I tracked down this series on VHS because I'm a Denys Arcand fan, however it wasn't clear which parts he actually directed. It's not written by him, either, so it doesn't really have the flavour of his more recent films, which were written and directed by him.
Empire Inc. is a soapy saga about a mogul's life. It is saved from melodrama from some fairly restrained performances from the main cast including Gabriel Arcand, who I presume is a relation of Denys', since they look quite similar. The supporting cast, however, and makeup for that matter, are distractingly uneven.
The production values are not bad for TV. The consistency of tight and mid-shots actually gets a little draining and I found myself wondering whether they were due to budget or a televisual emphasis on "emotions".
The sheer length of the series (350 mins) means the story accumulates a fair amount of depth and Kenneth Walsh, while never really sticking out of the woodwork, maintains a solidity that is very convincing and builds to an emotional finale - as his character, James Munroe, ends up dealing with the tail-end of a life of achievement.
The confusion he faces, with women, work and existential purpose, is very well written. Although the whole script feels a little like a stone skipping along a pond- jumping, connecting, missing lots of details - it's a journey worth taking if you're willing to believe in the grand lives of these ordinary human beings tied to one extraordinary one.
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