“Goliath” Season 4 (Finale)–Addiction

In this final season of Goliath   we again see the still down-and-out “lemon lawyer” Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) take on a giant corporation.  This time it is an opioid mega-corporation, Zax Pharmaceuticals, and its billionaire CEO, George Zax (J.K. Simmons).   In a fierce and lurid courtroom battle in San Francisco  (eerily conjuring the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma in recent headlines), will McBride prevail?

Season 4 opens with a flashback to Billy McBride, narrowly escaping death by gunshot.  Billy’s mental condition and circumstances propel him into flights of fantasy, perhaps post-traumatic stress disorder, mixed into a cocktail of alcohol. 

McBride is temporarily residing in Chinatown, his apartment paid for by Margolis & True, the white-shoe law firm representing Zax Pharma.  His former partner Patty (Nina Arianda), now employed by Margolis & True,  has offered him a gig not only as a loyal colleague, but also because McBride is the best litigator she knows, even if other colleagues don’t agree.

Other characters add to the escalating courtroom battle.  The estranged brother, Frank Zax (Bruce Dern), and a daughter whom his brother finagled into adopting.  As dueling, antagonistic brothers intent on destroying each other, Frank and George Zax turn sibling friction into fiery and merciless conflict.

Goliath Season 4 pulls back the curtain on the opioid crisis that is relevant to the present day. It hones in on its displeasure at the lives lost for obscene corporate profit.

This is the best season since Season 1 (see my October 23, 2016 review).  Goliath always has had noirish overtones of Alfred Hitchcock, but in Season 4 some (not so subtle) scenes pay  homage to Rear Window.  It’s not always easy to tell how much is real and what’s imagined (which usually, but not always, is telegraphed by filming in black-and-white flashbacks and fever-dream images).   Nonetheless, this finale is riveting and compulsive watching.  Some overwrought scenes drag the momentum from time to time.  There is even a dance-and-song routine by J.K. Simmons, but he is so much fun to watch at his villainous best! Binge-view it to keep track of characters and threads in the plot!

Availability: Amazon Prime

“Nebraska” –A Husky Tale in the Cornhusker State

Nebraska

In Alexander Payne’s Academy Award-nominated black-and-white drama, we see the story of a parent with unfulfilled dreams who has damaged adult children who care deeply but are also deeply wounded. A companion piece to “August: Osage County” (see my review January 29, 2014).

The film opens with Woody Grant (Bruce Dern in the performance of his career!)  wandering the streets of  Billings, Montana.   Woody’s son, David (Will Forte of Saturday Night Live fame) is called by the police to pick up his septuagenarian father who wants to walk to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect a $1 million sweepstakes prize he believes he has won.  The all-too-common  mail scam  seems to be discounted by Woody who naively believes his luck has changed. Kate (the scene-stealing June Squibb) berates her husband as a fool for  insisting on collecting the money. David and his brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk from “Breaking Bad” and “Fargo), a local news anchor, discuss putting Woody in a retirement home,  hinting of dementia or senility.  David reluctantly decides to drive his father to Lincoln, much to Kate’s and his brother’s dismay.  Perhaps he can unlock some of the secrets of his father’s past and grow closer to him on the road.

“Nebraska” is stark and lonely: an austere and  bleak landscape of place and mind, where life doesn’t seem to change and dreams remain unfulfilled.  Family dynamics locked into roles of self-deception echo and evoke “August”,   this time between father and sons, not mother and daughters.

The  brutally frank portrayal of aging and unhealed wounds are  at times comical and always heart-breaking.  Forte, best known as a zany comic actor,  makes an impressively restrained dramatic debut as a man who longs to connect yet is reflexively depressed. Odenkirk, as Ross, evolves in surprising and sympathetic ways as a witness to both his brother and father’s decline.

Ultimately, however,  this is Bruce Dern’s film.    His energy is still  there, only now beneath the surface:  dissipated, his rage turned inward, his hearing aid turned up a little to hear the voices inside his own head.