TV Review: 'Catherine the Great' Starring Helen Mirren
For some, "Dame Helen Mirren playing the Catherine the Great" is all the convincing they'll need to watch this new biographical limited series, which is perfectly understandable. The casting of Mirren in the role, which follows the Russian empress in the embattled latter years of her life, is a smart choice that proves its worth every time she's onscreen. As a Catherine clinging to power after a bitter coup with white knuckles and an eye for devoted men, Mirren renders an almost mythic figure with grounded determination, gravitas, and occasionally petty instincts. With Mirren, who is also an executive producer, you know you're in the hands of a pro - even when the show she's anchoring lets her down.
Make no mistake: HBO and Sky's "Catherine the Great," from "Elizabeth I" writer Nigel Williams, is a handsome and competent production that luxuriates in every regal Russian set it gets (albeit with an occasionally distracting green screen for more elaborate outdoor scenes). Mirren is as good as aforementioned, and Gina McKee especially pops as the Countess Praskovya Bruce, Catherine's wry confidante with no shortage of tricks up her sleeve. Plus, unlike many more expansive biopics, the series makes the sharp choice to home in on a relatively small slice of its subject's life in order to devote more time to its intricacies. It must have been tempting, for example, to portray the bloody coup that got Catherine the throne, deposed husband and all. Instead, "Catherine the Great" drops in well after Catherine has secured her reign to explore the tense days of her fighting to maintain control.
And yet: stepping back from the series' four episodes reveals a disappointing lack of ambition in portraying such a titanic force's final days. For as fascinating as Catherine and her life at court was, "Catherine the Great" largely chooses to sidestep the ins and outs of her atypically liberal politics and the wars fought in her name to focus on her romance with Grigory Potemkin ( Jason Clarke), a charismatic and restless soldier.
Her dynamic with Potemkin is interesting at first, especially as she tries to toy with his emotions while he reluctantly hangs suspended between Catherine and Praskovya. But despite Clarke and Mirren's commitment to selling every tortured glance and impassioned outcry between them, neither Williams' scripts nor Philip Martin's directing manage to sell the depth of their apparent love for each other. As it turns out, having several other characters insist that the two must really love each other isn't quite as convincing as they perhaps think - and then there's the unfortunate truth that Mirren and Clarke simply don't have chemistry as palpable as that between Clarke and McKay, whose few mischievous scenes together are more memorable than the many of Catherine and Potemkin circling each other.
Meanwhile, tantalizing morsels of history nip around the edges of the story, only to get batted away by Catherine's longing for Potemkin to return home. Not even a Crimean takeover or Catherine's aborted quest to end slavery - fascinating chapters of her life that fed into so much controversy and anger towards the end of her reign - can overshadow her self-professed "obsession" with love, apparently. It's not that exploring the way Catherine lived and loved couldn't be interesting. It's that this particular series, with limited time, bets big on the idea that Catherine and Potemkin's relationship is enough, and the way it tells that story simply isn't.
But again: for those wanting to see Mirren sweep through the majestic halls of a Russian palace, imperious and amorous and uncompromising, "Catherine the Great" will deliver the goods. There are worse things than tuning in for that alone, but then again, there are certainly better."Catherine the Great" premieres Monday, October 21 at 10 pm on HBO.
OnePlus unveiled its most ambitious new product - a smart TV - to great fanfare in India a couple of weeks ago, after hyping the product for months beforehand. The company made a name for
HELEN Mirren enjoys a steamy sex romp with a much younger man in her new TV show, Catherine The Great. The third episode of the big budget Sky Atlantic period drama sees 74-year old Helen's regal
Dame Helen Mirren can be seen in a sexy set of lingerie reclining on a fairground ride in an unearthed set of pictures from a photoshoot back in 1975. The 74-year-old English actress donned a lace-up
Much like its storyline, the costumes of HBO and Sky's new four-part mini-series Catherine the Great are nothing short of epic. More than 60 were created especially for Dame Helen Mirren in her titular role,
At last, an answer to the question, what could be more fabulous than Helen Mirren playing The Queen? Helen Mirren playing an empress, altogether madder, badder and more dangerous to shag. Better costumes, too. Catherine the
Helen Mirren is back on the throne where she belongs in Catherine The Great, but this could well be her finest performance as a monarch to date. HBO and Sky have proved themselves to be match
The great handicap of HBO's new four-part costume drama Catherine the Great (Sky Atlantic) is that she's not Henry VIII. Little common knowledge can be assumed and an awful lot of time and effort has
Catherine the Great (Sky Atlantic, Thursday, 9pm) who ruled over the Golden Age of Russia, had to overcome many obstacles in her eventful lifetime. She deposed her unpopular, ruinously eccentric husband Peter III in a risky
More News in Entertainment
Eva Mendes visited "The Kelly Clarkson Show" to promote her New York & Company clothing line and talk motherhood. Mendes and Ryan Gosling have two children - Esmeralda, born in 2014, and Amada Lee, born in
David Beckham's wife has just launched her own cosmetics line Victoria Beckham Beauty. It's perhaps a surprise that the fashion mogul didn't venture into the cosmetics arena sooner, as fans are always asking on the official
Keeping chemistry low! Eva Mendes told Kelly Clarkson that they have loved for a long time Ryan Gosling attempted to behave "professionally" during the premiere of their movie The Place Beyond the Pines at the
Keeping that chemistry on the down low! Eva Mendes told Kelly Clarkson that she and longtime love Ryan Gosling were trying to act "professional" at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of their film The
Iowa Man Finds a Five-Inch-Deep Pool of Blood in His Basement This Genius Trick Will Change How You Fry Eggs Zion Williamson Is Breathing Fire and Leveling Entire Cities
There's a new artist on our radar and she should be on yours too. Dutch artist Nicole Bus, who recently signed to Roc Nation, released her debut album, KAIROS, on Friday. Along with the new album,