Back in March of this year, I was meandering around Youtube as usual looking at pointless videos when one clip in particular caught my eye. The clip was of four people wandering around a Ross department store shopping for various items. At first glance, the video looked pretty mundane. However, I soon realized that this was only one of several clips from a fictional youtube documentary. I became quickly intrigued with this concept and I decided to watch each episode of the series from the beginning. Once I got around to episode four or five, I knew immediately that I had stumbled upon something pretty unique and special. I was hooked from then on out. LisaNova's "Molly" series brings many different elements together to create a complex world of tragedy and triumph.
The series revolves around 16 year old Molly (played by LisaNova, who is well known on youtube for playing comedic characters in her videos). One day, Molly decides to record daily video blogs of her life with her hand held camera in order to emulate other youtubers who do the same thing. However, Molly's home life is far from normal. Both Molly and her mom live in a very small garage that is located behind her grandma's house. The grandma won't let them live inside the house because she has too much contempt for Molly's mom, who is an extreme alcoholic, and can't stand to be around her very much. On top of all of this, Molly's father is in prison and he has severe issues of his own. Molly documents all of these elements of her life with her camera and allows the viewer to have an upclose look at her dysfunctional family through the good times and the bad. But no matter what is going on in her life, Molly always remains optimistic and hopeful that things will get better for her and her family.
This series is very character driven and the performances by these actors/actresses is nothing short of amazing. The characters themselves can be quite over the top at times, but they're portrayed so well that you forget all of that and eventually buy into them as being real people with real emotions. This is especially true of the relationship that Molly has with her mother. There are several episodes within the series where Molly and her mom have conversations about seemingly random things as they go to the store to buy something or just to hang out. Because this series comes off like a documentary, these mundane conversations are actually fascinating to watch because the actresses playing both Molly and her mom do a great job of portraying what a real life mother/daughter relationship would be like in those moments. You sort of buy into this world being presented to you and that's because the actors and actresses really commit to their roles very well in this series. There is also quite a bit of improv in a lot of these episodes as well which adds even more to the realism of who these characters are since it makes them seem more like everyday individuals when they talk. Overall, the characters and their realistic attributes are one of the great standout features of this youtube work.
The character of Molly herself is also very interesting to analyze when looking at this series as a whole. Because of the hard life that's she had all these years, her personality has regressed to that of a young child who escapes into a world of fantasy to avoid the pain. She has dreams of becoming a rap star when she grows up (which is one of the running gags throughout the series) and she also carries around a doll named Suzanne who Molly views as her "sister". At first, Molly seems very disconnected from the real world around her. She's so trapped in her own fantasy land that she seems almost oblivious to how bad her situation actually is. However, as the series rolls on, it becomes clear that even in her regressed childlike state, Molly realizes that she is the only hope that her family has of healing itself. There are many moments where other family members will get into a verbal fight about some issue and Molly is almost always the one who brings peace, resolution and stability to the group. This is one of the reasons why I find her character very intriguing. Even though Molly comes across as being very dim, she is actually the most intelligent and caring person in her entire family. There is an idiot savant aspect to Molly's personality and I think it's brilliant to have that kind of duality in your main character. It's as though the least significant person in the whole drama ends up playing the biggest role of them all. LisaNova does a great job of bringing this character to life and evoking sympathy for her and her situation.
The use of Molly's camera to film the whole documentary also helps to add another element of realism to the series. Molly carries the camera with her everywhere she goes and it almost becomes like a character in and of itself. The camera becomes a conduit that Molly uses to reach her audience and ask for their opinions on whatever situation she's going through on that particular day. Some of the episodes involve Molly asking her audience about what she should do in a particular scenario and the viewers who comment give her real advice (even though they know the whole thing is fake). This use of the camera is pretty ingenious because it allows the audience to get involved with the story and help Molly out, thus adding even more of a real life aspect to the series. I'm not sure if the audience's opinions has any real weight on what actually happens in the storyline itself (if it did have an effect, then that would be pretty awesome), but either way, the viewers feel more like they are a part of her life and that they actually know her. Molly's use of the camera also helps the viewers to feel sorry for her character. The Molly character has no friends and therefore, no one to really communicate with in real life (except for her family). So the camera itself becomes her "friend" that she can talk to about anything and she knows that the camera itself won't judge her for being different. The ironic twist in this approach is that the use of this one object (the camera) allows her a window to make many many friends on youtube and gain the kind of acceptance she's been looking for all of her life. By using the camera as a means of explaining her situation and asking the viewers for advice, she gains sympathy from the viewers who want to help her and this allows her character to make many more friends on youtube than she ever could in her day to day life. The camera adds a realistic element to both the series and to Molly herself.
It's pretty hard to accurately describe what "genre" this series is since I think it evokes many emotions and tries to get across many ideas. Many of the storylines here are both very funny and very tragic at the same time, so it does resemble a dark comedy in that aspect. However, I try to stay away from putting a particular label of any kind on this show because the ambiguity makes it more fun to watch. You don't really know where the series is going to go next and that uncertainty makes the viewer ask more questions and make up their own mind as to what exactly this series is in terms of genre. One thing that is certain though is that this is NOT a series for very young kids. There's a lot of adult content here that should not be viewed with young eyes. However, that does not take away from the fact that this is a pretty awesome series overall. It's kind of in a class of its own since there aren't really too many other shows or movies that I can really compare it to. The "Molly" series takes its viewers on a roller coaster of emotions and shows a dysfunctional family at its finest.
What did you think of this review?