Sunday, October 14, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Deuce' - Candy and Paul Celebrate the Success of Their Dream Projects in 'We're All Beasts'

HBO's The Deuce - Episode 2.06 "We're All Beasts"

Candy shoots her opus guerilla-style on the streets of New York. Vincent makes a confession to Abby, along with a promise to change. Ashley and Abby help a prostitute escape the Deuce, with a little help from Vincent. Larry gets a promotion. Paul celebrates the opening of his new upscale club. Bobby turns to Vincent to find work for his wayward eldest son, Joey.

There are moments of pure happiness that occur at the end of "We're All Beasts." They just come after weeks of hard work and depravity with the assumption that this moment of satisfaction will be incredibly fleeting for the main characters. Candy and Paul have hit obstacles every step of the way when it comes to their dream projects. And now, Candy is finally shooting her movie and Paul is opening his bar. They provide actual victories for them as well. This is a rewarding hour for both of them. They have moments of pure bliss seeing all of their hard work pay off. But again, it's very difficult and shows that there may be even more insurmountable problems just on the horizon. The mob looms throughout every single corner of this world. There is the suggestion that these characters will be able to escape that life. But it remains so shocking to see just how casual and extreme that influence can be. Everything is deeply rooted in the mob and prostitution when it comes to these businesses in the city. It makes it seem laughable that anyone could be truly unaware of what's actually been going on and who may really be financing these various projects. It's ridiculous that Vincent is just now confessing to Abby that the mob backs the bar that she owns and that's where the weekly payments are going. He is in charge of that transaction. As such, he has to be just as culpable for the continued trauma of women as the people at the top running things. Abby isn't perfect and innocent either. She also accepts that she always fundamentally knew that this is what was happening but chose to ignore it. And now, everyone is trying to take a stand and say something. But again, the only person who genuinely seems free is Candy. She managed to get off the streets and make a name for herself. She created this opportunity that has led to her passion project being filmed. She is so proud of who she has become. She is no longer that person working the street corner just barely making enough money to survive. She now has stability and safety in her life. That's what makes it so heartbreaking and disruptive when Frankie just casually brings money from the mob into this venture. That's not what Candy wanted. And now, she has no awareness that it has actually happened.

The moment that Frankie became a producer on Candy's film it was inevitable that he would cause problems for the whole production. At first, it seems like him simply being demanding as the husband of one of the stars. But that's not even the biggest headache that Candy has to deal with when it comes to the actors in front of the camera. Instead, her leading man is incredibly demanding and doesn't appreciate just how unprofessional this set actually is. He's not wrong to hold that opinion either. Candy is doing this without any of the proper permits. She is just hoping to steal as many shots as possible on the streets of the city. In fact, she seems to become even more enamored by the outside locations and the rush that comes from filming quickly over this hour. She actually puts her crew in situations where they didn't need to be. Sure, Harvey works his magic in being able to use a hotel lobby for a couple of hours during the night. But it's still Candy's decision when she opts to use the subway and an abandoned pier as locations for her actors to have sex in her movie. That's crazy and dangerous. It does lead to them getting caught at one point. But again, the audience has a fundamental understanding of just how corrupt the police is at this time. These officers don't care what Candy is filming or that she lacks the proper permits from the city. They just want to see it being filmed. That's all that they want when they come onto the scene. As such, that empowers Candy as well. She continues to think outside of the box while exploring this world that was once so familiar to her. She hits the streets of the Deuce once more as a changed woman, Sure, she is still appearing in the films and having sex. But she also has power behind the camera. She is the one making all of these decisions. She feels free to do whatever she wants. She's not freaking out about the money or how to fix the various problems. That responsibility instead falls onto Harvey and Frankie. With Harvey, he is a trusted partner who comes from years of experience. With Frankie, there is no reason to trust him at his word. So when he returns with twenty thousand dollars, everyone should be skeptical but instead he is praised.

However, Frankie gets this money from Rudy and his mob connections. This season saw the mob wanting to sever all ties with Frankie just because he continues to steal from their businesses. He was placed in charge of the peep show. For awhile, Rudy was able to attribute the loss of money to the opening of other establishments with a better business model for the clients. But Frankie was ultimately the reason for the major losses. He was always taking cash from the vault. Even when he caught a break and was flush with cash for once, he proved to be very irresponsible with it. And now, he is given a new position of power simply because he has money. That's the only reason why Candy and Harvey are willing to partner with him on this film. He brings in something very important. Harvey wants to ensure that the project stays on budget while Candy is in charge of the creativity on display. In the end, Candy is able to get the shot she desired. She finds it so erotic and enticing watching the final cut of the climatic moment. Harvey gets caught up in it as well. It proves to the audience that Candy may have actually achieved something great despite all of the challenges she faced in making this film. But again, she is going to remain indebted to the mob. It's all because of Frankie. Rudy only became an investor because he saw something as being a part of the movie when it wasn't. He sees a scene being filmed that actually seems quite entertaining. In reality though, Larry is being beaten up by the police and arrested even though he committed no crime. The officers actually seem to be doing a good job in intervening when it seems like a dangerous man is chasing after an innocent girl on the street. But they ultimately don't care that it's for a movie. They see an arrest needing to happen because the abuse has already been done. That could become a metaphor for this situation as well with Rudy continuing to exert his influence even though Candy didn't want any mob money in the first place. Instead, she's gotten in bed with him against her wishes and this film may not be as empowering as she always dreamed because of it.

