SARAH VINE'S My TV Week: I loved Rachel's troubled doubles
SARAH VINE’S My TV Week: I loved Rachel’s troubled doubles
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This is very explicit: no holds barred, if you know what I mean. But it’s also slick, clever and darkly addictive, thanks largely to the mesmerising screen presence of Rachel Weisz in the role of twin gynaecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle.
Based on the 1988 David Cronenberg film of the same name (and not, as UK viewers might assume, a remake of the hit BBC impressions show), it’s essentially a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde tale.
Sister Elliot – the older of the two – is a hard-drinking, cocaine-sniffing borderline psychopath sex addict; Beverly is a shy, rather emotional lesbian with a strong social conscience.
Weisz plays the latter with her hair up, minimal make-up; her opposing twin is all tumbling raven locks and crimson lips. It’s not an especially sophisticated conceit, but it works well as far as the viewer is concerned.
Weisz inhabits each one with admirable intensity, utterly believable as both. This is really her show – although there is a great cast of strange peripheral characters, including Poppy Liu as the sisters’ somewhat sinister housekeeper and Jennifer Ehle as a philanthropist with all the moral fibre of a used tissue.
Rachel Weisz stars as the Mantle twins in the showb Based on the 1988 David Cronenberg film of the same name
It’s her decision to fund the twins’ new centre for women’s health that triggers their descent into darkness.
Elliot – insatiable, amoral, brilliant – embodies the seductive power of technology, our desire to bend nature to our will regardless of consequences; Beverly is her conscience. She knows what they’re doing is wrong. She loves her sister, but she also hates her, and the hold she has over her.
The sisters have a game: when the shyer twin, Beverly, fancies someone, Elliot will seduce them – and then swap identities. It works fine until Beverly falls in love with one of their conquests, a successful young actress called Genevieve (Britne Oldford).
At first Elliot is incredulous, then jealous. Madly so. This feeling is new, strange, frightening – like the illegal babies she grows in her test tubes. She’s losing her power over her little sister, and she doesn’t like it one little bit.
UK writer Sarah Vine praised Rachel Weisz’s double performance as twin sisters Elliot and Beverly Mantle
As Beverly and Genevieve’s relationship begins to blossom, Elliot unravels. No amount of short-term gratification can fill the void. Her behaviour is despicable, yet somehow you feel sorry for her, lost in her misery.
There’s a heartbreaking scene towards the end that illustrates the depth of her descent, as out of self-loathing she seduces a man who, in her earlier pomp, repulsed her. It’s almost Hogarthian.
Indeed, there are some wonderful visual touches: a Damien Hirst-style line up in the lab of lamb embryos at various stages of development; baroque, dreamlike settings which add to the extravagant darkness of the plot.
And blood, a lot of blood: the agony and ecstasy of birth and motherhood at its most visceral, portrayed unflinchingly in all its gory glory. Not an easy watch; but worth it.
This cheeky sitcom’s alive with laughs
NOT DEAD YET
In Not Dead Yet, based on Alexandra Potter’s book Confessions Of A Forty-Something F*** Up, Gina Rodriguez (pictured left) plays Nell Serrano, a talented US journalist who, having left her job to move to the UK to be with her boyfriend, finds herself back home and alone trying to get her life back on track
If you’re in the market for a fun, sassy little show, look no further. I started watching this because I met the author of the book it’s based on, Alexandra Potter (the book’s title, Confessions Of A Forty-Something F*** Up, was deemed a bit strong for TV audiences), and she made me laugh so much I thought there was a decent bet this would be good. And it is.
Gina Rodriguez is Nell Serrano, a talented US journalist who, having given up her job to move to the UK to be with her boyfriend, finds herself single, broke and back home trying to piece her life together again.
In the show she’s 37, which made me grimace somewhat: if that’s what passes for old these days, then heaven help us. But once I’d overcome that perceived slight, I happily settled in.
It’s quite cheeky in parts, with plenty of jokes at everyone’s expense (there’s even a gag about Asperger’s, which in this day and age is quite daring).
And it has a quirky conceit: Nell is relegated to writing the obituaries at the newspaper where she’d worked before, which sounds quite dull but is in fact a source of endless fun and games, since her subjects haunt her in ghost form (including influencer Piper, near left, with Nell) until she submits her story.
Nell negotiates the pitfalls of a post-relationship, post-youth, post-death landscape with humour and warmth. It’s not deep – but it is fun.
Don’t be a pill, Davina
Davina McCall (pictured) hosts Pill Revolution on Channel 4
Picking up this week’s gynaecological theme, I was looking forward to Davina McCall’s Pill Revolution (Channel 4).
Davina has done a great job helping to debunk menopause myths; the pill seemed a natural follow-up. But then she started talking about ‘canvassing women and people assigned female at birth’ and the red mist got me.
No, Davina. It’s just women. Period. Only women have to stuff themselves full of drugs that make them cranky, fat, spotty, grumpy etc just so they don’t end up permanently pregnant. This is biology: can’t we leave the woke politics out of it?
I have mixed feelings about Sandi Toksvig. I used to think she was cool, until she described the father of my children as looking like ‘a foetus in a jar’ (there really is a gynaecological theme here, isn’t there?).
But in her Extraordinary Escapes (Channel 4) she’s in a more loveable mode with Suzy Izzard (nee Eddie) in Ireland. The landscape’s breathtaking, but it’s not really about that.
As Eddie, Suzy was a razor-sharp comedian; quick, witty and savage. As Suzy she’s softer, more hesitant, even vulnerable. Fascinating.
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