Retro Rental: If You Liked ‘Veep’ Try ‘In The Loop’
[Each week, inspired by what's in theaters or in the news or even just by random firings of neurons, 'Retro Rental,' by film critic James Rocchi, looks at an older film on disc or download that links up to the here-and-now.]
Briefly digressing from movies to the world of premium cable (not, of course, TV, as HBO oft reminds us) ‘Veep’ is coming, with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss plays Selina Meyer, a new Vice President who is learning the 21st Century version of the insight of the late John Nance Garner, who noted that the Vice-Presidency was “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” However, Nance didn’t actually say “spit,” he said something far ruder and that is easier to believe.
Curses ring out in the halls of power, as well as fights over who didn’t make a fresh pot of coffee when they emptied the last one. That, it seems is going to be about the tone of ‘Veep.’ And if you want a preview of ‘Veep’ — the cadence, the comedy, the language of it, whether Orwellian double-speak or soaring flights of four-letter words — you need to see ‘In the Loop.’
Released in 2009, ‘In the Loop’ is a great place to discover the brilliant work of ‘Veep”s team, including director and writer Armando Ianucci and co-writers Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche; it’s a feature-film spin-off of their earlier TV show, ‘The Thick of It,’ which is currently playing on BBC America, and all of that. Many ‘Thick’ actors and characters appear in ‘Loop,’ but, again, just enjoy it. Both fall-down funny and awe-inspiringly cynical, ‘In the Loop’ crosses the pond in pursuit of the big joke of all modern politics, as British low-level Minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) notes, in a radio interview that “War … is unforeseeable.”
As there may be a war very soon, somewhere in the Middle East, backed by both the U.S. and the U.K., this offhand bit of chatter draws down the wrath of the Prime Minister’s razor-sharp hatchet man, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi, in a performance of utter venomous brilliance). Simon has committed the ultimate sin in modern politics — he said something, anything, definitive — and that cannot be allowed. Malcolm’s not especially diplomatic — his dialogue is as unique as it is unprintable — and soon Simon finds himself being ping-ponged between pro- and anti-war forces in London and Washington even as he’s trying to satisfy one of his constituents back home over a crumbling wall.
And, if ‘Veep’ captures that kind of sweep comedic and political sweep — from the macro to the macro, from the question of who has to possibly push the button to the question of who has to definitely get the shaft — then we’re all in for some very interesting telev– uh, HBO, my friends.
I saw ‘In the Loop’ at Sundance, and it made me hurt my sides from laughing; at the time, I noted how I felt like “the people behind In the Loop are not so much tickling your funny bone as they are going at it with an ice pick.” Again, this is one of those rare chances to know about something long before your co-workers (who, come to think of it, didn’t make a fresh pot of coffee when they emptied the last one) talk about it around the water-cooler; Ianucci’s been circling the Oval Office, in many ways, with each project. And ‘In the Loop’ is a great place to discover just how fast — and just how sharp — his aim already is.
‘In the Loop’ is now available to Watch Instantly on Netflix