The amazingly talented Bill Hader (how can you not love the infamous Stefon?) stars in (and produces and directs and writes for) the dark comedy series Barry. Barry debuted on HBO in March 2018 and quickly received (well-deserved) critical acclaim. It is now available for digital download on June 18th.
Barry (Hader) is a depressed hitman from the Midwest, and while on a job in Los Angeles, he follows his mark into an acting class and has a career epiphany when he discovers the intoxicating world of theater acting. Instantly drawn to the class and student, Barry is eager to leave his lonely, cold-hearted job behind, but as he attempts to start a new life in LA, his criminal ties won’t let him walk away, forcing him to find a balance between both worlds.
Barry also includes Henry Winkler as a self-styled master acting teacher Gene Cousineau. Gene cares about students’ ability to pay on time and finds ways to home in on their insecurities to try to teach them to be better. In addition to Winkler, cast regulars also include Stephen Root (True Blood), Sarah Goldberg (Hindsight), Glenn Fleshler (True Detective), and Anthony Carrigan (Gotham).
In Barry, Bill Hader ends up having to act both badly and well given that he is a hitman taking acting classes. He has to portray that actor learning and making mistakes while also convincingly portraying a wide emotional spectrum throughout Barry’s life.
In an article on IndieWire, Hader discusses the bad acting:
“For bad acting, watching reenactments in true crime shows was helpful. It really was. I would watch those and imagine, ‘OK, they’re doing too much with their hands,’ or ‘they’re locked onto somebody,’ or ‘everything is overly thought out.’ […] But it’s very hard, I don’t think I was that good at it. I feel like other people were [better]. […] D’Arcy Carden was really good at it. Sarah Goldberg was good at it. And I was kind of– I just said words.”
HBO has renewed Barry for season two and Hader says the next season will be “somehow darker” and that’s saying a lot. Find out for yourself by picking up season one now. Or try to win a copy.
Meghan’s Thoughts – Spoiler Free
I watched Barry when it first aired on HBO because I got unintentionally sucked in on several occasions while channel surfing. Watching it a second time around via digital did not diminish my enthrallment in the slightest. Barry is powerful because the characters are struggling with such relatable emotions. While most of us are probably not in the business of mercenary killings, quite a few of us are unhappy in our professional lives. Bill Hader is magnificent at subtly portraying his struggle with where he is and where he wants to be, both professionally and personally. And watching that struggle and the wide-ranging emotions that arise because of it is so familiar, you can’t help but continue to watch hoping Barry finds a solution (because you want to be able to find a solution). Now if only we could all find a Gene Cousineau aka Henry Winkler to help us pursue and improve our passion projects.
I loved Barry and recommend it to people who like dark comedy, watching relationships (of all types) grow and develop. That said, it is important to remember that Barry is a hitman. The violence is realistic and hard to watch at times. It can also be especially triggering in the recent climate of regular gun violence. The contrast between Barry’s assignments versus his acting class is drastic – but that’s really the point. And it’s a brilliant contrast to watch him interact with these people who are so very far removed from the world he has spent the majority of his life in, first as a marine and then as a contracted killer.
Season one of Barry is just 8 short episodes that move very quickly. It’s easy to binge quickly, but not easy to forget.