No lie: Unforgettable Natasha Lyonne in 'Poker Face'

No lie: Unforgettable Natasha Lyonne in ‘Poker Face’


in poker face, Natasha Lyonne plays Charlie Cale, a casino operator gifted at knowing when people are lying.

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in poker face, Natasha Lyonne plays Charlie Cale, a casino operator gifted at knowing when people are lying.

Philip Caruso / Peacock

From the very beginning, it is no secret that the new series poker face It is a throwback to an earlier era of television Colombo, especially. Even the opening titles mention the color yellow Colombo Line. And while it might not be immediately obvious that Natasha Lyonne is the Peter Falk of her generation, at the end of two episodes, you’ll believe it.

poker face Created by Rian Johnson, writer and director Take out the knives And glass onion, who directed and wrote some, but not all, of the episodes. His sense of structure — the idea that you don’t mask everything to the end, even in something done in a mystery style — he remembers Colombo Let’s start with. (Each episode of Colombo(For those who might not be fans, the viewer started to see what really happened, and the rest were watching Columbo figure it out.) So it makes sense that he created a show here that, in a similar fashion, shows the crime itself at the top, then tells the longer story of how and how it happened. fell apart. But rather than a female detective, these stories intersect with the life of Charlie Cale, played by Leon, whom we first meet as a casino operator who is prized for her ability to tell when people are lying.

The first episode sees Charlie entangled in a mess involving her boss (Adrien Brody) and his henchman (Benjamin Bratt). This mystery, in turn, puts her in danger and sends her on the run. Subsequent episodes find her in various parts of the country, collecting money at odd jobs.

One of the advantages of this format is that it allows Charlie to cross paths with an impressive lineup of guest stars. There’s a truck driver he plays (new Oscar nominee for Whale) Hong Chau, feuding actors played by Elaine Barkin and Tim Meadows, barbecue entrepreneur played by Lil’ Real Hurry, retired community residents played by Judith Light and Law and order legend S. Epatha Merkerson, and musicians Chloë Sevigny and John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats. All of these stories stand on their own, because even as she tries to escape her precarious situation, Charlie is caught up in crime in every town.

Of course, Charlie’s story is in part a travelogue. poker face He’s taken her to many different locations, but Johnson’s love of dirt landscapes has portrayed her in two great episodes of The New York Times Too bad It echoes in Charlie’s initial home in Vegas (there’s a great shot of her perched on a folding chair outside her trailer) and on some desolate road it ends up later. But these standalone episodes (critics got to see six out of what would eventually become 10) take the series into a fascinating array of different worlds.


Lil Rel Howery is just one of the guest stars who catches up with Charlie as she runs away from her problems.

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Lil Rel Howery is just one of the guest stars who catches up with Charlie as she runs away from her problems.

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At the heart of the show and its appeal is Natasha Lyonne. On the other hand, she’s an actress who’s always the same — she doesn’t often disappear into roles in a way that makes you say, “Oh my God, is that Natasha Lyonne?” But at the same time, there are shades of her work here that differ from, say, her highly regarded role in Netflix’s Russian doll. She’s more relaxed and in control this part, still funny and still totally unique, but also careful and thoughtful. Charlie is much happier too, even when she’s in trouble.

Leon’s effect is almost always one of world weary, because of his vision Many, making her a natural as a woman like Charlie, whose accumulated experiences make her skeptical, quick on her feet and sympathetic. If Columbo is always tied up in mysteries because he’s a detective and it’s his job, Charlie stays tied up in it because she doesn’t like liars and it bothers her when unfair things – whether violence or false accusations – happen to the people she does. meet and love.

The focus remains on the characters, fortunately, poker face He takes advantage of Charlie’s special gift to know when people are lying. As she points it out, as long as a person is knowingly lying—that is, they know what they’re saying isn’t true, as opposed to being wrong—she can always know. This can easily become a lazy shortcut, as she always suddenly solves the whole case based on her magical abilities. But her radar gets posted so rarely, that you’ll forget she can do it until he shows up. And it’s not usually a big, central lie (eg “I didn’t kill him!”), but a seemingly insignificant little one (eg “I had fish for dinner”) that makes her search for an explanation.

Drop schedule poker face Honestly a bit baffled. A natural candidate for a week-to-week release, four episodes instead drop on Peacock on January 26th, then the rest will be one a week. But whatever pace you choose, this is a terrific, funny, and intelligent show that delivers exactly the mix of homage and experimentation it promises.

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