“Flack” – Incoming [MOVIE REVIEW]
“Flack,” the new dramedy on Amazon Prime, created by Oliver Lansley, nails the nasty, creative and thankless profession of the celebrity publicist. Lansley, a playwright and television writer, is also an established British actor with many episodic credits. He has, no doubt, over the years observed variations on the behaviors portrayed on the show, as outrageous as they may seem to the casual observer. Having worked for many years in television, I sadly report that what you will see in the six episodes of Season One are representative of what is often asked of a well-paid publicist or “flack.” The rich, entitled, and famous are often in dire need of “crisis management” for crises of their own making.
Robyn first attracted the attention of Caroline when she worked at the New York branch of Mills Paulson. When Caroline moved back to London to run that office, she invited Robyn to accompany her and be part of her new team. Robyn, whose sister lives in London with her English husband, was eager to make the transition. She is joined at the company by Eve, an entitled rich bitch (and I say this only in the most admiring way) and their new intern, naïve Melody who wants nothing more than to please everyone. This, she will learn, is not a business where “please,” in any sense of the word, is optimal.
The hook of the series is the bizarre dilemmas from which the clients of Mills Paulson must be extricated. Opening on Robyn moving briskly through a homosexual orgy den, she single-mindedly bypasses activities that most of us have never imagined until she arrives at her target. Patrick Andrews is a soccer star with the Chelsea Club and is in flagrante delicto with a young man, too young as it turns out. The minority of the pretty boy is more negotiable than the potential scandal and financial repercussions of revealing that Patrick is gay. Robyn clears, or rather cleans up that mess forthwith and marches on to the office and the next situation.
Between a personal life overwhelmed with ambivalence, her colleagues, and her drug addiction, Robyn teeters from one disaster to another. Eve, her beautiful entitled friend and co-worker, is primarily consumed with how to score as many handsome notches on her bedpost. When not otherwise engaged, however, she’s a topnotch flack. Melody, their new intern, is strictly from the sticks, or in this case Scotland. She takes abuse willingly and scrambles for any tiny bit of praise or at least less abuse.
Each of the six episodes in the first season features some new disaster or challenge, with the exception of the charmingly clueless and libidinous Patrick whose two episodes are variations on the first. Some of the situations are positively horrifying and certainly strain credulity but, I suspect, are based on some variation of truth.
“Flack” definitely falls into the category of dramedy as some of it is quite funny. The comedy is overwhelmed by many of the horrific situations that ultimately lead it down the unfortunate path to melodrama. A few more comedic touches would have offset some of the cringe-worthy moments.
The cast is excellent. Led by Academy Award winner Anna Paquin (“True Blood”) as Robyn, she is ably supported by Lydia Wilson as Eve, the beautiful narcissist, and Rebecca Benson in the rather thankless role of Melody, the much trod-upon intern. The true standout and the best reason to stay with the show is the fabulous Sophie Okonedo as Caroline. Academy Award nominee Okonedo, primarily known as a dramatic actress, is a show stopper. Whenever she appears as the boss of the agency, the screen explodes. She is hilarious in her imperiousness and her delivery. These are the moments of dark comedy that are worth hoping for. No task is too outrageous or unexpected. Clearly, she’s seen it all and knows exactly what to do and who should do it.
Although not perfect, and how many things are, this short series will hold your attention and leave you wondering what could possibly come next.
Launching January 22 on Amazon Prime.
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