Thursday, March 19, 2020

Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #17: "Catherine the Great"

Back in December 2012, I made my first "official" Wish List entry. I had just finished Robert K. Massie's biography on Catherine the Great, and of course opined at the time how great it would be if Meryl could portray the Russian Empress in a film.

Fast forward to 2019, and the story is brought to screen as a four-part HBO limited series starring Helen Mirren.

I watched it last fall of course. While I was thrilled that the series showcased the czar's reign later in life, the story never really provided a deep sense of urgency. Yes, there were struggles and dangers, and my GOD the scenery and costumes were breathtaking. But at times it just sort of felt like it was taking too long to get somewhere.

I wouldn't have minded a little bit of a lighter tone at time in the series. In general, I thought the acting was good, particularly Mirren of course. It's kind of funny how this is the second Shoulda Coulda Woulda where she ultimately plays a role I had wanted to see Streep play (The Last Station), and also the second one where she plays a Russian woman speaking in and surrounded by a family of people who have an English accents. Obviously they weren't just going to do the whole thing in Russian or German or French, but it's a bit awkward when I think of it.

This also would've been a wonderful opportunity for Meryl to have love interests much younger than her! Mirren does a great job showcasing how a woman over sixty can still be and want to be sexy. It's so rare to see women on screen in romantic relationships at all, much less with men twenty years their junior.

Sadly, Meryl was never really up for this role. Director Philip Martin had Mirren in mind from the start, evidently having developed the project around her. Regardless, it's still fun to picture what Meryl could have done with the role, portraying a monarch with such absolute power. It's highly unlikely we're ever going to see her in this character after this production.

On to the next...

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