DAVID BIANCULLI

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LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III: SURVIVING TWIN
November 13, 2018  | By David Bianculli

Netflix, 3:00 a.m. ET

 

SPECIAL PREMIERE: This brand-new Netflix offering is described as a music special, but don’t believe it. Oh, it’s got music, and it’s special, all right – but it’s much more than a musical concert. This new TV program by Loudon Wainwright III is a one-man show – part comedy, part drama, part multimedia art project, peppered with songs and salted with generations of memories and insights. I’ve long been a fan of Wainwright’s wry, deft mix of dry humor and raw honesty, but I was unprepared for both the scope and potency of Surviving Twin. The titular twin is his own father, Loudon Wainwright II, who dropped the Roman numeral suffix when writing as a columnist for Life magazine. In this 90-minute performance, the late columnist’s son alternates between performing his own songs and reciting perfectly memorized passages from his father’s magazine output – columns in which the subjects, many times, are the author’s own parents and children, in a one-man show that, by its final song and home-movie montage, has covered four generations of Wainwrights. Wainwright III, by reciting his dad’s words, figuratively walks in his father’s shoes. He also, quite literally, slips into his father’s suit – just one of many stunningly effective dramatic flourishes that make Surviving Twin one of the most special TV specials I’ve seen, and heard, in a very long time. The final credits acknowledge Christopher Guest and Judd Apatow as executive producers along with Wainwright III, and Guest as director (what a great job). That was a surprise, but shouldn’t have been, because those two artists, like the singer-songwriter, have built careers upon doing their own thing, defiantly and brilliantly. Surviving Twin adds another shining triumph to all their resumes. Surviving Twin will entertain you, hit you, move you, and stay with you – but only if you’ve been a parent, or had one.

 
 
 
 
 
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