Film Review: Russian Doll

Russian Doll

A look hit show Russian Doll with co-star Rebecca Henderson.

By now most of us with a pulse and a Netflix account have at least heard of the acclaimed new show Russian Doll, which has been taking the world by storm. Since it first made its appearance on the streaming platform on February 1st the reviews have been coming in hot and heavy with outstandingly high marks.

Russian Doll is helmed by creators/writers Natasha Lyonne (OITNB, But I’m A Cheerleader), Amy Poehler (SNL, Parks and Rec) and Leslye Headland (About Last Night, Bachelorette) that spark a creative and somewhat magical touch to the story through their incomparable writing. The show encompasses women in power, which is a tall glass of water we have all been eager to drink.

If you haven’t been fortunate enough to bring this instant classic into your lives I can provide you with a brief summary to get you in the mood for some insanely good TV. If you remember the film Groundhog Day you will notice a similar premise. Nadia (Lyonne) keeps dying and waking up again in the middle of her 36th birthday party that was orchestrated by her friend Maxine (Great Lee).

Besides the fact that Russian Doll is completely packed full of girl power with positive female representation at the forefront of the characters, the show includes female leads in queer roles. Lizzy is one of Nadia’s very best friends – it’s proven on many different levels throughout the replaying of Nadia’s birthday. Portrayed wonderfully by Rebecca Henderson, most notably known for her breakout role as Maxine in Desiree Akhavan’s film Appropriate Behavior, Lizzy is the best friend of our dreams – smart, snarky, tells it like it is, has a bad ass haircut and looks fierce AF in a pair of overalls.

“I read the pilot episode and turned to Leslye [Headland] and said, ‘This is REALLY good’,” said Henderson. “I remember being surprised. It was so original, intriguing and very funny. I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening.”

With her queer representative role on the show, Henderson took some time to think about how she would approach portraying her character before the cameras started rolling. “I met with my coach, and talked about the character with Leslye and Natasha,” said Henderson. “The costume and glasses informed Lizzy a lot. It’s always great/nerve-wracking stepping on set because everything I’ve been doing to prepare is inside and informing my choices, but ultimately, I’m just dealing with the scene at hand, the environment and the people in front of me.”

Acting is no easy feat. We are constantly reminded of incredible performances from an array of actors every awards season, and with wins and nominations from various festivals around the globe. But with strong performances comes the words that were written specifically for them. Russian Doll had a full arsenal of women writing every scene heading, every character action and every piece of dialogue the crossed the lips of each character.

“I know they were proud of what they made even before it came out, which is just the best,” said Henderson. “The response was deep and overwhelming and so exciting it put the icing on the cake. I think everyone brought 100% of their creativity, history, love and pain to Russian Doll. Those ‘Wonder Women’ really birthed this show – and I think birthing is a good analogy: painful, messy, awesome, amazing and ultimately a perfect and unique special BABY.”

The show was meant to break barriers and the glass ceiling and engulf the mainstream media with its strong portrayal of female characters. It set out to leave a mark as one of the most creative pieces to come to Netflix and it accomplished so much in the way of female representation in front of and behind the camera. When you have the likes of Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland in your corner, what could go wrong? The answer is a simple one: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

“The best part was working with legend and icon Natasha Lyonne and legend and icon, my wife, Lesley Headland,” said Henderson. “The experience really doubled-down on the fact that you just have no idea what people will respond to.”

Within mere days of its release, Russian Doll sparked a global frenzy that still continues. I’m always asked if I have seen the show or hear from my friends and co-workers that they wished there was more because they couldn’t get enough. I had to nudge my wife to put down the books for one evening to hurry up and get on the Russian Doll bandwagon before she was left in the dust. Her only words after binging every episode were: “THAT WAS AMAZING!”

“I thought the show was very good and was so proud of everyone involved,” said Henderson. “I had no idea audiences would love it so much and become obsessed with every little detail. It’s been satisfying and wonderful.”

Henderson’s character stood out to me for several reasons. Lizzy reminds me of myself in a lot of ways. I find that we have the same sense of humor, great one-liners, the same haircut (well, I do in my head) and a quirkiness that people just enjoy being around. As the most obviously queer-identified character in the show, I see her in a lot of us in the community and someone we can relate to as an intriguing human being.

“Be yourself, be creative, be a good friend and spend time with people who love and accept you just as you are. And wear overalls because they are very comfortable.”

Watch on Apple TV