‘Roar’ Features Nicole Kidman Eating Photographs But Falls Short

What if Merritt Wever had slept with an anthropomorphic duck? What if Betty Gilpin was a real Barbie doll? What if Nicole Kidman had swallowed photos? What if Cynthia Erivo was slowly being eaten alive? What if Alison Brie was a mystery-solving ghost?

Apple TV+’s new anthology series Roar, which debuts today, takes on the gratuitous task of portraying these bizarre, black mirror-esque scenarios, and more, in an attempt to illuminate the anxieties, systemic obstacles, and occasional pleasures of being a woman in patriarchal society. It’s the first project from creative duo Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch since the blatant cancellation of their standout Netflix series. GLOW in 2020 and includes some of the main cast members of the show. Like Cecelia Ahern’s collection of short stories from which the series is adapted, there isn’t much of a common thread running through these feminist tales outside of the show’s magical realism and the general observation that women experience things. Likewise, the results of these surreal endeavors are extremely unsubtle, a bit cheesy, mostly watchable, and occasionally singular.

The eight-episode series is, above all, a great chance to see your favorite A-list TV actresses (and a few male idols) flex their muscles and demonstrate why they deserve to star in blockbuster movies, if they haven’t. already not done. – instead of getting lost in the current sea of ​​streaming programs.

Speaking of which, the ultimate streaming queen Nicole Kidman, who serves as executive producer, stars in the show’s most poignant episode, portraying a woman who watches her mother (played by Judy Davis) suffer from dementia and tries to recover. his own memories by consuming his childhood photos. Despite these strange and dramatic stagings, the fables told in Roar are largely anticlimactic and often struggle to reach satisfactory conclusions. However, that bug comes in handy for this slice-of-life vignette, which succeeds as an impressive showcase for two acting titans. Who doesn’t want to watch 30 minutes of Kidman and Davis having tense, sometimes sentimental exchanges while on a road trip? In other cases, it seems like Flahive and Mensch are simply picking ideas from the modern feminist lexicon and highlighting them again and again without really saying much.

For example, in “The Woman Who Disappeared,” starring Issa Rae, and “The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin,” starring Cynthia Erivo, the series shows an understanding of specific issues affecting black women. In Rae’s episode, she plays a best-selling author whose memoir is being adapted for a movie. As she attends meetings in Los Angeles, she gradually becomes invisible to the white people around her, including a group of male producers – one of whom is played by Nick Kroll – who want to turn her experiences with racism into a virtual reality experience for white people. public, despite his objections. The show is unsure what to make of his disbandment at the end of the episode and inadvertently co-signs his state of being invisible and inaudible. Erivo’s episode also nods to the fact that the medical needs of black women are routinely overlooked, but isn’t interested in exploring the issue beyond a lip service.

Also, there’s not much rigor applied to “The Woman Who Was Kept on a Shelf,” in which Betty Gilpin plays a trophy wife who gives up her modeling career to be on display at home for her wealthy husband (Daniel Dae Kim). It also forgoes any examination of the racial dynamics at play in favor of centering oppression on a white woman. In the end, Gilpin’s immense talent is wasted on a very obvious and expansive metaphor that stops short of asserting that society values ​​women for their looks rather than their intelligence – and neither is captured in a particularly visually fascinating way.

The show is unsure what to make of his disbandment at the end of the episode and inadvertently co-signs his state of being invisible and inaudible.

Oddly enough, the best-crafted episode happens to be “The Woman Who Was Fed by a Duck,” which has a connecting line that looks like it was formulated to go viral on Twitter for a week. Written by Halley Feiffer, it combines a familiar story about the sisters at different points in their lives and, yes, bestiality, which is captured in a very cartoonish, fantastical and comedic way that keeps it from feeling totally gross – in more from the fact that it seems clearly imagined. Of all the series’ attempts to get to a truly strange place, this one pulls off the landing and always manages to avoid an orderly conclusion. Of course, only an actor as charming and winning as Wever could successfully portray a protagonist courted by a talking duck.

Alison Brie is equally impressive playing the ghost of a murdered woman who solves her own case while mishandled by two misogynistic investigators (played by Chris Lowell and Hugh Dancy). The episode is another interesting subversion of a genre that doesn’t typically portray women in their entirety. Other episodes, like the one featuring an older woman (Meera Syal) who literally drives her husband to a store like a faulty TV at Best Buy, can best be described as delicious and cute.

All in all, I walked away from Roar with the same reaction I had to the HBO Max series Naughty, about the creation of a women’s porn magazine in the 1970s. With the exception of a few episodes, it is the type of superficial feminist television that takes credit for presenting progressive and supposedly radical ideas without illustrating any of these concepts fresh and incisive. In this way, Roar as a project feels a little self-satisfying, as if it exists primarily as an example of the kind of “nuanced,” “diverse” stories that women are currently allowed to tell on television. (It must be said that the series does not present clearly queer stories or portrayals of trans women).

Perhaps we should be thrilled that Merritt Wever is allowed to romanticize a duck on TV. Unfortunately, this does not quite justify Roarhis existence.

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