February 23, 2013 at 8:48 pm #270671
HBO’s new miniseries “Parade’s End” begins on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 9 PM ET.
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, when old certainties were being torn down. The long golden afternoons of 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.
Spanning the glittering, shallow world of London high society, the trench-scarred battlefields of France, and the breathtaking English countryside, the sweeping HBO Miniseries presentation PARADE’S END debuts TUESDAY, FEB. 26 (9:00-11:05 p.m. ET/PT), WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27 (9:00-11:05 p.m.) and THURSDAY, FEB. 28 (9:00-10:00 p.m.), exclusively on HBO.
Adapted from Ford Madox Ford’s groundbreaking novels by Sir Tom Stoppard (Oscar®-winner for “Shakespeare in Love”), the five-part drama was directed by Susanna White (HBO’s Emmy®-winning “Generation Kill”).
Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock,” “War Horse”), Rebecca Hall (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “The Town”), and Adelaide Clemens (“The Great Gatsby”) star in PARADE’S END, a Mammoth Screen production for the BBC in association with HBO Miniseries and Trademark Films and BBC Worldwide and Lookout Point; co-produced with BNP Paribas Fortis Film Fund and Anchorage Entertainment; filmed with the support of the Belgian federal government’s Tax Shelter Scheme. The executive producers are Michele Buck and Damien Timmer for Mammoth Screen, Ben Donald for BBC Worldwide, Simon Vaughan for Lookout Point TV, Judith Louis for ARTE France, and Tom Stoppard. David Parfitt and Selwyn Roberts produce.
PARADE’S END also stars Roger Allam (“The Queen”), Anne-Marie Duff (“The Virgin Queen”), Rupert Everett (“The Importance of Being Earnest”), Stephen Graham (HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”), Janet McTeer (“Albert Nobbs”), and Miranda Richardson (“The Lost Prince”).
Here is the promo trailer:February 25, 2013 at 6:24 am #270673
I’m pretty excited for this, but I’m kind of a stan for Benedict Cumberbatch. Maybe it won’t be groundbreaking or anything, but it could be very interesting either way.February 25, 2013 at 9:26 am #270674
(Miniseries—HBO, Tues. Feb. 26, 9 p.m.)
by Brian Lowry
Filmed in Belgium by Mammoth Screen in association with Trademark Films, BBC Worldwide and Lookout Point; co-produced by BNP Paribus Fortis Film Fund and Anchorage Entertainment. Executive producers, Michele Buck, Damien Timmer, Ben Donald, Simon Vaughn, Judith Louis, Tom Stoppard; producers, David Parfitt, Selwyn Roberts; director, Susanna White; writer, Stoppard, based on the novels by Ford Madox Ford.
With: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Adelaide Clemens, Roger Allam, Anne-Marie Duff, Rupert Everett, Stephen Graham, Janet McTeer, Miranda Richardson, Tom Mison, Malcolm Sinclair, Tim McMullan, Rufus Sewell.
Fortuitously timed to provide an additional dose of World War I-era melodrama for those bereft over “Downton Abbey” finishing its season, “Parade’s End,” a five-hour miniseries HBO will air over three successive nights, feels grittier than that acclaimed PBS standout, but in terms of relative merit, is a much weaker tea. Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock,” the upcoming “Star Trek”) leads a splendidly assembled cast, but his emotionally stunted character and uncomfortable circumstances make this stiffest-of-upper-lipped love stories a muddy slog (sometimes literally) through war-tinged romance, awash in duty and longing.
Even the scheduling suggests HBO wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this stately but slow-going exercise, slotting it in a way that could diminish its exposure.
Adapted from Ford Madox Ford’s novels by Tom Stoppard, the story hinges on Cumberbatch’s Christopher Tietjens, a patrician government statistician so officious he corrects the encyclopedia in the margins.
As the story opens, Tietjens is uncomfortably headed to the altar with Sylvia (Rebecca Hall). Yes, she’s beautiful and alluring enough to make even smart and powerful men behave stupidly, but she’s also pregnant with a child he can’t be sure is his or that of her married lover.
Sylvia’s subsequent extramarital dalliance drives a pronounced wedge between them, but Tietjens’ deeply ingrained sense of honor rules out divorce. He’s willing to stoically endure until he encounters a winsome suffragette, Valentine (Adelaide Clemens), instantly falling for her, yet reluctant to act on those feelings.
World War I eventually intervenes, with Tietjens lamenting its uncivilizing effects on the way of life the aristocracy had known and cultivated. “We’re all barbarians now,” he says.
Except Sylvia, for reasons a little unclear, decides she wants to repair and save her marriage, only to be rebuffed by her husband, who seems oblivious to her efforts.
Directed by Susanna White, “Parade’s End” (a reference to the waning commitment to keep up appearances and avoid “untidy” lives) features an impressive array of actors in smaller roles. They include Janet McTeer and Miranda Richardson as Sylvia’s and Valentine’s mothers, respectively; Stephen Graham (“Boardwalk Empire”) and Rupert Everett as Tietjens’ best friend and his brother; and Rufus Sewell as a crazy clergyman, prone to saying outlandish things.
Ultimately, though, the story boils down to its central love triangle, with the sides stretching out a little too long as viewers wait for Tietjens to return home and choose whether to pursue happiness and risk public humiliation, or remain in his shattered and unhappy marriage.
