Saturday, May 11, 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch: Review of Parade's End

Fans of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock who tune in to Parade's End hoping to see him in another Sherlock-like role would be vastly disappointed to find Cumberbatch almost unrecognizable as Christopher Tjetjens and playing about a different a role as you can possibly get from the ever hyperactive Sherlock.

Parade's End is a difficult series to fall in love with, which might explained why its viewers were dropping like flies. UK viewer ratings went from a BBC2 high of 3.52 million in the first episode to 2.30 million, and by the last episode (episode 5), had eroded to just 1.77 million, nearly half of what it began with.

I have to say that fans of Cumberbatch who are just interested in seeing him acting in Sherlock-like roles are missing out. More than making the role of Sherlock his own with 70 plus different incarnations of Sherlock out there, Cumberbatch is first and foremost a chameleonic and incredibly versatile actor who brings something different in every new role he tackles. And in Parade's End, Cumberbatch dons a fat suit and plumpers to play the repressed and tortured aristocrat Christopher Tjetjens.

To be fair, it is not easy task, trying to condense Ford Madox Ford's sprawling 895-page tetralogy into 5 1-hour episodes. This adaptation feels more like a series of vignettes rather than a cohesive narrative, with characters popping in and out of the storyline without much explanation. I found myself checking the plot synopsis Wikipedia after each episode to see if I was on track in comprehending what was transpiring on screen. And while the storyline seemed to proceed at a snail's pace at the best of times, each episode actually encompasses months and sometimes even years...

The real gems of the show are Rebecca Hall, who plays Tjetjens's wife Sylvia, and of course, Cumberbatch as Tjetjens himself. Adelaide Clemens as Valentine Wannop though was sadly disappointing as Tjetjen's love interest, while the stellar supporting cast is reduced to portray caricatures of the upper class echelons of British society...

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