Tag Archives: Glenn Close

Silk: Top briefs

Courtroom drama plus lots of ambition, scheming and sex. It’s not surprising there are so many successful TV shows with legal settings. Glenn Close in Damages wins the goddess of deviousness prize for me, and James Spader in Boston Legal pretty much covers sex. I confess to also enjoying quite a lot of Ally McBeal especially when Robert Downey Jnr came on board. The 1995 Steve Bochco series, Murder One, was terrific in its day. And it was the opening ‘fractured screen’ credit sequence of Murder One that came to mind when I first started watching the BBC barrister drama Silk.

Silk’s credits feature images fractured by wafting strands of the pink ‘silk’ that surround barristers’ briefs. But despite being as big a fan of Maxine Peake as the rest of the nation, I was a bit dubious about Silk after the first episode. I really like the Lincolns Inn/Middle Temple setting – I used to walk through those beautiful gardens on my way to work. And I do so enjoy of the apparently posh world of chambers where it’s really the working class clerks, who have to call everyone Sir or Miss, who really have a firm grip on the goolies of everyone and everything that goes on. But, on first viewing, it all seemed a bit too much of a barrister-by-numbers show, and frankly I’ve been sulking ever since the superlative North Square wasn’t recommissioned (which also had Rupert Penry-Jones in it, as well as the wonderful Phil Davies playing the clerk role).

But then I realised they are both written by Steven Moffat and started paying proper attention. The plotting, scheming and general shenanigans, inside chambers and without, are coming along nicely. I’m still adjusting to seeing Neil Stuke out of an apron, since I only knew him from his impressive stint on Celebrity MasterChef. In this, he’s pretty scary as the morally ambivalent head clerk of chambers. What we have at the heart of Silk is two barristers – gritty, northern Martha Costello (Peake) and posh boy Clive (Penry-Jones), both of whom are fiercely competing to make silk, ie become QCs, at an age that would never happen in real life, as I understand it. They need to keep on the right side of the head clerk because it is he who has the power to allocate them the right cases which would give them their best chance. It’s hinted that Penry-Jones’ Harrovian background will do him no harm. And they both have cute pupils of the opposite sex. Oh yes, and Martha is pregnant. I won’t say who the father is, in case you haven’t caught up with this on iPlayer yet.

The law is sort of incidental, but it’s all most enjoyable.

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Kick ass women: Glenn Close

Series 3 of Damages has just come to an end and I’m bereft. I love my weekly dose of the brilliant, evil genius lawyer that is Patty Hewes. Glenn Close plays cool, calculated manipulators better than anyone. Think back to Dangerous Liaisons and her portrayal of the gorgeous, wicked Marquise, deftly toying with the emotions, lives and loyalties of Michelle Pfeiffer and John Malkovich. She’s one of those villains you actually want to win out (well, I do).

Maybe her role as monochromatically haired Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmations was a bit over the top, but actually, I liked her in that too. Puppies, schmuppies. She’s the kind of woman I’d like to go drinking with.

Glenn Close can act the pants off anyone in her vicinity and she’s great at characters who have no moral centre. In the case of Patty Hewes, she’s happy to slaughter a pet to win a case or bribe/imprison her son’s girlfriend to get her own way. Kill someone who gets in the way if necessary. And as for Alex in Fatal Attraction? She gets a bad press in my view. Surely Michael Douglas and the bunny were asking for it.

You don’t mess with Glenn Close. She kicks ass. Maybe best not to leave her in charge of your pet though.

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Damages Season 3 (8): “Consider this the carrot …”

Ah, the welcome return of Ted Danson. Star acting-transformation of Series 1, as the shock-white-haired reformed fraudster Arthur Frobisher, tangled up en passant in series 2, he returns now to further strengthen the acting array in Series 3. What is his connection to the fraudster Tobins? Aside from the F word and being screwed over by Glenn Close’s Patty Hewes, we can only wait and see.

The “Anteegwan” (phonetically rendered so it’s like you’re listening to the show) connection to the Tobin stashed millions continues to prove hard to crack for Patty and co, thanks to the efforts of Junior Soprano, sorry Mr Zedeck.  He manages to ensure the key officials are “financially motivated”.  Nice phrase.

Lovely scene where Zedeck and Tobin lawyer Winstone (this season’s acting turn around Martin Short) advise each other knowingly to be careful over the death of key witness Danielle Marchetti, each thinking the other was the guilty party.  Turns out neither was: “well if you didn’t do it, who did?”

Given that Tobin junior is sinking ever deeper into the post-Ponzi shit storm created by his dad, it’s unsurprising that he knows who did.  He’s now deceiving his mum, by hiding away his increasingly nutty sister, who (yes indeed) has poisoned his former mistress/mother of their half-sister.  I’m sure there’s some half dozen Greek myths being thrown into the mix here.  We’re just short someone being screwed by a swan, but give it time. Continue reading

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Damages Series 3 (7): “You didn’t replace me”

Damages was unaccountably deferred for a week in the schedules.  (Maybe they worried we might think a conniving amoral lawyer resembled too closely one D Cameron – zing! Take that botoxed Etonman.  That’s worth another 4 points off your poll ratings.)

