Life//Film / TV
by Lauren Morris
Coming up to its second series, Orange Is the New Black is a quirky Netflix original creation that is based on the memoirs of Piper Kerman. For those of you who haven’t yet been acquainted with this particular series, it is a must-see that will keep you fixed on your computer or TV screen. Piper Chapman, our lead heroine, is a blonde Brooklynite who lands herself into some trouble after a misjudgement and yes, illegal activity in her younger years. She is arrested and named in an indictment, and before she knows it she voluntarily gives herself in for a crime she committed ten years ago and has to serve fifteen months.
After college she went travelling and fell in love, yet her lesbian lover turned out to be the leader of an international drug smuggling company. Piper shuttled a large sum of drug money into Brussels, once. As an audience we follow Piper throughout her time in prison, wearing maxi-pads on her feet to shower, offending the prison chef and encountering some of the most intense and interesting people America has to offer. It is both brilliant and engrossing, something Netflix is becoming known for producing and it shows an insight into the American penal system in an honest yet funny way that is so rare to come by. The continuous underlying humour throughout and the fantastic characters create a funny and almost endearing watch.
Jason Biggs, who plays Piper’s fiancée, made his name in the American Pie films and there are subtle hints throughout about embarrassing moments that happened to his character within these films- think webcam and a particular shaving incident. Biggs has certainly grown up since those films, yet his boyish charms remain, you can see how far an actor this man has become. His acting is mature and charismatic yet still in keeping with his slight geeky appeal. Their relationship is both playful and strong allowing for some much needed respite from the complex characters Piper meets during her sentence.
This comi-tragic feel is given great depth by Taylor Schilling who plays Piper. Her naivety and pureness is completely hyperbolised when compared to the inmates within the prison. It has to be said that there is an enormous amount of female nudity and sex, that highlights the harshness within a female only prison but also the raw emotions and metaphorical link between feeling stripped of all identity and worth in prison. The writers are incredibly detailed and obsessed with creating a believable and intriguing world where the characters form a tapestry of loves, lies and deceit.
Warning: This show is full of intentionally unsettling moments that are slightly gross. However it is a prison and much of it is done in jest.
Her ex-girlfriend played by Laura Prepon (Donna in ‘That ‘70s Show’) plays the seductive villain perfectly. When they are thrown together within the prison, you automatically sit up in your seat and hold your breath. The acting is humorous yet not over-dramatised allowing for the audience to get involved with the show.
What is great about this piece is that it takes you through the background of each inmate, creating a layered and multi-faceted cast that makes you want to keep watching. It incorporates flashbacks to before they were sentenced creating a timeline and richness to the character.
This is definitely a must-see and with the new series coming out on June 6th, you would be crazy not to catch up on the streaming on Netflix before.