MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Loving “The Knick”

knick

I’m not running a traditional review because it doesn’t feel right.

This series is everything great and distancing about Steven Soderbergh.

Here’s the best way I can describe it. If you enjoy all of Magic Mike, you will love this series. If you only are there for the “big” moments, you will probably find the first 4 hours frustrating and then start falling in love with the show in episodes 5, 6, 7, and beyond.

Me? I love the detail. I love the subtlety. I love that Soderbergh rarely tells you, as the audience, how to feel in anything other than the most demanding way.

What is the show about? Too much to turn into a sentence or even a paragraph. It’s about women who embrace their equality when the society doesn’t. It’s about race. It’s about extreme bravado and stunning fear. It’s about old money. It’s about the nature of power. It’s about how power can shift in an instant. It’s about how sheer bravery and utter stupidity can occupy a person in the same moment.

The series kind of reminds me of the most recent season of Boardwalk Empire, which really cut back on the genre fun (tits, guns, oversized personalities) and got to the gut of things. There are some big personalities in The Knick, but you won’t see a big, fun, wild Bobby Canavale-on Boardwalk–type performance on this series. (You might see Bobby Canavale next season… who knows?… but he would likely be seething, not barking.)

Casting by Carmen Cuba and Soderbergh is remarkable. Clive Owen is perfect here… but it’s not a Walter White or Don Draper kind of showy role. He is dry as a martini with a drop of Vermouth. Over the course of the 7 episodes I have seen, he is the show’s rock and shines, but without trying (or being written) to outshine others.

André Holland becomes a household name (or at least a Hollywood household name) from this show. The writing and the performance challenge him and his character to stay within the truth of that period while also pushing as hard as he can. The waves of frustration and relief are a dramatic joy to experience.

Eve Hewson, Juliet Rylance, and Maya Kazan each carries the baggage of famous families with them (I’ll let you look them up, if you care), but you wouldn’t know from the work. Three very different roles and performances. Each about as dead on – and unexpected in many ways – as you could seek. The further along you get in the series, the more complex and less expected each becomes.

And it’s great to see a vet like Cara Seymour get a great role to play.

I don’t want to make a forever-ling list of other great performances, but Danny Hoch, Michael Angarano, Matt Frewer… and Chris Sullivan, who is going to work FOREVER off of this show. How much range does he have as an actor? No idea. But if he’s a good guy – in real life – he will soon be one of the most popular guys to add to movie ensemble after movie ensemble.

Okay… so let me lay it out. People are going to have a hard time for the first 4 episodes. Soderbergh and the writers take their time laying out their corner of the universe. The frustrations of the situation will frustrate many viewers… because they are not cleanly resolved. And truth be told, I’d probably be happiest watching the first 4 back-to-back-to-back. There are moments of true delight along the way. But there is a lot of status quo establishing. But after that, things start really happening. And you will be hooked, week by week.

I know I am. Can’t wait for the last few episodes… and really, I am already excited about next season.

2 Responses to “Loving “The Knick””

  1. berg says:

    I liked the parts of The Dog that explained the past, the protest at the marriage office, the bank … I liked that the film ended with the same Elton John song that begins Dog Day Afternoon …. but the film repeatedly comes to a screeching halt in scene after scene where we observe the Dog in the present day talking and riding around in a car …. talk about filmmakers falling in love with footage that needed to be cut

  2. Pete B. says:

    Glad you liked it Dave. I wasn’t that interested initially, but I gave it a try based on your recommendation. I’m afraid I might be one-and-done with it. Maybe I’ll view the 2nd ep just to make sure. Like most of Soderbergh’s stuff, it was just too antiseptic. (Although I guess that’s a good thing in a hospital setting.)

    Now, are we ever gonna get a Guardians review?

Leave a Reply

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas