RECKLESS BEHAVIOR REVIEW
*Please note* This is an advance review for episodes 1-4. As of this writing, only episode 1 is publicly available, therefore this review will be mostly spoiler free.
“When is our interior life ever put at the forefront? We constantly want to give to other people … Too much of not caring for yourself is not a good thing. We’re bad at that as achievers. Self-care is a priority and we have to do it more.” – Ava Duvernay
As the final scene of Michaela Shelton’s new web series Reckless Behavior flashed in front of my eyes, I was reminded of the above quote. Black women, for all of their contributions to our community, have still remained in a woefully precarious situation when it comes to representation in American media. When you can count the number of mainstream African American female storytellers on one hand, you know there’s work to do. Ava Duvernay, Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Melina Matsoukas, and Gina Prince-Bythewood are the quintessential starting five who represent the black women whom filmmaking tends to leave behind in the never-ending chase towards blockbuster tent-poles and billion dollar grossing comic franchises. They are bold storytellers, gifted scriptwriters, and masterful purveyors of the narratives that have shaped and will continue to shape the black woman’s unique American experience.
They are also the minority OF a minority, and frankly put; there are not enough of them. Intro Michaela Shelton; who as the creator, writer, director, and star of Reckless Behavior; has given us a glimpse into her world. A world writhe with judgmental friends, stalking ex-boyfriends, and questionable decision making (You can’t name your series Reckless Behavior and have your heroine joyously skipping through life with not a worry, pausing only to toss her hat up in the air) yet also a world that is refreshing in its honesty of the struggles of being mid 20’s, black, and female.
Michaela Shelton plays the series main character, also named Michaela. Michaela has much on her mind as the series first episode begins. As she herself laments; she has no serious love interest, she’s out of shape, she’s not working in the field for which she obtained her degree, and in four short years (2 in Instagram time) she’ll be the big 3-0. Michaela clearly feels as if she’s drawn the short straw at this juncture of her life; her best friend, Benjamin (played with comedic gusto by Californian radio personality Gary “G-Biz” Bizer) tries unsuccessfully to cheer her up with the tried and true “It could always be worse” mantra, which we all know is the universal signal for things actually GETTING worse. The pair get hustled by a street salesmen (NEVER trust a man who wears a coat and skull hat in 80 degree weather) stalked by a shady guy who appears to be keeping tabs on Michaela on behalf of someone else, and the small flame of romantic hope is extinguished when the charming shop owner whom Michaela flirts with remembers he has a girlfriend. These scenes all carry an air of authenticity, as if Michaela (the creator/writer) is reliving these experiences as she guides her onscreen avatar through a highlight reel of her own dubious decision-making. As I continued to watch, I could really appreciate the “Day In The Life Of” direction that the series utilizes. Make no mistake, there is a connective story arch throughout the series, but the characters that Michaela encounters and the actors who inhabit these roles really bring the series to life. The second episode introduces the majority of the self anointed “Reckless Squad”, which includes party girls Dominique Brown (Dominique Montgomery) Nicollete Brown (Imani Baylor) Michaela’s sister Mya (A scene stealing Shamari Bell) and two male friends Jay Wilkerson (Chris Joseph) and the aforementioned Benjamin. This episode attempts to introduce the crew, their personalities, and how they fit in and interact with one another. The episode really gets going when Shamari Bell’s Mya shows up halfway through, injecting a fun and diva-ish energy into the proceedings. The third episode really shows the series firing on all cylinders as “Crew’s Night Out” ends with another of Michaela’s past mistakes returning to bite (or twerk!) her in the rear, this time in the form of her ex-boyfriend, Damien Butler (Tywan Taylor). Damien is tall, dark, and good looking, with a Taye Diggs like mannerism that makes you THINK he’s got to be every woman’s dream guy. But Damien is also possessive, jealous, and has a streak of that unfortunate trait known as toxic masculinity. He wants Michaela when HE wants Michaela, and as do all possessive men, he wants her most when she needs him least. The fourth episode really hammers home Michaela’s main issue, she is a young black woman who has a sense of what she needs, but cannot (or will not) stop chasing after what she wants, and Need Vs. Want are two polar opposites. This is a universal struggle that most early to mid twenties people go through, and I feel like Michaela, the character, carries that burden on her shoulders in a manner that the audience will be able to easily relate to.
On the technical side, Reckless Behavior’s presentation is impressive. Scenery is vibrant and energetic, the cinematography and editing (Provided by Daniel Hernandez) are excellent. Sound and set design are exceptional. Shelton proves herself a capable director, confident actress, and strong writer in her first film project; which is no small feat. My only criticisms would be that the second episode begins slow and a few of the supporting actors have to work to find their footing as they get more confident in the characters they are portraying; a few lines here and there fall flat; but overall that can be chalked up to a brand new series experiencing growing pains as it works to find its cinematic identity.
Reckless Behavior’s biggest strength is that, at its core, it is relatable to many young African Americans who are experiencing their own trials and tribulations as they inch ever closer their thirties. The behavior that we all exhibit, in our youthful ignorance, sets the blueprint for the lessons that we must learn if we are to be responsible people. We love the wrong individuals, we place emphasis on the wrong priorities, we work the wrong jobs. But if we allow our consciousness to evolve, then we might just learn the right lessons. Michaela is in the middle of her journey, stuck in a rut and staring into a future she cannot quite define. But her intelligence is evident, her determination irrefutable, and her compassion unshakeable. And with those three attributes, perhaps Reckless can become Righteous.
Good acting (Michaela carries the show ably, Gary Bizer and Shamari Bell are highlights)
Second Episode starts slow
Some Stilted acting from a few of the secondary characters