition that seemed very beneficial. It certainly gave her a confidence boost in its aftermath. But here, Barry can't seem to relate because the only purpose he has in life is in this class. He runs the risk of being kicked out because he's not a good actor at all. He has to convince Gene that he belongs here. The action conveniently cuts away before showing what he does on the stage though. It's a very deliberate cut because it's more important for Barry to apply Gene's advice to the other aspects of his life.

And so, Barry tries being more assertive. He no longer wishes to be a pushover. He wants to give himself over to his craft and go wherever the story demands him to. He sees that as him needing more confidence to question his authority and push for what he wants from this world. He doesn't want to work for Fuches anymore. He doesn't want to be an assassin for the Chechen mob. He confronts Fuches on the driving range because it's a completely insane idea for him to attack this stash house by himself. It's ridiculous and will more than likely lead to his death. Fuches doesn't seem interested in that at all. He's not fazed by this sudden change of attitude in Barry either. He just keeps on practicing his swing. Elsewhere, Barry believes he needs to step up and force Sally to see him as her boyfriend. They have slept together once. She was in a very vulnerable state after losing out on one audition. She has another already lined up today. She is able to bounce back quickly without reading too much into this relationship. But Barry sees Sally as this sexual object of his desire. He is attracted to this class because he is attracted to Sally. He wants to ensure that he can spend as much time with her as possible. He is completely smitten with her and her talent even though he doesn't see her as an actual human being. The show makes sure the audience sees her that way. We become aware that she isn't even allowed to audition because she doesn't have an agent. We see how absolutely crushing that is to her. But it doesn't justify Barry trying to sweep her off her feet because he has a fantasy of their big, happy ending where they are living happier ever after while being best friends with Jon Hamm.

Of course, neither of these ambitions actually go according to plan for Barry because he fails to interact with Fuches and Sally as they actually are. Barry has always seen Fuches as the loving uncle trying to protect him and Sally as the ingenue in class with a crush on him. He sees a bright future by quitting as a hitman and being Sally's boyfriend. But everything comes to ahead at Natalie's party to celebrate her acting friend, Zach, getting a breakout role as the motion capture performer in the live-action remake of Pinocchio. Fuches suddenly invades Barry's new life. Barry has been able to keep things largely separate. He interacts with the Cheches only when he has to and has kept them far away from the rest of his new acting friends. But now, Fuches shows up at the party to intimidate Barry into continuing to work for him. To Barry, it's such a risk to have his two worlds collide together once more. When they did in the series premiere, it led to Ryan's death. That set so much of this story spinning into action. As such, Barry quickly agrees just to get Fuches to leave him alone. It also just happens to be convenient that Barry reconnects with an old Marine buddy at this precise time. Sally is helping him set up a Facebook account where the only friend outside of the acting class he's interested in is this guy he served with in the marines. He brings some more friends to this party that get rough and cause a scene. But it's also just enough to suggest that it won't be a daunting task after all for Barry to take this stash house. In fact, it could be seen as further proof that it's much easier for Barry to expand his criminal business than to try to make it in an acting career.

Meanwhile, it's just so much fun to see everyone fawn over Zach at this party. Natalie is so envious of his success and making sure that everyone knows that she is close friends with him. Of course, she can't confirm how they actually know each other because they met in one of those anonymous groups for people with similar problems. Barry doesn't know what that is which is such an amusing joke here. But he also feels intimidated by Zach because Sally seems to be forging a connection with him. The new Marine friends point out that it seems like Sally is flirting with Zach. And yes, a case can be made for her doing exactly that because she is so desperate to be famous as a movie star that she's willing to latch onto anyone with even a remote chance of success. Of course, she's also the one who discovers that he's just performing the movements for this motion capture character. He's not the actual actor bringing him to life. He'll barely get a mention in the closing credits. That's still enough for Natalie to fawn over. It's not enough for Sally though. But it becomes such a huge fight between her and Barry because Barry sees her as cheating on him after their one night together. He has built this whole relationship in his head even though it isn't real. He has quickly gotten attached to Sally. But it's not for anything in her actual personality. They are just two people who clamor onto each other whenever the situation suits them. That's not a recipe for success in a relationship. But it does craft such a fascinating dynamic in this specific story. Sally yells at him for treating her as less than human. He sees her more as his property that he needs to defend. That's incredibly sexist and makes Barry realize that there's still so much about the outside world that he just doesn't understand or can empathize with.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chapter Four: Commit... to YOU" was written by Sarah Solemani and directed by Maggie Carey.
  • It's abundantly clear that Gene is just trying to manipulate Detective Moss into going out on a date with him. That's creepy and potentially very abusive. And yet, he still finds a way to charm her. He doesn't have any bombshell news to assist with her investigation. That occurs elsewhere in the hour. But he is able to tempt her into enjoying a nice meal and a glass of wine with the promise of kicking him in the balls if she doesn't enjoy it.
  • Of course, it's also a little questionable what Gene's true intentions actually are with Detective Moss. He could be seeking a genuine romantic connection with her. He puts on the charm in order to really endear himself to her. But he also seems like he is just trying to sell his acting class to her to earn even more money from what is clearly his main source of employment.
  • Detective Moss' big breakthrough in her murder investigation is unlocking the video from the Chechen camera to identify the third shooter in this mess of a crime scene. Of course, it's also inevitable that the video is too blurry to identify Barry as the man responsible for all of this. There is even a punchline about her being able to identify whomever this is as soon as they have the suspect in custody. It will all make sense then.
  • There's also a really creepy moment where it seems like Sally is falling into a casting couch situation. She has a potential agent who makes a joke about only wanting to represent her if she is willing to have sex with him. Again, that's a twisted and depressing reality of this business. Sally is able to stand up for herself and rebuff his advances. But it also seems likely that's why he rejects her as one of his clients at the audition.
  • Fuches is able to make any story seem entertaining. That's how he has been able to keep Barry in this profession for as long as he has. He can be threatening and intimidating when necessary. But he's also charming and endearing because he's a storyteller. He's the one who might actually be a good actor. He can tell a tale of using his words to get the Chechen assassin to kill himself instead of him to great effect.