With her shark’s grin and panicked eyes…

Word count: 359 words

Reading time: About 1.5 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. Today’s comes from Emily Nussbaum.

Several years ago I enjoyed many guilty laughs over the British film, In the Loop. A crass and funny black comedy about British politics during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the show starred Peter Capaldi, who issued more F-bombs per minute than I’ve heard from any other living actor. I don’t normally find foul language amusing, but Capaldi’s relentless delivery made it screamingly funny.

When I heard that the film’s writer/director Armando Iannucci intended to produce a similar comedy on American soil, I was intrigued. That show is Veep, starring Julia-Louis Dreyfus.

It took me some months to track down a copy of the show. But, ironically, exactly the same week I did (May 6/13),the New Yorker published an Emily Nussbaum review of it.

It amuses me that some of the best writing about TV in North America happens to appear in the New Yorker. This is ironic because by the length of its articles, the sophistication of its vocabulary and its apparent lack of interest in contemporary design, the magazine appears to represent more or less the polar opposite of everything that TV stands for.

I tend to share Nusssbaum’s television aesthetic and I especially admire her way with words. Here is a bit of figurative language – describing Julia Louis-Dreyfus – I found particularly effective:

With her shark’s grin and panicked eyes, she is a skilled navigator of [Armando] Iannucci’s stumbling, filthy, fast-paced exchanges.

The metaphor “shark’s grin” is not new but somehow Nussbaum elevates it by pairing it with “and panicked eyes.” Doesn’t the juxtapostion of the crazy eyes with the smiling mouth perfectly capture Dreyfus’s style of comedy? I also like the way Nussbaum uses the noun “navigator” to describe the actor’s handling of the script. Finally, I appreciate the alliteration in the phrase, “filthy, fast-paced.”

By the way, I enjoyed the show Veep (although not quite as much as I liked In the Loop.) And Nussbaum says the second season is better…. I’m inclined to believe her.

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