Baby Raindeer: When He’s the Victim | Review

The most talked-about series right now is available on Netflix
Baby Reindeer


Baby Raindeer

by Maurizio Porro

After receiving 41,000 emails, 350 hours of audio messages, ambushes outside his home, and threatening phone calls to his family, what can a poor man do—a Scottish stand-up comedian unsuccessful in his career, forced to work as a bartender in London to make ends meet—except write a comedy and then a series about this massive (in every sense) case of bullying?

We are all hostages to loneliness, but he even more so. Richard Gadd‘s theatrical monologue, the directly involved author in search of a character, was performed with great success at the Edinburgh Festival, for many months in a London theater, and now, with no marketing strategy, it inspires this series, Baby Reindeer, the most watched and discussed on Netflix at the moment. So much so that the real harasser made herself known at one point, claiming that today she is the real victim: a merry-go-round. After settling personal scores, what remains is to watch, with a kind of sadomasochistic amusement, this story unfold in 8 brief, bouncing episodes where we witness the resistible fall of a young man who wants to be a comedian, accepts every compromise to succeed (including seducing a handsy author-manager with drugs, now all trapped within the truth machine of serialized TV) and cannot find peace having kindly let in and offered a beer and then an endless series of diet cokes to the XXXL-sized lady at the bar claiming her loneliness, laughing like a whipped dog but asserting her professionalism as a lawyer.

From this moment begins the horror nightmare for Donny: Martha, this 40-something overweight woman unable to rationalize her relationships with others, becomes a true obsession. Not only does she appear at the pub every day and scrounge for drinks saying she can’t pay, but she menacingly waits for Donny at corners, makes obscene proposals, follows him everywhere, laughs uproariously at his shows, and finally, when the unfortunate man finally turns to the police after six months—here lies the crux of the matter—she is clever enough to anticipate the moves and save herself in the corner for the first time.

Martha is a character worthy of the imagination of a brazen author, a true angry man, a John Osborne of old times, an expatriate Almodovar, a Tennessee Williams sadder than usual on his female identifications. Martha is a pathological and psychoanalytic monster, rich in an unhealthy thirst for revenge and a healthy sexual desire, who roams free through the streets, studios, bars, and buses of London with the exuberance of someone living in constant discomfort, with dangerous mood swings, laughter and crying, and physical violence.

I repeat, a perfect character for fiction as is being demonstrated in this excellent product directed and played by the interested party, Richard Gadd, a convinced bisexual, who let some time pass from the events to downgrade the repressed anger and even the moments when he succumbed to the mystery of seduction. Because one of the enigmas of Baby Reindeer is precisely the irrationality of the sexual affective system whereby the almost-boy, who at one point boasts of being super-endowed like Rocco Siffredi and then confesses to his understanding parents that he considers himself gender fluid, sometimes feels secretly attracted to that fat, impudent lady who is ruining his life, affections, relationships, and that bit of a career in amateur cabaret (she is the kind of lady like Mrs. Maisel who was however upper class from Manhattan).

After Donny offers her the first beer, the woman has one desire, to seduce him and possess him, with all the rites of the relationship, like the two schoolmates in A Summer Place. But Martha is a serial stalker (we cannot reveal everything) and is obsessed with her prey just as Danny is obsessed with her, her obscene desires, and the proposals that occasionally fall through. The real Martha, the one who now claims her rights, perhaps even as a writer, and considers herself the real victim, is played by a remarkable actress, Jessica Gunning (unrelated to the real events).

Between 2015 and 2017, this woman truly tormented the poor Donny as he tried to rebuild a romantic life with a beautiful trans woman, attacked not only verbally by the rival. They win in the style created by Gadd himself, the grotesque à la Ferreri, the unpleasant, the unhealthy, even the British pub realism of a Saturday night: the theme is that of abuse but this time he’s the abused one, who evidently keeps in the subconscious an open account with the ledger of affections, sliding from understanding to pity, finally to the implementation of the not so obscure object of desire by quickly opening his zipper. No one will ever provide explanations: the police, as always when Freud is involved, are groping in the dark, just like Danny and us viewers.

Corriere della Sera, May 8, 2024


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Baby Reindeer

Baby Reindeer | Review

Stand-up comedian Richard Gadd adapts his one-man show into a miniseries: the theme of stalking, declared from the outset, becomes a means for a harrowing self-reflection on a distorted identity that must be learned to live with.

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