Expresso Entertainment Update at 7:30 p.m. on April 23
Here is the latest entertainment news from the Indian Express as of 7:30 p.m. on April 23, 2022.
You are listening to Expresso Entertainment’s update. Here is a review of the Netflix show “Anatomy of a Scandal”, presented by The Indian Express.
The impact of the #MeToo movement, when it hit Hollywood and beyond in 2017, is hard to quantify. But in retrospect, the changes it caused weren’t immense in terms of actually changing the kind of structural and pervasive sexism. Granted, it brought down a lot of powerful men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, but many others who have also been accused of misconduct at the very least, like Louis CK, are not only back in the spotlight, but are acclaimed.
However, he’s at least started conversations about things like consent and privilege, and it’s no longer considered “normal” to harass women in the workplace, and organizations are now less likely to leave a such behavior slipping for fear of a backfire. Consent and privilege are two interesting things at the heart of Anatomy of a Scandal.
Coming from David E. Kelley, who has won acclaim for small-screen book adaptations like Big Little Lies recently, and Melissa James Gibson, the series is based on a novel by British journalist Sarah Vaughan that was released shortly. after the #MeToo reached Westminster.
Vaughan used his experiences as a political journalist to write a political thriller in the post-MeToo era. The story follows an illicit affair involving a charismatic and handsome minister in the Conservative Party-led government called James Whitehouse. The press gets wind of his sexual relationship with a young employee, Olivia Lytton, played by Naomi Scott, and a scandal threatens. His distraught wife Sophie, played by Sienna Miller, has to accept and in public at least, let it go for now.
Whitehouse apologizes to his constituents, and thanks to the support of Prime Minister Tom Southern, played by Geoffrey Streatfeild, his former university friend, he does not lose his ministry. All is well.
However, things get seriously escalated for Whitehouse when Olivia throws a rape accusation at him. He is appalled, assuring Sophie that while her betrayal was morally repugnant, it was also totally consensual, and the lying young woman has ulterior motives. Nevertheless, he must be judged, and this time he must lose the ministry, at least temporarily.
James, being wealthy, isn’t too concerned about the case, as he can hire the best legal counsel in the land. But Olivia has the advice of the promising Kate Woodcroft, played by Michelle Dockery.
The story is told mostly from Sophie’s perspective, which is interesting because she has everything to lose if her husband is indeed found guilty. Naturally, his first instinct is to stand by his side. How can this love, however small, be violent? But as new revelations surface and an old accusation resurfaces, she begins to have second thoughts. She is forced to wonder what kind of man James really is.
SJ Clarkson, the director of Anatomy of a Scandal, does a great job of keeping the plot going. It is well helped by the screenplay which nicely mixes its themes with the necessities of a thriller. The story moves from the present to the past, to James and Tom’s time at Oxford and the blossoming romance between James and Sophie, who were schoolmates. This device lends itself extremely well to the two aforementioned themes.
The series asks uncomfortable questions and asks the viewer to take another look at the central event in question, the “rape”. What at first glance looks like a frantic, passionate quickie in an elevator to the observer may turn out to be an assault. Where is it? Due to the lack of CCTV footage, it is one person’s word against another, and unless there is strong evidence against the accused, they are innocent in the eyes of the law.
A character from Anatomy of a Scandal expresses shock that the UK only criminalized marital rape in 1991.
There are echoes of the Aziz Ansari case here, where the comedian-actor argues the sex was consensual, and the woman disagrees. We also see hints of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal as well as Christine Blasey Ford’s charges against Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh.
The performances, as you would expect from such a cast, are sublime. Rupert Friend embodies James with a sensitivity without which the character would be totally unsympathetic. He comes across less as an outright evil person and more as an ignorant doofus, brought up as a man who can do no wrong and can’t entertain the idea that some women might not want to sleep with him.
Miller also brings a lot to the role of a woman facing one humiliating blow after another. She insists that she doesn’t want to be a long-suffering wife and, as happens every day, has to deal with the consequences of her husband’s actions. Dockery also impresses as an activist lawyer risking her career to go against the government.
Anatomy of a Scandal is a London story made by Americans, and it shows. The tiny British nuances are missing, the dry wit and humor are missing. The show as a whole doesn’t have the same nuanced take that Big Little Lies does, and even the phrases are repeated so often that they lose any impact they had.
However, there are no major flaws to complain about. For the most part, Anatomy of a Scandal is an entertaining and thoughtful political thriller.
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