What Make The Critics of Benedict Cumberbatch
In HBO’s PARADE’S END??
This Benedict Cumberbatch is one popular chap. He contributes to the “Hobbit” franchise, he has five times Kirk’s strength in the next “Star Trek” movie, he’s in the big-screen projects “Twelve Years A Slave” and “August: Osage County,” he plays Julian Assange in “The Fifth Estate,” he’s got the “Sherlock” TV-movies and starting tonight he’s in the HBO miniseries “Parade’s End.”
The teleplays are by Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare In Love,” “Enigma,” 2012’s “Anna Karenina”).
From the reliable comforts of Edwardian England to the chaos and destruction of the First World War, the early 20th century was a defining era in history, a time of unprecedented change. The pre-war years would be shattered by the most destructive war the world had ever known, and countless lives would be changed forever. Set against this backdrop of impending catastrophe is the story of English aristocrat Christopher Tietjens, trapped in a marriage to an unfaithful wife, and caught between his commitment to the values of Toryism and his unspoken love for a fearless young suffragette. This sweeping five-part HBO Miniseries presentation is adapted from Ford Madox Ford’s groundbreaking novels.
Though it’s set in the “Downton Abbey” era, critics generally don’t seem to like it as much:
... Sometimes unwieldy, sometimes beautiful, Parade’s End is–like the turbulent new order it ushers in–a bit of a mess, with no easily identifiable good guys. This miniseries doesn’t tell you how to feel, and it’s not exactly bursting with charming, loveable characters. But there’s a poignance to its story of people realizing their orderly parade is breaking up all around them, and that they’ll have to decide, all on their own, which way to march next. …
... the series is not easy to follow or instantly love, but it is impossible to dismiss. That’s partly thanks to artful storytelling and gifted acting, especially by Rebecca Hall, who is a bewitching hoot in the role of Christopher’s bored, unfaithful wife, Sylvia. … “Downton Abbey” may be sweeter and easier to follow, but it’s like a new desk stripped and distressed to look like an antique. Next to it “Parade’s End” looks like the real thing, less to modern tastes perhaps, but all the more distinctive.
... At times maddeningly slow, the story relies on dialogue of haiku-like brevity; key bits of back story and character insight are revealed in passing, and never mentioned again. Reverence and satire, sentiment and fatalism, all jostle one another for control of the story. But "Parade's End" must be taken on its own terms, because it is offering something rare and provocative: a poetically precise …
... will [viewers] stick around after they realize the adaptation requires more work than following the comparatively simple ups and downs of life at Downton? They should … has ample emotional and intellectual rewards for any viewer who sticks with it. …
... lush but excruciatingly inert … an epic about people who are all dressed up with nowhere to go. It should be watched by people with even less to do.
... the unfolding of the “Parade’s End” narrative has been directed (by Susanna White) and written to challenge — sometimes too much so. While you always understand the connections among the characters on “Downton,” you have to piece them together yourself in “Parade’s End.” Critical facts in a scene often aren’t revealed until mid-scene; setups are not handed to you. It’s the kind of demanding storytelling that differentiates “The Wire” from most other crime series. …
… Beyond doubt, great talents and noble ambitions are at play here, but somewhere in the process, those talents seem to have confused "good" with "dull" and "serious" with "tedious." …
... It's less soapy than Downton but also less successfully structured, more insularly British and far less interested in pandering -- which in turn might make it substantially less popular with American audiences. …
... Cumberbatch leads a splendidly assembled cast, but his emotionally stunted character and uncomfortable circumstances make this stiffest-of-upper-lipped love stories a muddy slog … watching the five-plus hours at times feels like its own version of trench warfare, inching from one small milestone to the next while waiting for something of consequence to happen. …
9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. HBO.
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