Stranger Things is officially a hit!
I know this because, although Netflix doesn’t release ratings figures, Rolling Stone and other wanna be hip (or still hip?) publications have referred to it as a hit TV series or, if you prefer, “the most buzzed-about show of the summer” ( to quote the Stone.)
Imagine Spielberg’s E.T., shadowy government agents, young kids playing Dungeons & Dragons, Eighties pop cultural references, mash ’em all together and you’ve got Stranger Things (roughly).
Most of the attention (so far) seems to be centred on Winona Ryder and, although she is convincing as an agonized mother who refuses to believe her son is dead (even though his friends insist they have seen his body), truth is, all the cast give believable performances. (David Harbour, so good as a sadistic villain in the Liam Neeson thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones, sports facial foliage here as a true-hearted sheriff).
But the real breakout star here (in my opinion) is a 12 year old English actress named Millie Bobby Brown. A relative unknown when she was signed for the role of an enigmatic girl with unusual abilities she is already generating buzz ( to borrow a word) among Hollywood casting agents. An anonymous agent apparently said of Ms.Brown that she had natural instincts that “you just can’t teach.” (Despite the fact the quote appears on a number of websites, the agent who said it remains anonymous. Hmmm ….. ) With any luck she should soon be signed for all the roles Chloe Grace Moretz is now too old to play. In fact, it is her weirdly natural perf here that makes the whole implausible plot seem like it could happen.
Unlike the Glimmer Twins (Google them if you must), Ross and Matt Duffer really are twins. (And, yes , Duffer really is their last name. See The Urban Dictionary if you must.) As writer/director/creators of the series, they slogged through numerous pitch sessions before Netflix finally picked up on this savvy sci-fi thriller with gratifying results.
I was going to write more but I recently picked up a hard copy of The New Yorker and noted that Emily Nussbaum was writing about the series. Of course, she has written knowledgeably and favorably about some of my “must-see” TV programs (Bojack the Horseman, Happy Valley, most of The Good Wife). But the real reason Ms. Nussbaum is fast becoming one of my favorite writers is that she is able to express her views with intelligence, wit, articulation and erudition (What more do you want in a reviewer? Why, she even won a Pulitzer for criticism) So I’ll simply leave you with a few sentences from her review. She calls Stranger Things: “…spooky but not scary, escapist but not empty … a genre throwback to simpler times, with heroes, villains, and monsters … , and has a rare respect for both adult grief and childhood suffering. It’s an original.)
I wish I’d said that.