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Maybe you had to be there? Hasn't dated well.
I'm a big fan of exactly this kind of movie/series: period setting, based on a literary work, and complex, involving characters.
I've heard of "Poldark" my whole life, and because both the description and the reviews here made it sound like a slam-dunk for me.
It was good enough that I watched all the episodes. But oh, my - how in the world does this rate as one of the best dramatic series to come out of England? It is nowhere near that, and for very concrete reasons.
The caliber of acting is all over the map. The primary leads are very strong; some secondary characters are well-handled, others performed at community-theatre level. And the bit parts - oh, my god. Almost painfully bad in a lot of cases. Scenery chewing,overly-affected clichéd personas - I actually burst out laughing more than once.
Even some who are very good reveal their weaknesses over the long run, as the performances (and the episodic plots) become more predictable, more repetitious. I started hearing the bots from MST3k in my head, mocking both script and actors. (Never a good sign.) Adult characters, never age. Kids get older and bigger, from cooing in their crib to middle-school age, while their elders go on looking exactly the same. Not even a wave in the direction of smile lines or a sneaky streak of grey hair. Perfect for all eternity.
The oldest character, on the other hand, is comically over-made up with thick, vaudeville-style aging, including lines drawn so clearly and boldly over her entire face it would read to the back of the fourth balcony. Great for stage; not so much with movie closeups. She looked like a Halloween partier.
When one character dies a sudden shocking death, arguably a homicide - the topic is dropped. This character has a three or four episode run, is well established, and more likable than many. Who will discover the death? What will become of the miscreant whose hand she died by? Will he get away with it? Will her relatives probe this at all, or accept it as a natural death? NOTHING happens. She's dead upstairs, and her departure is never noted. An episode or two later her grave is mentioned, which is our first indication she's not rotting undiscovered in the attic.
Eventually, mean people being mean just because they're mean, and good people being valiant and good because that's what they are, wears really thin. With one amazing getaway after another, lucky breaks and timely interruptions at a Monty Python-esque rate, and a cliffhanger at the end of almost every episode, what began as a great tale well told turns into a beautifully-dressed, implausible soap opera.
That "Poldark" was made in the 70s doesn't account for any of the above. Good story-telling is ageless; continuity should be a given; screen makeup has been an established art for decades.
One final note about accents and subtitles: almost every American will appreciate subtitles for this. One character in particular affects a thick, nearly unintelligible accent. But beware Netflix! The caption quality varies. In one episode, nearly every place name is displayed as "(inaudible)". One character's name changes twice in the subtitles in one short scene! And too many subtitles are just wrong. You'll get by, but you'll be distracted and perhaps irritated.
But hey - if you've got laundry to fold and want some company, this will do the job.
Law & Order: Terminal (1997)
All these years later - still profoundly powerful
I was well into this episode when I realized it was the one with Steven Hill's amazing closing scene. I'd been doing stuff around the house with it on in the background until then; once I realized, I sat down and gave it my complete attention.
Still as heartrending as ever. What an amazing actor. Neat, clean, pure. I wish I could see more of him.
His incredible performance aside, I slashed off a couple of stars based on how the guest characters were written. For some reason, reliably good crime shows with high scripting standards fall repeatedly into the trap of over-writing the "bad guys". Witness the original "Prime Suspect", where the most powerful officials all but twirled their mustaches and snarled "Yah-hah-hah!" With Helen Mirren at the helm, they *really* felt they needed to give her cartoons to act against? Same thing here. With actors the caliber of Hill and Waterston, surely the scenes would work better with subtler villains. But no. The governor's representatives are unctuous and slimy. The one sitting second chair to Jamie comes complete with grating insincere smile and insults her to boot. I hate being talked down to like this.
Still: Hill makes up for it all. Do watch this one.
Sound all but ruins the film
I'm stunned to see an earlier review specify that "Pageant" is "well done, in all technical elements". I found just the opposite, with poorly-mastered sound all but ruining the film for me.
The music swelled over the voices, the voices fought the ambiance, and the man who spoke in the lowest register forced me to crank up the volume every time he spoke. In fact, I don't recall ever before having to ride the levels during the entire length of a movie, never letting go of the remote for its entire length. I'd get the voices to a volume level that allowed me to make out the words, then the music would crash in and wake my companion. I'd hastily drop the level, then some poor soul on the screen would start mouthing silent words again.
Of course this would be more bearable if the film were closed captioned, but the version that ran on Sundance this week was not.
I enjoyed the film overall despite this handicap but it certainly colored the experience for me. I can't imagine how it got major-market release like this.