Tuesday, May 15, 2012

'The L.A. Complex' Reveals A Moral Gray Area on the "Other Side of the Door"...

"You can't just not enjoy stuff. Your phone will ring when it rings. You've got to let it go, as long as you keep believing that things might happen when you least expect it."

I'm not going to lie: when this episode started and there was some strange little kid on the screen, I felt like we were suddenly watching a crappy independent film one of these kids had shot, and potentially was hosting a screening for. When the scene faded away, leaving us with Connor (Jonathan Patrick Moore) waking up from his memorable nightmare, I had to stop and literally exclaim: "Huh?" Suddenly, I felt like I was watching a different show. For one thing, Abby (Cassie Steele) had been at the center since the premiere, yet we never flash-backed with her to learn about her family or childhood or upbringing; should this moment, then, signify a switch in the second half of the season, putting Connor front and center for us the way he had been in his own show within the show? And honestly, a little part of me wondered if the "Other Side of the Door" episode title referred to some kind of psychotic break for Connor-- were these even real memories at all or some kind of deep-rooted fears and anxieties that were going to drive the future of his behavior?

(When I interviewed Moore, he confirmed it was, in fact, a memory. But I enjoy the duality of the meaning. Even if real, he may be exaggerating it now, or simply letting it fester to the point where it affects how he can function...or not function.)

Connor's insecure behavior is starting to get under my skin. Sure, we now understand just why he's so terrible at being alone, but he is trying so many things to find a rush, he's acting a little manic, and that is a very different thing from just being insecure or even anxious. I think the show needs to focus on one vice for Connor-- and let's face it, the most interesting on is how he seeks out the company of random women just to have someone with whom to fill the silence. The hurting himself takes it to another level, but it's becoming inconsistent. What is most consistent, though, is his need to please people and to have them love him. Everybody may already actually love him, but he doesn't believe it because he doesn't love him. Working with his "acting coach," it was never more apparent that he didn't toughen up from his trials and tribulations as a kid; he just retreated into himself, and now, as a grown man, he is still looking for a mommy and daddy to impress.

On a side note, did you love the acting coach and his love of cookies as much as I did!?

Nick (Joe Dinicol) just continues to make me giggle. I think I'm past the point of scrutinizing him as "real" as I do the rest of the characters because so much of him seems present for comic relief. His innocence in finding Alicia's (Chelan Simmons) sex tape and look of dumbfound on his face when he learned she not only knew it was out there but actually shot it herself was precious. "Why? What? Why?" I get you now, Nick; even if you were too naive to know your so-called bestie was a stripper. But I get you. Because her logic that everyone benefits from sex tapes and it's good to have her name online identified as "Los Angeles stripper" (um, so we're just dropping the facade of being a real dancer now, are we?) is faulty. Very, very faulty. "Don't go in those doors," Alicia!

Just last week Alicia was talking to her mother about being a role model to a sister she barely knew, and this week she decided to take a meeting for a job in porn. That disconnect was huge and worrisome, and I really want the show to explore the "whys" in Alicia's mind at some point soon. Here's the thing: I know she is frustrated with auditioning for tours and not getting them, and I know she takes her clothes off for work anyway. But there is a very distinct line between taking your clothes off for a limited group in a secure location and putting yourself out there, permanently, in the ether of the internet. There was no moment more perfect than when she was told she couldn't be considered for Willow Smith's music video because she was no longer "family friendly." You wouldn't think something like that would matter for a back-up dancer, would you? But there are some companies that truly do scrutinize, and this particular story felt so close to something a friend of mine went through, it was just another one of those little passing details that added gravity, but also reality, to the melodrama of the show.

