Sometimes, a piece of art is so bad that it brings out the absolute best out of critics. So it is with Max’s The Idol, the show about The Weeknd trying to be a cult leader and Lily-Rose Depp is his cult follower and she’s a pop star or something. What was originally supposed to be a feminist story about a pop star breaking the shackles of a cult became something else entirely when they fired the female showrunner, hired Sam Leveson and gave him carte blanche to reshoot the series to make it more exploitive, more misogynistic and a hell of a lot stupider. Max actually premiered the show at the Cannes Film Festival, where critics reacted with revulsion. But did you know that The Idol also features completely sh-tty acting from The Weeknd? Some highlights from Variety’s amazing review, “On ‘The Idol,’ Why Are the Weeknd’s Acting Skills Nonexistent?” By Stephen Rodrick:
Horrific buzz: If you’ve spent the past three weeks in a coma or on Mastodon, “The Idol” is this summer’s buzzy show with all the buzz being horrific. Much of the bile has concentrated on the creepiness both on and off the set and my friends, they ain’t kidding.
The meet-cute: After 25 minutes of torture p0rn, Jocelyn — the worst moniker ever for a single named pop star — heads out to drink and dance the night away somewhere in West Hollywood. She ends up at a seedy and hip dance club where she does approximately 47 shots and dances to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” either the second or third on-the-nose shout at the audience that Jocelyn suggests is an outlaw feminist, the other being a Fiona Apple tune and — heavy sigh — shots of Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct.” Tedros — seriously who picked these names? — spies her and heads over for a dance. Now, in publicity materials Tedros is described as charismatic, but Tesfaye moves into Deep’s realm with all the sexual energy of a sad Canadian repeatedly mumbling “sorry.”
Abel is not alone: I should note Weeknd’s performance is not alone in its badness on a show that is shot like an overlit snuff film. It’s just the one that grabbed me by the hoodie strings and refused to let go like a drunk breathing 3 a.m. Jager breath on you and asking if he can crash in your hotel room. The always great Hank Azaria plays an on-edge manager whose Israeli accent should be retired next to his longtime performance of Apu on “The Simpsons.” … But Azaria and Adams have credit it in the acting bank. All the Weeknd has is an appearance as “Himself” in Uncut Gems. (He was not believable). Charitably, you could blame his performance on his agent or the director but then you remember he is one of the creators of “The Idol.” He manufactured his own career poison pill! He is trying to play louche but just comes off, as one character describes him, “rapey.”
You know who I kept thinking of as I read this? Madonna. Madonna is great at being Madonna. She’s great at giving life to this pop star creation named Madonna on stage and in interviews. Madonna is absolutely awful when she’s trying to be anyone other than Madonna, and she kept trying and trying to make her acting career happen and it was just soooo bad. That’s what this is – Abel seems to think that he’s a charismatic man who can play a charismatic cult leader/abuser and he’s just…not. He doesn’t have the range. He doesn’t have the talent or the charisma. And I love this for him too – he created this whole mess, he cast himself, the show was redone with his horribly misogynistic vision. He owns this entire catastrophe and I hope he never tries any of this sh-t ever again.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images.
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