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TV Review: Mosaic

SYNOPSIS: MOSAIC, a six-part limited series from Steven Soderbergh (Oscar® winner for “Traffic”; Emmy® winner for HBO’s “Behind The Candelabra”), explores the psychological underpinnings of love and murder in a small town, blurring the line between reality and memory. 

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REVIEW: If you are one of the people lamenting the lack of a third season of Steven Soderbergh's The Knick, this is the show for you. For everyone else, Mosaic is going to be one of those buzzed about series like True Detective, Mindhunter, or the first season of Stranger Things. The difference here is that Mosaic is not just a television series. As part of the project, HBO and Soderbergh quietly released a mobile app (also called Mosaic) that allows you to experience the same story but in a very different manner. While the cable series will air over five consecutive nights, it is also shorter than the app experience which can be a couple of hours longer than the show, depending on how deeply you go down the rabbit hole. A fully immersive movie, Mosaic could very well change the way we watch TV. But, the developing future versions of Mosaic all depend on how well this first attempt is received and I can tell you this is easily going to rank as one of the best shows of the year.

Set in Utah, Mosaic centers on the disappearance and murder investigation of children's book author Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone). The supporting cast features Paul Reubens, James Ransone, Beau Bridges, Michael Cerveris, Garrett Hedlund, and Frederick Weller as well as an outstanding turn from Devin Ratray.. The wide cast includes many faces that are familiar to fans of The Knick including Jennifer Ferrin, Maya Kazan, and Jeremy Bobb. Mosaic is also filmed in Soderbergh's signature style and reminded me greatly of his films CONTAGION, SIDE EFFECTS and even SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE. Soderbergh helmed the entire series from a script by Ed Solomon (NOW YOU SEE ME). To tell you much about the plot would undermine just how good it is but you need to be prepared to absorb the entire event rather than judge each episode individually.

In many ways, Mosaic is more like a six hour film rather than a traditional series. Having watched both the show and explored the entire app, I can say that the experience is largely the same, but you absolutely get something unique from using the multimedia aspect of Mosaic. Mosaic is not like a Choose Your Own Adventure in that it has a definitive end to the story that every viewer will reach. The difference is that when using the app, you are able to explore aspects of the characters and their experiences that vastly change your perception of them. I first watched the six episodes of Mosaic as they will be consumed by most of you reading this and then I used the app. The biggest difference between the two is that the order in which scenes unfold differs. Soderbergh structured the television format based on how he wanted viewers to experience it whereas the app allows you to become the editor/director and pick where you want the story to lead. A lot of people have tried to make film interactive and it has largely been a novelty but Mosaic may be the format that finally brings television, film, and alternative reality games into a single unified experience.

In regards to the narrative itself, Mosaic is all about the acting. Steven Soderbergh has never been the flashiest of filmmakers and instead relies on talented performers and creative editing to give his stories the edge that they need. Here, Soderbergh elicits some truly excellent work from his cast. Sharon Stone is absolutely stunning in the lead role and proves that she is still as talented as ever. Stone has not had a role this substantial in over a decade and you would never know it. She is heartbreaking and enthralling to watch here and deserves to get a lot more roles. Hopefully everyone who watches Mosaic feels the same way. Garrett Hedlund is solid as is Frederick Weller as the two men in Olivia's life, one of whom may be her murderer. But, I have to say that my favorite actor in this entire project has got to be Devin Ratray. If you had told me that Buzz from HOME ALONE would be the standout in a Steven Soderbergh project, I would have told you that you were fucking nuts, but Ratray is great as the lead detective on the case.

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What may turn some audiences off of Mosaic is the incredibly deliberate pace of the story. Each episode clocks in at about an hour but very slowly paints a portrait of what is happening. It is not even until halfway through the second episode that the crime hinted at from the start even occurs. Mosaic never would have worked as a feature film because an investment must be made in the ensemble cast to appreciate the story being told even if that story itself is a very basic one about passion and violence. There is also a twist related to the book that Sharon Stone's character wrote that ties directly into the goal of the series: if you read it one way, there are definite good and bad guys, but if you read the story back to front, the roles are reversed. Opening Mosaic to interpretation in this manner makes it far more unique that traditional films and series that merely remain ambigious. With Mosaic, you can investigate that ambiguity and turn it into something definite.

Mosaic is an immersive experience, even if you remain skeptical of the mobile app. Sticking just with the HBO series, Steven Soderbergh has done something special with the limited series format that will make other creative talents sit up and take notice. This is an adult drama that ellicits your attention and requires your involvement. Gone are the days of passive entertainment. While you certainly can just watch Mosaic, I don't believe you will be able to sit back and relax, but you will definitely enjoy it for the original experience that it is. Steven Soderbergh has proved you don't need 3D glasses or virtual reality to bring the viewer into the story. Mosaic is revolutionary.

Mosaic debuts Monday, January 22nd at 8pm EST, followed by other episodes debuting subsequent nights – Jan. 23, 24 and 25 – at the same time, with the final two episodes debuting back-to-back on Friday, Jan. 26 at the same time. The Mosaic app is available now on the Apple Store and Google Play.

Source: JoBlo.com

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