Beyond boasting one of the best names in showbiz, Cumberbatch conveys intelligence and strained intensity like nobody’s business, and Hall is equally terrific as the Jessica Rabbit-like Sylvia, who isn’t necessarily bad; she’s just drawn that way.
For all that, 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.
Perhaps that’s why by the time it’s over, “Parade’s End,” with its beautiful trappings and promotable cast, begins to mirror Tietjens’ marital predicament—looking better from afar than it does up close.
Camera, Mike Eley; production designer, Martin Childs; editor, Kristina Hetherington; music, Dirk Brosse; casting, Karen Lindsay-Stewart. 125 MIN.February 25, 2013 at 5:49 pm #270675
Hollywood Reporter’s review:
Parade’s End: TV Review
by Tim Goodman
The Bottom Line: A kind of high-art “Downton Abbey,” from playwright Tom Stoppard, suffers from a confusing structure but is saved by brilliant acting and directing.
9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Feb. 26, 27, and 28 (HBO)
Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Adelaide Clemens
HBO’s very British miniseries is driven by stellar turns from Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall.
There is so much to love and so much to be confused by in the five-part miniseries “Parade’s End,” which HBO partnered with the BBC in helping bring to life. It’s based on a series of books by Ford Madox Ford that have been called “impenetrable”—even by the English whose history and class structures are at the center of it—but are given a thorough and engaging awakening by acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard (“Anna Karenina,” “Shakespeare in Love”). Stoppard, who refuses to make things comprehensibly easy (at once a good and bad decision), is helped immensely by the fact that director Susanna White (“Generation Kill”) succeeds in making the series lush and gorgeous.
The end result is a kind of higher-brow “Downton Abbey” (covering similar themes of class structure, entitlement, British resistance to change and how the onset of World War I erased so much of that). 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.
But “Parade’s End” has brilliant acting performances, topped by the duo of Benedict Cumberbatch as Christopher Tietjens, an uptight aristocrat, and Rebecca Hall, luminous as his socialite wife, Sylvia. She is anything but uptight as she revels in her sexuality, privilege and masterful cruelty. And just watching Cumberbatch and Hall ply their craft is worth any stumbling blocks that “Parade’s End” throws at the viewer.
The difficulties for viewers are in grasping Christopher’s unbending nature as he endures the perils of being married to Sylvia. This is the crux of the miniseries and explained clearly only twice—somewhere near the beginning and somewhere near the end. He marries Sylvia when she’s pregnant—though it’s clear to Christopher that it’s not his child. (Sylvia, open about sleeping with another man, is keen to tell herself she really doesn’t know whose it is, though much of her resentment—and there’s a lot of it—toward Christopher is that he was noble enough to marry her anyway.) This all leads Sylvia, so simultaneously deliciously evil, magnetic and engaging, to have whatever affairs she pleases, all in front of Christopher, who seems more interested in correcting mistakes in the margins of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Why does he endure this? Because the upper class in England—as “Downton Abbey” fans surely will know—always is proper because it’s expected. It’s this “parade,” putting on airs and clinging to tradition, that Christopher believes he must participate in, though it might better be described as a “charade.”
This is the oh-so-English part of “Parade’s End” that makes it maddening. Compared to Christopher’s piousness, Matthew and Lord Grantham from “Downton Abbey” look like uncultured peasants without a moral code. Credit Cumberbatch for making Christopher’s unrelenting sacrifices interesting rather than a dull man’s dull decisions. He’s obviously hurt deeply by Sylvia’s cavalier behavior, but he suffers stoicly (not so much with a stiff upper lip but a quivering lower one and moist eyes). This only infuriates Sylvia, who wants him to be human (as viewers might, too). This last-honorable-man-in-England thing takes most of “Parade’s End” to finally unravel, even though we see early on that a spirited young suffragette named Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens, also superb here) is falling for him (and, ever so slowly, vice versa).
“Parade’s End” moves from the wide, green English countryside to Germany, France, and London. And, yes, there are “Downton”-like estates and large drawing rooms where the upper class have every need served by those from downstairs. One of the series’ most memorable scenes is a fog-shrouded horse-and-carriage trip between Christopher and Valentine in the countryside that’s ethereal and dreamlike—until it’s not. The costuming here is elaborate and beautiful, and Hall’s beauty is framed like a painting in every scene.
World War I begins to change everyone’s lives, of course. Christopher goes to the front mostly because his staunch adherence to old-world values has made him a derided figure in society and his brilliance in the Department of Imperial Statistics—he proved that war was coming and the country wasn’t ready— has made him enemies in the government’s bureaucracy. Hell, with no one understanding him, Christopher figures he might as well die in the service of his country.
It’s only at this point, in the fourth of five episodes, that a general—as confounded by his choices as viewers might be—asks why he hasn’t just divorced Sylvia. “There is what used to be, among families of position, a certain, call it, parade,” Christopher tells the general. To which the general replies: “Was there. Well, there are no more parades for that regiment. It held out to the last man. But you were him.”
There is only minor closure and perhaps not maximum, “Downton”-like audience satisfaction at the end of “Parade’s End.” Stoppard’s storytelling structure has an odd rhythm to it, and White’s direction can be both majestically beautiful and transitionally jarring. But combined, their choices allow “Parade’s End” to achieve an exquisiteness, a sense of high art.