Elsewhere, Vincent and Abby are trying to negotiate the new rules of this world. They are trying to make the neighborhood a better place by actually doing something to enact real change. That's the exact same thing that Gene Goldman has been trying to do all season long. His way has been very bureaucratic and ideal based. He has made presentations to the police precincts in the hopes that their actions will change. But he doesn't really have the support on the ground to actually change policies and the way that they are being enforced in the neighborhood. Abby is only armed with information. And yet, she actually seems to be making a difference by reaching out to the people on the streets who are really in control. Right now, it's all presented through her negotiating an agreement between the pimps and the tenants of a neighborhood building. They want this dynamic to be more beneficial for all involved. At the moment, their disagreements are only hurting the girls on the streets. That's the kind of enforcement that has always been carried out in the Deuce. The police are only looking at the immediate problem and a quick solution. They are trying to meet their monthly quotas. They are doing what's necessary in any given moment. They aren't trying to stop the sex trade from happening. They carry the cynicism that comes from knowing this neighborhood's identity and the disbelief that it can ever change. They aren't working to do anything about it. And so, it's up to people like Dorothy and Abby to take a stand to ensure that working conditions are better even though the world remains as messed up as always. It feels freeing to be able to get a young woman out of this line of work when she wants to leave. And yet, that moment will be very fleeting as well because Dorothy can't help everyone escape to something better either. This will remain a way of life for so many in the Deuce.

Even though Vincent and Abby present as a team during the opening of Paul's new club, they are distant and unsure of the other at the moment. Vincent opens up about his connections to the mob. He is willing to take responsibility for his actions and promises to change. And yet, there really isn't any sense that he will actually do so. He remains a privileged person in this world who has frequently taken advantage of a situation often to the detriment of many oppressed people. Sure, he allows Paul to open this new bar with his full support and no strings attached from the mob. He's proud of the work his friend has done. But Vincent also positions himself as better than the people he associates with. He wouldn't judge someone by their race, gender or sexual orientation. But he certainly condemns people to certain lines of work as well. He understands that a bar is no place for his nephew to work in order to get a sense of the struggles from the real world. And yet, he tosses him away with no other suggestions for how to improve the situation. As such, that could only contribute to the cycle of abuse with Bobby now taking his son to the massage parlor with him. He is being exposed to this environment which will threaten the normalization of this kind of work in his young and impressionable mind. That's not good or healthy in the slightest. In fact, it's rather despicable and shows just how horrendous a person Bobby really is. He is living a more truthful life with his family. This is how he is able to afford things for them. And yet, he doesn't really care about them either. He just sees them as a burden that he has to deal with. It's not a joy that he contributes to with pleasure. He is angry at the world for refusing to allow him to succeed according to his schedule. He shouldn't be a success story in the Deuce. However, the parlor is back up and running soon after being hit with a surprise raid as well. That too is very damning.

Some more thoughts:
  • "We're All Beasts" was written by Megan Abbott & Stephani DeLuca and directed by Susanna White.
  • Frankie pushed for Candy to hire Christina as an actress in the film. She even gives her a very lucrative part. She is playing the grandmother from this fairy tale. That's a biting comment about how Hollywood can typically cast people too young for specific roles. Here, it's mostly just a fantasy and a decision made out of convenience. And yet, it's still meaningful when Frankie has to fire her for not being able to deliver any of the lines in a way that is quick and natural.
  • Of course, it's also amusing to watch as Candy balks at the suggestion of turning the grandmother into a hot aunt in order to seem more accurate for the casting only to change her mind when she steps into the role. She doesn't see herself as a grandmother either. She is still a sexual being who can conquer the world with her desires. And yes, she is a much more natural fit for this role - especially once she finds the right inspiration from a cartoon.
  • Lori is annoyed by the idea of having Larry as her co-star. It's enough for there to be a little more tension between her and Candy. She finds it strange that she now has to have sex with someone who has long been a rival to C.C. And yet, C.C. doesn't care. He also no longer sees Larry as a pimp. He has become a sex worker and C.C. sees that as absolutely demeaning and less than what he deserves.
  • It's a little late in the season for the show to introduce Goldman's home life right before he continues to explore the world as a closeted gay man. It has the potential of being unique and compelling. Paul and Kenneth are an out couple who have so much love and support. But that's not the typical story for gay individuals in 1970s society. Goldman has run into them in the past. Right now though, he seems to be more intrigued by what Abby is saying at the community meeting.
  • Even though he has become such a toxic individual, Bobby makes one strong point in saying that Vincent is just as absent and disinterested as a father as he is. It's been a long time since Vincent's kids have even been mentioned. He is not a part of their lives. It doesn't seem like he is sending them any money. He has no responsibility over them. And yet, him stepping up and doing better may lead to him reaching out to them. Even so, he will have to deal with the consequences of being a bad and absent father.