Crank up the way-back machine. Netflix’s Stranger Things has certainly raised the bar for 1980s nostalgia — so let’s head back to the suburbs of New Jersey in the era of Top Gun, Back to School, “Higher Love,” “Nasty,” and “Your Wildest Dreams.” On Nov.
“We’re here to serve you,” says David (Craig Roberts) with tennis ball and racquet in hand.
Dust off those tennis whites, cue Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and fire up the way-back machine.
The second season of Amazon’s sweet nostalgia trip to suburban 1980s New Jersey picks up an ocean away from the titular country club — in Paris, where the deadpan-cute David (Craig Roberts) flies to reunite with his crush Skye (Alexandra Socha). “This season is about them seemingly becoming a dream couple,” co-creator Greg Jacobs tells EW, “but then once they come back to Red Oaks and the real world, things start to slowly come apart.”
It’s a big day for Amazon: Following the news of a second season for high-concept sci-fi drama Man in the High Castle, the network announced Friday that Red Oaks and Hand of God have also scored sophomore seasons.
Episode 8 ended with David smiling as a girl who wasn’t his girlfriend slept with her head on his shoulder. And thus, episode 9 begins on the other end of that spectrum, with David’s girlfriend, Karen, getting bad news from her friend Kimberly at the country club. “Heather saw David the other night on the Red and Tan bus headed into the city with some girl,” Kimberly says, referencing the Coach bus line that’s still a popular and affordable transportation option from Bergen County, N.J., into New York City.
The episode’s title and its main story line is taken from Martin Scorsese’s New York comedy, After Hours, which came out the same year as Red Oaks takes place. Amy Heckerling, who directed the previous installment, the bonkers “Body Swap,” is behind the camera again, but this time the plot’s standard-operating procedures don’t offer her as much of an opportunity to play outside the margins.
And now for something completely different. episode 7 of Red Oaks is both the zaniest departure from the show’s overall tone and a main-line shot of pure comic adrenaline. There are a fair share of in-jokes that you’ll only get if you’ve been watching all along (like a reference to last episode’s sex tape), but generally speaking, this absurd half hour could be plucked out of the series and seen as a something altogether singular and hilarious.
“Swingers,” a more literal title here than the Vince Vaughn/Jon Favreau movie, is a sibling to the Red Oaks episode “MDMA,” which also rested on a kitschy idea that’s funnier in concept than execution. Here, David is solicited by a forty-something couple at the country club to videotape them having sex. Of course, things get all screwy.
“Fourth of July” is a terrific recovery from the listless, punchline oriented couple of episodes that preceded it — as well as a wonderful bounce back by Hal Hartley, the indelible independent film director who has his name on the credits of this one. Hartley is underappreciated in the conversation about American movies of the past 25 years, perhaps he’s never had a slam-dunk zeitgeist hit like his partners in arms Richard Linklater or the Coen Brothers or Red Oaks own exec producer Steven Soderbergh.
A bicycle pops a tire and a Ferrari in neutral gear rolls down a hill — both apt metaphors for the flat, idle nature of this episode of Red Oaks. There are more interesting developments to come, in the very next episode, in fact, but this one (like the previous episode, directed blandly by Andrew Fleming) is just wheel-spinning stuff.
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