Ozark (Netflix series)

This satirical series starring Jason Bateman and one of my most favourite actresses, Launa Linney, is beautifully shot and superbly acted.

Marty Byrde (Bateman) is a successful financial advisor living a boring and unhappy life. Perhaps he lacks a certain joie de vivre, or is too risk adverse, or perhaps he is just down right stingy. Due to his business partner getting involved with organised crime, Byrde ends up owing money to a Mexican cartel: five million dollars. He cashes out the entire investment portfolio he had been squirrelling away for years as he loses everything to the cartel and has to launder that money on the shores of the Ozarks.

The Ozarks as presented is a place that feels like the location of Deliverance most of the year, but a scene out of Spring Breakers for a few weeks in summer. Byrde presents himself as an 'angel investor' and offers to invest and help out struggling local businesses. The locals are weathered and sinister as they have been ripped off by city-slickers one too many times. It's a love-hate relationship.

What makes Ozark different from other small-town-meets-drug-crime series (Bloodline, Fargo, The Affair) is that it's more about the financial and business side of things - the process by which the proceeds of drug sales come into the mainstream economy. As Byrde's son points out to his school teacher, some argue drug money was the only thing that was keeping the US economy afloat during the recession. So you don't really get the tediously long sequence of scenes showing large amounts of drugs being produced and distributed which can get quite boring.

The Byrde family settles down in a beautiful lakeside house in the Ozarks. Marty and his all-but-divorced-wife Wendy (Linney) agree to stay together as 'business partners' for their two kids who are starting to act up against their new, absurd living arrangement. But Wendy and Marty also make great work business partners and Wendy's skills bring an extra limb to the money-laundering operation.

Ozark is a search for a meaning in the confused and divided America of the Trump era. A country divided by the different values held by the rural poor and the urban wealthy; the traditional and the corporate; and the godless and the religious. In this cacophony of principles and values, what drives a shrewd modern pragmatist to act like a decent human being? The answer isn't always one of financial incentives as life itself tends to demand consideration of higher goals and values shared with others.

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