Criticism: Criticism of “The Great” series created by Tony McNamara, with Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult (Hulu / Starzplay)

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Premiered first on Hulu, this crazy and attractive production era, created by the co-screenwriter of The favorite and very freely inspired by the story of the Russian empress Catherine II The Great, will come to Starzplay on the 18th of June.

The Great (Uk-Australia/2020). Showrunner and writer: Tony McNamara. Address: Colin Bucksey (3 episodes), Bert and Bertie (2 episodes), Ben Chessell (2 episodes), Matt Shakman (1 episode) and Geeta Patel (2 episodes). Cast: Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Phoebe Fox, Sacha Dhawan, Charity Wakefield, Adam Godley, Belinda Bromilow and Florence Keith-Roach. Music: Nathan Barr (10 episodes). Photography: John Brawley (5 episodes), Maja Zamojda (4 episodes) and Anette Haellmigk (1 episode). Duration: Ten episodes of approximately 52 minutes each.

The australian Tony McNamara has a long career in film and TV, but the consecration came past 50 years, thanks to its script (co-written with Deborah Davis) of The favoritethat earned him a nomination for an Oscar and many awards (including a BAFTA). And, in that sense, the flamane series The Great it seems a sort of continuation and deepening of the searches of that film by Giorgos Lanthimos with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

If in The favorite already evident a look unconventional and provocative in respect of the royalty (in that case, around the figure of Anne Stuart of England), The Great exceeds the framework of the black comedy to enter directly in the category of satire, the delirium comic, the search of the ridiculous, the claim of the vulgar language and humor unleashed, which includes the slapstick. A project determined and proudly bizarre.

The “excuse” (because here don’t care much about the historical reconstruction based nor the search of the plausible) is the figure of Sophia Frederica Augusta of Anhalt-Zebst, a decadent artistócrata German (actually, prussian, and, more precisely, born in an area which today belongs to Poland), princess of lower rank than, thanks to an arranged marriage with the Russian emperor Peter III in 1745, becomes Catherine II to -after a coup in 1762 – become the empress of greater continuity in the history of this nation (he reigned for 34 years until his death in 1796).

One of the major findings (if not the main) of The Great it is in the choice of the protagonist: Elle Fanning gets one of the best performances of his career (despite being only 22 years old has already worked with J. J. Abrams, Sofia Coppola, Woody Allen and Nicolas Winding Refn, among several other principals enshrined) with a Catherine The Great that passes from the most absolute innocence teenager to become an expert manipulator. And it does so with a palette of expressive resources (of the comedy to the tragedy) the sample -now it is – with all its nuances and facets. In contrast, Nicholas Hoult is required of him bow much more limited (but equally hilarious) to incarnate your pathetic, primary, stupid, gross, immature, irresponsible, impulsive, tyrannical, and sexist Peter III.

Although it is true that at times a development of ten episodes of about an hour each seems excessive, there are in The Great so many brilliant moments, inspired and unexpected, so much bet on the risk (even in the sexual domain there is a boldness quite unusual in the universe of the series) and a cast of a hierarchy off that you can forgive certain situations too extended, or repetitive.

The side are another of the great achievements of this series -very in tune with these times – it aims at the empowerment and emancipation of women with a protagonist strongly influenced by the French enlightenment (in the last episode appears nothing less than Voltaire in person!) in a universe in which the Russian women do not even know how to read. Mariale (Phoebe Fox), an aristocrat degraded that it becomes the main friend and confidant of Catherine (Catherine in the series) while trying to return to be regarded as a lady; Leo (Sebastian De Souza), his main lover; Velementov (Douglas Hodge), the main military leader of an army that will defeat in defeat; Orlov (Sacha Dhawan), the main political strategist; the archbishop who plays Adam Godley and that exposes the strong presence of the Church at that time; and Tatyana (Florence Keith-Roach) and Georgina (Charity Wakefield), their main rivals in the court, are some of the attractive characters that roam the palace.

The Great focuses on the stage in a young woman with less than 20 years, a newcomer, a novice within the Russian royalty, you try to get a place, earn the respect of others (throw all sorts of wicked rumors to the contrary), and then goes up until you are left with absolute power. There are, of course, an extraordinary art direction, beautiful dresses, a lot of palace intrigues, entanglements and furtive sexual encounters, but the series created by McNamara is the antithesis of the prettiness of the film quality.

The impunity to subvert the conventions of the genre, to appeal to all kinds of anachronisms, to treat yourself (and give us) poetic license that have nothing to do with the historical facts make The Great a series anomalous, deformed, amazing and fascinating at the same time. And never (NEVER) will drink so much vodka and so many cups stellate.

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