Netflix’s ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ is an absurd #MeToo tale

With big little lies, The defeat and Nine perfect strangers, David E. Kelley has become the maestro of luscious pots coated in a sheen of prestige, and he once again puts his melodramatic skills to good use with Anatomy of a Scandal. Adapted from Sarah Vaughan’s bestseller, the six-part Netflix series is a legal thriller filled with corrupt officials, family disputes, court intrigues and deep, dark secrets from the past just waiting to be revealed. That’s basically all this brilliant subgenre is known for, which is a big part of why its sanctimonious surprises have next to no impact.

Co-created and written by Melissa James Gibson, Kelley’s latest (April 15) is about James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend), a British minister in Prime Minister Tom Southern’s (Geoffrey Streatfeild) government, with whom he frequented Oxford . James’ perfect life crumbles when his mistress Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott) accuses him of raping her in a Commons lift, which naturally doesn’t sit well with James’ faithful wife, Sophie (Sienna Miller), who knew nothing about it. her husband’s extramarital activities. No matter how hard Tom’s repairman Chris Clarke (Joshua McGuire) tries, James is soon smeared all over the tabloids and the evening news and, soon after, finds himself in court, where he is defended by Angela Regan (Josette Simon) and chased by Kate. Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery).

Kate’s formidable ability is underscored by an introductory scene of almost comically exaggerated frantic movements and cuts, full of footage of her running through the streets and opening and closing an umbrella, and the director of the SJ Clarkson series does not give up for the rest of its six episodes. Anatomy of a Scandal is obsessed with fast edits, slow motion, blurry visuals, tilted angles, and camera work that tilts and swivels on its axis. Such devices aim to reflect the anxiety, fear and fury of James, Sophie and Kate, but they are so excessive that they go beyond complementary or abbreviated storytelling gestures and tip right into affectation. Plus, they’re relentless, so it quickly feels like the show has only a few tricks up its sleeve and must desperately rely on them to keep the action from dragging on.

However, this often happens, since Anatomy of a Scandal— like countless streaming efforts before it — probably could have done its deal in four installments. On many occasions, scenes fill in mundane gaps that could have been overlooked altogether, helping to make things feel like they’ve been stuffed in order to reach a pre-determined length. That’s true of all of Kate’s conversations with her friend Ally, to whom she confides in her buried trauma and current misconduct. And that goes for at least half of the domestic interactions between James and Sophie, too, the latter upset by the likelihood of her sleeping with the enemy, and the former adamant that he’s innocent and therefore prone to proclaim – with his adored young children – that “the White Houses always come first! »

The flashbacks explain that James had it all along – a handsome, wealthy, connected Oxford lad who was also a member (along with Tom) of the Libertines, a group that encouraged uninhibited (read: bad) behavior from his associates entirely masculine. It apparently sounded charming to Sophie, although it’s obvious that James and his pals were rude morons who loved to spend their days and nights sexually dozing champagne, smashing things and groping any unlucky woman. to cross their path. They were arrogant and authoritative chauvinists, and their privilege allowed them to carry on regardless of their heinous conduct, as evidenced by the fact that Tom is now the British Prime Minister and James is enjoying an enchanted existence. From what is depicted, it is also clear that these men thought they could do whatever they wanted and face no consequences, suggesting that the confident and persuasive James may be guilty of raping Olivia .

Much is said about the nature of consent in Anatomy of a Scandalit’s early, but most of it is just hot air; the main focus here is on a particular brand of upper crust toxic masculinity and how the elite work together to achieve their goals (and protect each other) and operate with an air of righteous impunity. With no evidence to support his claims and a long history of risky sex with James in workspaces, Olivia’s accusation boils down to what he said, he said. -she says, and yet every time a legal breakup goes James’s way, it’s impossible not to feel like the show is just playing a tired game that will ultimately end with his exposure as a villain . Friend’s oh-so-charming routine reinforces that expectation, his cheerful composure and self-confidence appearing like the kind projected by a conniving sociopath convinced he’s superior to everyone in his orbit.

Friend’s oh-so-charming routine reinforces that expectation, his cheerful composure and self-confidence appearing like the kind projected by a conniving sociopath convinced he’s superior to everyone in his orbit.

As is usually the case with such beach-appropriate tales, Anatomy of a Scandal has third-act bombshells lying in wait, one of which is absurd beyond belief, and made even more ridiculous by everyone’s refusal to explain how or why it’s possible in the first place. Kelley and Gibson follow a standard playbook, their timing of their mistakes and twists so predictable you can set your watch on them. These revelations, in the end, turn out to be ridiculously practical and illogical. Worse still, however, is the hector tone of the proceedings and the mundane things to say about the well-to-do, and the you-go-girl camaraderie needed to bring them to their knees.

With material at this second hand, Dockery and Miller can do little more than exaggerate with relish, their anguish and terror matched only by their determination to uncover the truth about James, and his potential habit of taking this he wants, then to declare that he has done so. nothing bad. Dockery, in particular, puts the theatrical posture in thick, whether at home (where she sometimes sleeps with her own married lover) or in the courtroom (where, at one point, she hilariously bleeds- cold as a lawyer who has never appeared before a judge). She’s not responsible for everything Anatomy of a Scandal‘s flaws, but his performance does much to exacerbate the prosaic banality of this affair.

Leave a Comment