Review: Iggy & Ace, directed by Monica Zanetti and AB Morrison.
Iggy & Ace is the story of two gay best friends — and their drinking habits. Their favourite hobbies are happy hour pub crawls and getting wasted on wine while watching Bondi Rescue. As far as they’re concerned, life is sweet. But a panic attack while hungover at work makes Ace (Josh Virgona) wonder if this is healthy.
Delirious and trying to change, he signs up for a sobriety support program — much to the horror of Iggy (Sara West).
In many ways, Iggy & Ace is a zany drama-comedy blend about recovery and friendship. But this series is also committed to portraying the rough ups and downs of addiction, toxic friendships, grief, trauma and love.
It’s a wild ride, but one certainly worth taking, even if your brain might start screaming it wants to get off at the most emotional and visceral low points.
Real people; real heart
There’s something satisfying about how grimy, disastrous and flawed Ace and Iggy are allowed to be. It is validating to see the viscera of messy queer experience.
The series feels wonderfully like a queer story for a queer audience: authentically depicting the human problems of its gay protagonists without playing into familiar media stereotypes, and without being afraid to colour outside the lines.
All the queer characters in this series are heightened for comedy, yet also feel very real.
Iggy is a rude, self-destructive disaster of a woman in deep denial about her own traumas. Ace is insecure and impressionable, prone to impulse decisions and easily distracted by instant gratification.
There’s also Iggy and Ace’s mentor, self-described “dying queen” Otto (Dalip Sondhi), who is constantly snorting cocaine (with the help of an elegant and irritable non-binary carer, played by Aiden Hawke) and reminiscing about the old days.
There’s Justine (Joanna Tu), Iggy’s long-suffering girlfriend, who’s just trying to make it as an artist and stick to her vegan diet. There’s Gwen (Roz Hammond), the frazzled older lesbian doing her best to hold the sober support group together while everyone’s personal drama piles up at her door.
The centrality of platonic friendship to Iggy & Ace is also refreshing.
The friendship between the titular characters is nothing idyllic: in fact, its toxicity is portrayed in loving detail. They’re a terrible twosome; and they’re rarely apart. They’re housemates, workmates and drinking buddies joined at the hip flask.
Their friendship begins to fracture when Ace attempts to get healthy. Iggy resents Ace for his transgressions, particularly because they reveal her own problems.
“You can’t be an alcoholic,” she assures Ace when she finds out he’s been secretly attending the sober program. “Because you don’t drink any more than I do.”
Comedy through tragedy
Through the conflict between its characters, the series paints a harrowing picture — though, again, peppered with comedy — of how alcohol dependency can take hold.
Social drinking is a huge part of Australian culture and alcohol consumption has become a crutch for Iggy as she avoids her pressing emotional issues.
Iggy and Ace have fun when they drink, yet it also makes them miserable. It’s a vicious cycle that the writing captures with almost flinch-worthy authenticity.
Iggy, for all her early awfulness, is never portrayed as a wholly or inherently bad person. She and her coping mechanisms are treated with the weight they deserve, and she’s allowed to be — in Ace’s words — a “complete arsehole” without being reduced to the villain of the piece. She is hardly a role model, but she is a gloriously complicated fictional lesbian. We need more stories about women like her.
Iggy & Ace is equally funny and painful. Released as six ten-minute episodes, the hour takes you on a rollercoaster journey with the characters and their personal and interpersonal disasters, and the ending is an effective gut punch of tragicomedy.
It is absolutely worth diving into this show, though consume responsibly. Alternatively, binge the whole thing then lie on your living room floor letting it all soak in.
Iggy & Ace is streaming on SBS OnDemand from Thursday.