The fortnight has at least allowed my fevered brain to sift the tangled threads of narrative. Sadly for Mrs Bold it has merely made everything fade.  I spent most of the first 15 minutes in clarificatory mode.  And in Damages there is both back story and front story to get clear. Thank Zeus for iPlayer.

Now DA-based Ellen P is showing she has learned well from Patty the ancient skills of MindFuck.  Simulataneously a) setting up unwitting new laywer Alex for a fall in the eyes of Patty, b) strengthening her apparent friendship with Alex and c) showing Patty how she’d done it all in the same single move:  padewan no longer, she is clearly ready to be a Jedi Master.  As she herself says to the languid Glenn Close:  “You hired someone.  You didn’t replace me.” 

The frenetic plotting pace also let up a tad, allowing us to enjoy more reflective shots of fading lawyer Martin Short in crumpled deadpan mode. Watching him visit an old people’s home to find his intended visitee 5 months dead, then tracking down the person who’d sorted out the effects, you knew it had to be his long lost (and now dead) mom and down-at-heel  pop – but the bitter and vicious paternal rejection scene was cutting. 

Turns out Mr Short is not whom he seems to be (then again, who is in an average Damages episode).  He’s previously a petty grifter.  The Tobins to whom he is more like family won’t like that:  “A man with a criminal past? That’s our dad’s role in the plot - loser.  And dad managed to purloin billions:  petty grifting doesn’t cut it.”

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Damages Season 3 (6): “A lot of big brothers out there want to steal your mashed potatoes”

Dominic Chianese: keeping the money hidden and the suits sharp

I must report that Ms bold, a Glenn Close and Damages fan, found this episode curiously unsatisfying. I fear it’s because each scene is now on average 4 seconds long and by this point the series is weaving so many multiple strands of story that you’d have to be a skilled Lancastrian loom operator to follow the warp and weft on this cloth.  It will look great when finished, but right now we’re all too close to the threads to see the big picture.

This episode primarily builds up Tommy’s emotional and financial motives for the flash forward ending.  Extra denouement glimpses this week – Tommy and Ellen with vast amounts of cash; new timeline reveal, means we know Patty’s car smash was a few hours before Tommy died.  So it was Tommy … but of course it won’t be this obvious. Never is.

And the flash forward now has some lovely guitar music – maybe Patty sued to stop the shrieking music that sent her eyes into lunatic independent rotation.  It’s a nice 4 seconds of relaxation among the ongoing plotting mayhem.

Best set up scene:  Patty seeking deal with (beautifully Dickensianesque-named) Sterling Biddle, a fraudster she put away in the 80s.  She wants to know how the Tobin cash might be squirreled away.  He promises information in return for a “conjugal visit”.  Patty calls as yet unhired blonde Alex for an assignment: “How badly do you want the job?” Alex is next seen unzipping her leather boots, sitting uncomfortably next to a gently salivating Mr Biddle:  “Patty always had an eye for the pretty ones”.

Would Patty really do that? Such is her hardball status that you think – yep, on reflection she could. And they let you think this, right up to the end, when you see she was in fact smuggling in caviar.  Mind you, he did want her to stay and watch him eat it.  Sicko.

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Damages: Season 3 (5): “Careful, she’s a big responsibility.”

So what is it with Patty and birthdays? Here she is about to become (what, 50? 120? we’re never told) let’s just say a year older, and she’s mentally freaking out about it.

Nice excuse to crowbar back in dead former characters – Uncle Pete’s turn this time: her long-time parent substitute and one-time fixer, now haunting her dreams with horses and cakes that ooze blood. Mmm … blood cakes.

Whatever the cause of this birthday trauma – and I’m guessing it’s something to do with daddy and horses as a metaphor for something else (maybe ponies, who knows) – she’s not giving anything away: even denying point blank to potential new recruit Alex Benjamin (Tara Summers) that it even is her birthday.

And it’s here that Damages make their only casting stumble so far – although maybe it will turn out to be inspired in the long-run – by bringing in Ms Summers who played lovely, sensitive English lawyer in Boston Legal.  Maybe they wanted her so they can play her against type and make her out-Patty Patty.  Can’t be done.

I always thought Damages great casting tricks were to take left field choices – Martin Short being Season three’s has-been actor make-over du jour – and show them how to do simple and powerful straight acting.

Martin Short’s acting revelation as disturbing lawyer being further enhanced this week as he admits to feeling he’s been left bereaved by the suicide of his dad substitute Louis Tobin. His solace is to lay his head in the lap of a hooker and stare at the ceiling. Insert your own pay-off line here. But this was touching and memorable emotional weirdness. If it were up to me I’d give him a Grammy or something. Continue reading

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Damages, Season 3 (4): “See, now we’re co-operating”

Len Cariou as fraudster Louis Tobin

Like a well-cooked Mexican meal, which requires 27 ingredients and five different kinds of chillies, Damages really works best when all of its story elements have been prepared, ground up and are cooking away in one big pot of intrigue.