Saying that, though, and realizing just how Ricky (Aaron Abrams) screwed Alicia over, doesn't endear her more. She didn't even knee him in the groin! Unfortunately when we don't get to see the reasons behind her decisions, it's hard not to judge just how poor her decisions are. I want to say I admire her willingness to do whatever she has to do to further her chances of staying in town, let alone having the career she really wants. But everything she is doing is actually compromising her supposed dream. She is taking herself farther and farther away from dancing-- and for $100,000, which is not that impressive in 2012--- and that is so frustrating to watch. She got excited at the possibility of making money from appearance fees as "Ricky Lloyd's sex buddy"-- how is that earned income, let alone finally utilizing her talent and desires? If dancing is really what she wants to do, no amount of money in the world is going to make her happy if it's in a different corner of the industry. When she's stripping, at least she's still dance-adjacent. And honestly? It's just depressing to see her make mistakes she may have to spend the whole rest of her career just trying to right.

At least the other mistakes these characters are making are "just" of the personal nature. They may cause some scars, but they also act as perfect complications for their lives to help them grow and give them more to draw on for characters and work they do get later. Someone very wise in a show very similar to this a few years ago said that "the most exciting time can be how you use the time in between jobs, because if you just use it to sit and stare at the phone, the next time you come back...you come back with a little less of your shine. But if you use your time between jobs to fill your life with complications...when you come back to the work, the work is going to be richer because you've led a life."

Thankfully Nick's not just relegated to the comic relief stuff, though (despite me not for a second believing that he didn't know what Vivid was), because she needs a good influence in her life right now. In fact, most of these characters do. The moment when he told her he would always be her friend, regardless of the decisions she made, proved just what a decent guy he is and why he may be the one that everyone else needs to keep in their lives the most. Even if he did take Abby to scary parts of town and make her eat weird seemingly salmonella-inducing food.

Gary (Rob Stewart) is the new "too good to be true." Even with his ex-wife "warning" Raquel (Jewel Staite) about him, it seemed like she was just bitter over losing the guy than really, seriously having something to warn her about. I mean, sure, he wants his new girlfriend to wear his mother's creepy pearls. And okay, if he's a recovering addict, he probably shouldn't be starting a relationship now anyway. But seriously, he can give Raquel everything she wants-- including the fame if he's going to finance her new film. She may have started out playing him, but she'd be a fool not to see something real in him. Hell, he's such a good guy, he's not even going to expect her to put out for his big check!

Is it terrible if I ask where I can get me one of those?

It's such a profound statement, I think, how Raquel can be so damaged, but how she can be so calculating, too. She has been used up and thrown away by this industry, and the people in it (I'm sure she took Gary's "just say no" attitude about sex as a personal slight), and she lashes out by striking those she can down a peg or two. She knows Connor's insecurities, and she doesn't prey on them, but she still is willing to hurt him the way she has been hurt if it means giving her the slightest bit of relief. He's her scalding tea pot-- if that makes any sense. Yet, I'm fascinated by her, and I find myself understanding her without judgment. I don't know if that's commentary on the way she's written, the way Staite embodies her, or a combination of both. But I find myself wishing I could treat Alicia the way I do Raquel and yet I just...can't. There's something in Alicia's youth that makes me want to scream at her. I'm sure it's because I see the mistakes I've made reflected in her, and I don't want to be reminded how off-track I got from my own goals and dreams here in L.A. She clearly won't allow sense to be talked into her, so how about smacked?

Kal (Andra Fuller) sulking when Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson) brought him out to the middle of nowhere was priceless. Worried about being found out or not, I'd be sulking in a cabin with a middle-aged hippy, dippy white couple who probably didn't have cable, let alone non-dial-up internet. Sure, the setting was visually pretty, but in a lot of ways it was even more depressing (there's that word again!) than Kal's "down low" hole in the wall. After all, they had to drive five hours out of L.A. just to get there-- just to be with each other. If Kal believes he needs that distance between his real life and his public life, he clearly has more shame in himself than he should, let alone has let on thus far. Even when he realized these people didn't know who he was, let alone care-- he couldn't relax. Not fully. Yet, back at home, he left Tariq's clunker of a vehicle sitting in plain view in his driveway. They probably should have just camped out in his giant house because the car could have them found out better than their behavior.

But the idea of Kal and Tariq scrapbooking? Kiiinda had me giggling. And I wasn't high.

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