Friday, August 28, 2015

The content explosion continues: Tom O'Brien & Jessie Barr's yoga-themed series, OM CITY

"Content." It's fucking everywhere. Movies: big, small and in-between. Television and Cable: at broadcast time or anytime -- if you're hooked into on-demand. Digital streaming from more locations than you can shake a Roku stick at. And lately, one after another new web series, most of them of the mini variety. Sure, all this is quite the blessing. But let's admit it, people: You have not even begun to watch most of those independent, documentary and foreign films you've been wanting to stream off Netflix or Amazon Prime. And let's admit something else: You probably never will.

So stop beating yourself up and instead try something new, short and a little different: a web series created by writer/director Tom O'Brien (above) and his lead actress and star Jessie Barr (below) entitled OM CITY that appears to want to explore the world of New York via the life of a young, attractive and quite interesting Yoga instructor. Or maybe the series' real intent is to explore that Yoga instructor and how she tries, with some success, to make her chosen career and life remotely manageable in the current environment of that storied and ever-more-difficult-to-exist-in land of the Big Apple. Or maybe Om City is just trying to reach us viewers with the message that Yoga itself is something worth exploring. Whatever, this new series actually manages to do all of the above and maybe a bit more. That's TrustMovies' judgment, having now viewed the first seven mini episodes.

The initial three chapters last around ten minutes each; the final four run five, six, eight and seven respectively. All told, if you view the entire first seven segments (which we critics were given for appraisal), you'll only have invested a tad less than one hour of your time. And each episode is so short that you can watch one or two on your tablet or smartphone as you take your bus or subway ride to the office. (I wouldn't watch while walking, however: The series is too much fun and you'll probably knock someone over or get hit by a car.)

Mr. O'Brien is the fellow who a couple of years back gave us the under-seen and under-appreciated Fairhaven, and here he is again in the role of writer, director and supporting actor and doing a fine job as all three. He plays Mitchell, the semi-sleazy boss of the yoga business at which Ms Barr, who plays Grace, teaches. In fact, she is his best instructor, a woman who believes in the benefits of Yoga -- to mind, body and soul -- and hopes to share these with the world at large.
Good luck.

Each little episode opens up a new area of Grace's life, with her clients, her family, her boss and her rather lean love life, and by the end of episode seven -- which features a date set up online with a young actor clearly vying for the World's Narcissistic Asshole award and played to perfection by Michael Godere of Loitering With Intent -- we know our Grace and her life pretty damned well. And we're enjoying them, too.

The writing here is both realistic and smartly specific, exploring character and event with equal ease. O'Brien creates and performs Mitchell as an entrepreneur trying to succeed and cutting as many ethical corners as needed to do this. Grace is a good girl, but not insipidly so, and Ms Barr, as likable as she is attractive, quickly ropes us in. (She also appears to either do Yoga very well or has been amply trained as a dancer to be able to move her body in the necessary ways.)

In the supporting cast are a raft of good performers, especially Chris Messina (who starred in O'Brien's Fairhaven); Maryann Plunkett (still the best Saint Joan I've ever seen), who plays Grace's ever-a-hippie mom with charm, sass and sadness; and Ean Sheehy as Grace's pot-dealing, floundering brother.

All in all Om City is a series I'd be happy to keep up with wherever it decides to go. It offers us a New York City and its boroughs teetering on the brink of becoming a closed-off and uber-weathy enclave with less and less room for the kind of people and work and life that Grace and her group represent.

You can watch it beginning this Sunday, August 30, at either the series' own web site or via Vimeo. Who knows? You might even decide to finally try the "Y" word....

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