Friday, June 13, 2014

Reviews" Vanessa Alone" and "Vanessa Lost"

I am going to start discussing Vanessa’s Story, the web-series spin-off of Out With Dad.  First, I’d like to make some general comments about the series. First, I think it was a great idea to shoot the series in black-and-white.  It isn’t something I was expecting, and it really sets the tone for the series.  The anguish is evident in Vanessa as her world is empty and cold, and our perception of that world matches her feelings.  Also, the entire idea of doing Vanessa’s story-line as a spin-off series took me by surprise. Like the musical episode, this shows that Jason is being bold and taking chances with his creation.  I really like the willingness he has to mess with things.  It keeps the series from becoming formulaic in any sense, and these chances have been very successful in my view.  Finally, I must note how much this series shows the ability of Lindsey Middleton to bring the role of Vanessa to life. This series is a testament to her acting abilities. And her producing as well.  Though I don’t really know what a producer does.  I’ll have to research that someday.

The first episode of Vanesa’s Story is called “Vanessa Alone” and tells the tale of her first day as a runaway.  The episode begins with an extended montage of Vanessa wandering around Toronto and her parents at home trying to contact her and arguing.  During this the only sound is some creepy music.  It is over 3 minutes into the episode before we have dialogue. Together, these elements really set the tone for the series.  The dialogue begins with the introduction of a new character, Kayla, another runaway that apparently attempts to help and befriend Vanessa. Vanessa gives Kayla half a sandwich, and Kayla gives Vanessa some information about places to stay the night.  Kayla also picks up on Vanessa’s sexuality quickly.  Jason noted in the written introduction to the series that a disproportionate amount of runaways are LGBT youth, something I’ve never thought about.  Vanessa soon finds herself at Kyle’s place, and has an interesting conversation about sexual identity, that includes some common views about bi-sexuality. Specifically, that bi-sexual people are gay people that are afraid to commit, but will get there eventually. The episode ends with Vanessa’s parents trying to decide if they should call the police or go visit Rose and Nathan to see if they know where Vanessa could be.

“Vanessa Lost” begins with Vanessa at Kyle’s house trying to sleep but scared out of her wits by some heated argument that Kayla tells us is between Kyle and Erica.  Kayla comforts Vanessa and the two kiss.  I’d say this is an important moment for Vanessa, as she is accepting her attraction towards other girls.  However, Kayla proves to be less of a friend than she seems as she disappears the next morning with Vanessa’s phone. However, Vanessa does have a nice conversation with Tracy about being Bi, and how it is a real thing.  I’d think the common misconceptions are covered in their conversation: the idea from last episode that bi is just a transition stage to being gay, and the idea that Bi is just a straight person experimenting. Tracy (and Jason and company by extension) shatter these misconceptions but if this would make Vanessa feel better she is then torn apart as Tracy describes a story that sounds very much like what Rose has been experiencing due to Vanessa’s reactions to Rose’s feelings for her. This is my favorite part in Vanessa’s story so far.  It really makes Vanessa see things from a different perspective, which is something we should all do now and then.  This episode also ends with a scene involving Vanessa’s parents, this time as they are talking to the police.  The conversation makes them understand a bit about how they pushed Vanessa away instead of helping her.  I noticed upon re-viewing this episode that the police officer’s face is never shown during this scene, which is a very effective decision as it keeps the camera on Vanessa’s parents and their reactions.  Robert Nolan and Wendy Glazier, who play the parents, do a great job in this series, and deserve mentioning. I've heard that it’s fun to play the villain, but in this case they are now villains that the viewer starts to feel sorry for. Great job!

Okay, I've gone on long enough for now.  I’ll write more at a later time.

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