A superficial and ridiculous soap opera from David E. Kelley and Netflix

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Shallow soap opera dialogue and an absolutely ridiculous plot about 2/3 of the way through a six-episode season hold back the admittedly talented ensemble of Netflix’s “Anatomy of a Scandal” to create anything resembling realistic characters or real drama. And yet, this adaptation of the book by Sarah Vaughan can’t even engage in the kind of broad, goofy escapism that has resulted in recent hits for the streamer like “Clickbait” Where “Pieces of her.” It’s caught in a boring numb valley between thinking it’s a nerd commentary on privileged toxic masculinity and just leaning into the fact that it doesn’t care about any of its characters and really has nothing to do with it. say deeper than a puddle. With each episode that passes, the show becomes more and more unplayable to see actors as talented as Michelle Dockery, Friend Rupertand especially Siena Miller be seduced by cheap writing, thin characters, and jerky filming tricks to try to hide the fact that there’s nothing to learn in this anatomy lesson.

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The King of Modern Adult Miniseries, David E. Kelley, collaborates with a New York playwright named Melissa James Gibson on this six-episode series about a high-ranking British parliamentary minister named James Whitehouse (friend), who returns home in the opening scenes of the premiere to tell his wife Sophie ( Miller) that the newspapers are about to report that he had an affair. He swears that work mistress, Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), was the only time he cheated and it’s over, but Sophie looks a bit wary, sensing there’s more to the story from the very beginning. Through flashbacks to his time in Oxford, where the two met, it is revealed that James is the kind of privileged rich kid who has long taken what he wants from this world, willing to cover it all up for him. himself or his friends seem better. It’s a skill set that has made him a powerful politician with the ear of the prime minister, but the skeletons are about to come out of his closet.

Of course, an extramarital affair isn’t enough for a miniseries, and the first episode ends with the revelation that Olivia also accuses James of raping her after their affair ended. A powerful prosecutor named Kate Woodcroft (Dockery) takes on Olivia’s case, ready to take down Whitehouse for thinking he might rape her former lover. She points out how raping your wife wasn’t even considered illegal until 1991 in the UK, and the case hinges on the parameters of a sexual encounter that happened after Sophie and James l have been cancelled. She claims that James took what he wanted in an elevator at work; he claims she initiated the whole event and never told him to stop. Who will the jury believe? And how long will Sophie stay by her husband’s side as she increasingly discovers his true nature?

The atrocious dialogue is bad enough, but the biggest sin of “Anatomy of a Scandal” is how much this show that should be about removing the agency of its male protagonist completely sidelines its central characters from wife and victim, giving them next to nothing to do outside of how the male protagonist derailed their lives. Dockery comes out of it all relatively unscathed because she’s just able enough to cut through the melodrama to make Woodcroft’s personal passion for this case feel at least somewhat authentic. Miller is not so lucky. The deeply underrated actress totally loses herself in the material, never coming off as a fully realized human being so much as a plot for her husband and wife trying to put him in jail. (And don’t get me started on Naomi Scott’s victim, who is literally never seen outside of her testimony and crime-related flashbacks.)

Friend, an underrated performer for years on “Country“, does his best, but he’s hampered by writing that forces him to remain too mysterious because his past, and even the truth about the incident with Olivia remains shrouded in a way that gives it an incoherent character. feels like the show never really wants to take a stance on James and privileged freaks like him, allowing the mystery of his background to overwhelm any character attempts.For example, an early scene sees him buying his children a puppy to apologize for the scandal, and it’s impossible to tell if that’s meant to be pathetic or kind.

One of the reasons for non-characters is poor quality and cheap steering by SJ Clarkson, which relies disconcertingly on impossibly jerky editing, tilted angles, and blurry framing during intense flashback scenes. What’s odd is that the series sometimes shows signs of being creative, such as when Olivia’s testimony blurs with flashbacks in a way that allows them to share the same physical space – for example, Olivia walks out of the elevator that was the alleged crime scene in flashback and back in the present day courtroom. It’s a clever way to breathe life into outdated courtroom drama structure, but Clarkson never commits, dropping creative flourishes to return to the book’s cheapest techniques.

An incredibly abrupt and undeserved ending awaits anyone patient enough to watch all six episodes of this miniseries, perhaps another reminder that Kelley needs a strong, confident director to figure out his worst tendencies as a writer ( think about what Jean-Marc Vallee made to elevate »big little lies”). The truth is, this one feels called, like a contract that Kelley signed and then never really bothered to work on fleshing out these characters beyond the source material’s checklist of salacious twists. The real scandal is how lazy it all seems. [D]

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