Has anyone besides me watched this? It's been the attraction of the summer, and got largely strong reviews. But I found myself deeply disappointed.
SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW
I was interested in it primarily because of Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson. Adams did not disappoint -- showing once again just how wide her range is, effortlessly playing someone wildly different from the good-girl image she had a decade ago. Clarkson I found less effective, chiefly because I found her role somewhat tiresome -- though she did have the one great "And that's why I never loved you" scene, slipping a stiletto into her daughter at the most unexpected moment. There were also good performances from Eliza Scanlen as the wild child, Taylor John Smith as a victim's brother, and Elizabeth Perkins, who provided fresh air whenever she turned up.
My problem with the series was partly the story (which didn't go terribly interesting places) but most especially Jean-Marc Vallee's direction. My wife occasionally used to say, after a bad movie, "This director should be shot"; this seemed a prime case. I've never been wild about anything Vallee's done in the past, but I found Dallas Buyers' Club and Wild competently done, and enjoyed Big Little Lies on its potboiler level. Here, though, it felt like he'd recently binged on mid-60s Euro art films and wanted to make his latest as cool and flashy as he could. This resulted in, for me, a lethal combination of often slow pacing (there must have been half an hour's worth of Amy driving down random streets) and then frantically rushed plot developments. There were whole sections (like the flashback to Amy's experience in rehab) that flew by so rapidly and in such flash-format I had trouble figuring what was going on. Every time I went to an Internet board to look into it, there was someone who'd read the book explaining what I was supposed to have understood but didn't. Am I just some aging fart who doesn't pick up information as quickly as those weaned on MTV? Or did Vallee fail in a primary role, making his story comprehensible?
For me, this fault made the final episode nearly a total bust. So much was wrapped up so quickly, my head was spinning, and I was left with all kinds of questions: What brought Chris Messina to the house, the first or second time? What possessed the editor to drive down from St. Louis? How could Amma and her friends have kept dead Natalie's body hidden for days on end? And how could they have transported the body to the middle of town in broad daylight? (There were other elements, too, that were utterly opaque to me in the moment, and only explained to me by readers of the book -- like, apparently Camille taking Adora's poison was a ruse to get it into her system to use as evidence re: Marian and Amma.) And then there was that final moment, which had an abruptness that the show's creators (from the after-show discussion) seemed to think was turbo-cool, but just made me feel cheated. Which was then followed, Marvel Universe style, by post-credits developments that were all the more annoying for flashing by so quickly you had to do a freeze-frame to figure out exactly what the hell was going on.
I'm afraid this last episode left me in such a bad frame of mind that it blocked out things about the show that I actually liked. The whole Calhoun Day thing -- a town celebration centered around a rape incident? -- was fascinating, and, whenever the story slowed down long enough to let characters interact, there were some strong scenes (especially between Camille and John Keene). But a bad ending can really kill a dramatic work, and I'm afraid for me this was the case.
By the way, am I the only one who recognized the main title theme music as the score from A Place in the Sun?
Last edited by Mister Tee
on Tue Aug 28, 2018 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.