TV Review: The Act

TV Review, Hulu, Nick Antosca, Patricia Arquette, Chloe Sevigny, Joey King, Drama, True Crime

Synopsis: The Act is a seasonal anthology series that tells startling, stranger-than-fiction true crime stories. Season One follows Gypsy Blanchard (Joey King), a girl trying to escape the toxic relationship she has with her overprotective mother, Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette). Her quest for independence opens a Pandora’s box of secrets, one that ultimately leads to murder.

TV Review, Hulu, Nick Antosca, Patricia Arquette, Chloe Sevigny, Joey King, Drama, True Crime

Review: A few years ago, I read a disturbing BuzzFeed article about Dee Dee Blanchard. Suffering from Munchausen by proxy, Blanchard intentionally sickened her daughter and reaped financial rewards from the scam. Eventually, Dee Dee was murdered by her daughter's boyfriend and the sordid tale became fodder for news outlets across the country. Now, that story is the inaugural tale for Hulu's answer to the FX anthology American Crime Story. Starring Patricia Arquette, Joey King, Chloe Sevigny, and AnnaSophia Robb, The Act is just as unsettling as Ryan Murphy's acclaimed series even as it presents a story that doesn't feature names as widely recognized as O.J. Simpson or Gianni Versace.

Patricia Arquette, on the heels of her award-winning performance in Escape at Dannemora, plays Dee Dee Blanchard, the doting mother to Gypsy Rose (Joey King). Having relocated to Springfield, Missouri after Hurricane Katrina, the Blanchards are immediately welcomed by the community thanks to Dee Dee's welcoming demeanor and the sweet and kind Gypsy. People feel sorry for them with the exception of Mel (Chloe Sevigny) who doesn't quite trust the pair. As the story unfolds, we quickly learn that neither Dee Dee nor Gypsy are what they seem to be and their relationship implodes, eventually resulting in murder. Being a widely documented case, the story we see unfold across eight episodes is a blend of documented reports and liberal fiction from the author of the BuzzFeed article, Michelle Dean, and Nick Antosca.

Antosca's name may ring some bells as he was the creator of SYFY's recently cancelled horror anthology Channel Zero. His experience on that show coupled with writing episodes of NBC's Hannibal is evident in The Act from the very beginning. The camera style and editing employed echo Channel Zero and heighten the unsettling nature of the crimes unfolding on screen. Director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (THE MUSTANG) lingers on the actors and puts Gypsy's discovery of her mother's lies at the front and truly showcases the performance work from Arquette and Joey King. There is nothing flashy about this story but it effectively uses incidental music to drive the building dread in each episode.

The most impressive feat of The Act is the transformation of both Arquette and King. Patricia Arquette was virtually unrecognizable in Escape at Dannemore but here she gets to play a bit more with the character. She brings Dee Dee Blanchard to life as a Mommy Dearest type who can be sickly sweet at one moment and calculating the next. From scene to scene, it becomes difficult to determine when Dee Dee is genuine and when she is plotting which makes her all the more unlikeable. Joey King, however, delivers the best performance of her young career as Gypsy Rose. A girl forced to act disabled, King has to whiplash between innocence, sexual awakening, teen defiance, and criminal plotting. While anyone could understand the betrayal Gypsy felt at the hands of her mother's actions, we as an audience have to struggle with sympathy and horror at what comes next,

TV Review, Hulu, Nick Antosca, Patricia Arquette, Chloe Sevigny, Joey King, Drama, True Crime

There is a thin line between a pulpy made for TV movie, the kind that populated network television in the 1980s and 1990s, and a well executed true crime drama. The Act teeters on that line with some moments coming off as heavy-handed while others are chilling. While Patricia Arquette never gained my sympathy, she made me hate Dee Dee Blanchard as any rational person would. But, Joey King really knocked me as she takes Gypsy from victim to vengeful over the course of the series. The Act is starting out on the right foot and by keeping it's series theme general, it can adapt any number of sensational crimes. I have no doubt that when you reach the end of this season, you may not be able to stomach much more, but I hope Hulu keeps the stories coming.

The Act premierers March 20th on Hulu.

Source: JoBlo.com



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