‘Brand New Cherry Flavor’ review: A mind-altering, eccentric ride for the ages

Headlined by a fantastic Rosa Salazar, the exquisite-looking show skips along like a psychedelic dream

Apart from violence, sex, nudity and substance, which earn an 18+ rating, there is a new category of depravity: animal harm. Seeing that on the rating for Brand New Cherry Flavor was enough to make my heart sink. The stomach-churning promo of a cherry that looks like a bloody eye on a woman’s tongue, made my heart sink even further.

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While one does need a very strong stomach for this show, with much animal harm and eye gouging, Brand New Cherry Flavor skips along like a fevered, psychedelic dream. It is like a mind-altering trip into a wildly eccentric mind. For all its excesses, however, Brand New Cherry Flavor is also rigorously logical with every single detail neatly dovetailing into the narrative.

Based on Todd Grimson’s 1996 novel, Brand New Cherry Flavor tells the story of Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar), the writer and director of promising short film, Lucy’s Eye (uh oh). She comes to Los Angeles to meet a powerful producer, Lou Burke (Eric Lange), who is interested enough in Lucy’s Eye to option a film.

Brand New Cherry Flavor

  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 8
  • Duration: 36 to 52 minutes
  • Creators: Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion
  • Starring: Rosa Salazar, Catherine Keener, Eric Lange, Jeff Ward, Manny Jacinto, Hannah Levien, Siena Werber, Daniel Doheny, Leland Orser, Patrick Fischler
  • Storyline: A filmmaker comes to Los Angeles to make her film but falls into a rabbit hole of revenge and witchcraft

After Lisa rebuffs Burke, he takes the film away from her. Lisa decides to go to Boro (Catherine Keener) a tattoo artist and witch to exact revenge on Burke and get her movie back. Naturally making a deal with the devil comes at a steep price, which includes zombies, hitmen, rearranged innards, licking the sweat off the back of a specific toad, a letter opener with ‘final cut’ engraved on it and a marauding plant.

The show looks lovely with its neon colours and surreal frames; the scene where Lisa goes down the trapdoor with a ladder on one side and an animal-printed couch to the other, strongly brought Dali to mind. The sly jokes are delicious. When Boro tells Lisa to look for a house with a white jaguar in front, considering it is LA, you assume a car, and the jaguar mural in front of the house will make you smile.

Apart from being smart and exquisite-looking, Brand New Cherry Flavor is greatly helped by an extraordinary performance by Salazar. She is riveting, grabbing your eye (pardon the pun) and keeping it as the driven Lisa as she says, “All I wanted to do was make a movie.” This is yet another star turn from the actor who slayed it as the cyborg in Alita: Battle Angel.

Keener as Boro and Lange as Burke are equal parts charismatic and despicable. Jeff Ward is winning as the successful movie star, Roy, who is drawn to Lisa and wishes to help her. Manny Jacinto is Lisa’s friend, Code, and Hannah Levien plays his girlfriend, Christine, who does not warm up to Lisa at first. Siena Werber is Mary, the star of Lucy’s Eye, who goes that extra mile in the name of method acting while Daniel Doheny is the unfortunate Jonathan, Lou’s son, who gives a whole new meaning to being stoned.

Like any trip, that kind of heightened sensibility is difficult to sustain and the last two episodes felt slightly flat. That is, however, a small price to pay to disappear through the smoke rings of the mind, down the foggy ruins of time…

Brand New Cherry Flavor is currently streaming on Netflix

 

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