Crashing (2016)

Don’t bring your ukulele to the dinner party

Main Cast: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Damien Molony

Created By: Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is clearly a genius. I already knew that from Killing Eve and Fleabag. But how long has she been a genius? Forever and I’m late to the party? Or is this a recent development? I needed to know, so I went back to the first thing that she wrote, created, and starred in – the 2016 single season series Crashing. I can say without question that the genius goes back at least this far.

Crashing features an ensemble cast of eccentric young-ish adults living in an old hospital in London. They are property guardians, you see. In exchange for very low rent and a strict set of rules, they reside in an abandoned building until the owners decide what it will become. In this case, the tenants inhabit a disgusting ancient hospital with absolutely no redeeming features save for the personalities in residence.  And even that is frequently in question.

Waller-Bridge plays Lulu, a newcomer who grew up with Anthony (Damien Molony). Anthony lives in the hospital with fiancée Kate (Louise Ford). He is handsome and charming and easy going (on the surface) and Kate is nervous and uptight. She is not excited about the arrival of Anthony’s childhood bestie.

Then we have Sam, an absolutely obnoxious, sexist, womanizing pig played by Jonathan Bailey. Sam sounds awful, and he is. But Sam is also many other things. Fred (Amit Shah) is sweet and self-conscious. He and Sam have a complicated and often uncomfortable friendship.

Melody (Julie Dray) is the resident artist. She is brave and French. And she is very enamored of Kate’s depressed co-worker Colin (Adrian Scarborough), who cries a lot and is going through a terrible divorce.

Lulu arrives at the hospital during Sam’s (very much against the rules) birthday party. Anthony is overjoyed, Kate is insecure, Sam is horny, and everyone is drunk upon her arrival. She is adrift in her life, so fits in pretty well at the hospital. But her presence upsets any sort of balance among the residents and, well, things happen.

Crashing may seem like little more than a British ensemble comedy set in a rotting hospital. Like Friends with an actual person’s budget. But nothing is as it seems with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and the result is a completely delightful mess of sexual tension (and release), awkward drunkenness, and the very deep hazards of truth telling and communal living.

What I like best about this very short (only six episodes) series is that it is absolutely fearless. Sometimes these characters are genuine assholes without a single redeeming feature. Then a switch flips and they’re suddenly just flawed people with lousy coping skills and good intentions. That is a nearly impossible line to walk, but Waller-Bridge is the reigning queen of line walking and she makes it work through sheer force of will. You won’t like all of these characters, but you will like each of them in moments that you won’t see coming.

The performances in Crashing are so, so good. This cast is fearless. Lead by Waller-Bridge, who has never met a situation too appalling to portray, the actors are hilariously unguarded. The unused hospital is perfectly appropriate. And by that I mean absolutely disgusting. These characters are a sad, funny, ridiculously perfect fit for their surroundings.

Crashing is not for the timid (or the easily offended – these characters can be really gross) but it is very funny and oddly touching. It’s also a perfectly binge-able three hours in length total. There is not a second season – it’s meant to stand alone.

Crashing is currently streaming on Netflix. Fleabag is available on Amazon Prime Video

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