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2016 Fall Culture Guide

Adulting Made Easy

Swanberg in a friend’s Albany Park basement featured in Easy   Photo: Clayton Hauck

In his new Netflix series, Easy, filmmaker Joe Swanberg takes his signature hyperrealism up a notch.

By Mark Bazer

Published Sept. 12, 2016

If Netflix is built for binge watching, Joe Swanberg is built for Netflix. At 35, the longtime Lincoln Square resident has already churned out 18 features (including the 2013 hit Drinking Buddies). In September, Netflix debuts Swanberg’s Easy, an eight-part series of loosely connected stories starring heavy hitters like Hannibal Buress and Orlando Bloom. Filmed locally, Easy is, as Swanberg puts it, about the divide between “who we say we are and who we really are.”

Most of Easy’s characters are negotiating adulthood without losing all that they had pre-responsibilities. Why is that?

They’re not only negotiating adulthood but also ethics—this two-tiered idea that we know living a different way would be better for us, yet we struggle to live that way. That’s the liberal, progressive trap of trying to be a good person in 2016. [For example,] we have so much knowledge that eating meat is really bad. Forget about our bodies, we know it’s bad for the planet, right? We can’t play dumb anymore, and yet the herculean task of evolving into this great progressive person feels really difficult.

Even as your characters struggle, the episodes have sweet endings.

Most of the characters love each other. Despite their failings, they’re in relationships with people who love them and are hoping for their success. Like, You’re not supposed to be perfect, and so as long as you’re failing in the right direction, I’m going to be there to support you.

Which is counter to a lot of drama.

In one episode, a husband and wife negotiate having a threesome with a friend of theirs. All three characters are trying to have a good experience, but the situation is fraught with the possibility of something going wrong. That’s where the drama arises—not where two characters are in a disagreement.

Why the title?

I really like the way the word “easy” looks and sounds and feels.It conjures up sexual connotations, but it’s not explicitly a sexual term. A lot of the episodes deal with sex, but they don’t all deal with sex. I also wanted something that would be broad enough that the show could go anywhere it wanted to go. And honestly, I wanted to make a show that was easy to consume. As a parent now with two kids and not a ton of free time, I’m finding myself leaning for something that’s going to be relatively consumable and quick—and hopefully good.

Over your career, your characters have aged as you’ve aged. Can you picture a future when you’re in a nursing home making movies about the scene there?

Definitely. That would be a best-case scenario, since it will mean I’m still working for myself. People tend to see movies with younger characters. I don’t suspect Hollywood is financing nursing home stories.

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