Damages has everything simmering along nicely now – Patty getting her teeth into both scamming Tobins, Tobin junior necking back the vodka like he’s heard Smirnoff’s are folding, Tobin senior now distrusting his son for that reason, Tommy’s cash flushed away in the Ponzi scheme, our main witness barely recovering in hospital, Ellen being sucked back in to Hewes and Associates with her sister on drugs, Martin Short’s shyster-lawyering still always one step behind …

And through all of this, Glenn Close as Patty seems to be the one wearing the toque and planning the feast. She doesn’t just play both sides off against the middle, she plays the top, bottom, front, back – probably even the north and south poles if they had an angle she could manipulate.

But, like mother like son, Patty’s son Michael turns out to be able to lie to mummy just as well as she does to everyone else. Successful businessman having now dumped former girlfriend, old enough to have been his high school teacher? Nope – still struggling artist, only now with pregnant older girlfriend. Michael is Patty’s only blind spot that I can see: she never even trusted her husband and could happily exploit her dog if need be.

However, coming up on the rails is Detective Huntley (played with looming menace by Tom Noonan) – who so far appears only in the flash forward denouement scenes. He might just be able to get the rush on Patty. Realising she doesn’t yet know Tommy’s been dumpstered, he says to sidekick: “We need to handle this delicately”. Pauses, smiling: “We need to tell her”. Continue reading

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Damages: Season 3 (3): “Do you feel blessed?”

It’s a fun game to think of all the old films whose plots wouldn’t work in the era of mobile phones: Dial M for Murder, The Sting, Finding Nemo (allowing for fish mobiles).  By contrast nowadays they get routinely deployed as key plot device, notably The Wire which undermined its very name as Stringer Bell’s crew used and summarily tossed untraceable pay-as-you-go cells.

But I can’t recall a piece of TV where mobiles became a trope (critical theory term, mate) – meaning they signified something more than just being a means of saying “hi” while walking.  Damages episode three however pulled off this – so subtly though I’m not sure if I just imagined it. 

Each scene had – naturalistically and not artificially imposed – a mobile conversation, from bars, from offices, from airports, from streets.  And it mattered not which side you were on – DA and private lawyer, victim and villain, Hewes and Winstone – all played out the action on their cells.  Everyone except the estranged-from-Patty-Hewes-never-to-return Ellen Parsons, as she spent time away from NY with her hick family in the sticks.

The mobiles came to represent the sticky, tangled web of connections linking everyone together and which you can’t escape – with Patty as the spider pulling them all together.  And there, in the very last scene, what happens? As Ellen contemplates her broken family life with innocent old-technology VHS family movies playing in the background, she picks up her cell for the first time and calls Patty.  Cue music.  Ellen is back in the web.

Of course, I could be hopelessly deluded.  What makes me think they were trying something is that they had not one single Tommy’s-in-the-dumpster “flash forward to the end” scene, which is as much a signature of the programme as The Wire’s McNulty getting drunk in a bar or Vic getting eye-poppingly angry in The Shield.

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Damages: Season 3 (2): “Figure it out, Tommy”

Damages is taking a risk in season three, seemingly hinging its action around Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), who has not been the brightest light in the Damages starry array.  Tommy is certainly the fulcrum around which episode two pivots.

The key moment is actually a great use of silence and stillness – set between rapid scenes where the dialogue never lets up for a second – as Tommy gazes shocked at a mystery file handed to him by a fellow Hewes associate.  The moment seems to last forever as he stares into the abyss.

Turns out that he has all his stock invested with a broker who then secretly placed that investment in Tobin’s now collapsed ponzi scheme.  His family’s future (and his cousins’ and his parents’ and his friends’ – as he angrily tells his wife) is wholly tied up in it.  Never heard of a balanced portfolio? For a smart lawyer he sure is dumb.

It shows the power of the scene that you empathise fully as you envisage his destroyed future stretching ahead of him – and only then remember, oh yes, he’s going to be found dead in the dumpster in 6 months anyway.  Such are the twisty-turny joys of Damages.

The acting coaches must have got to work on Tate Donovan since he now has way more than two facial expressions – somewhere upwards of six I counted in this scene alone.  Way to go.  By the end of the series he’ll be up to … oh wait.  He’ll just have the one.

Patty Hewes for once takes a bit of a back seat in this episode, but provides a diverting subplot romp with soon to be ex-husband Phil.  Toying with him mercilessly through the divorce proceedings, which is fun to watch.  And even stooping low enough to use their dog’s apparent illness as leverage.  Dumb employees and dumb animals, she’ll use anyone to get what she wants. Continue reading

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Damages – Season 3 (1): Who’s in the dumpster?

arialbold has been an excited quivering wreck since discovering the third season of Damages was upcoming on BBC. With Glenn Close as ice-queen who-will-she-get-next NY lawyer Patty Hewes, nothing is ever what it seems.

With Damages, practically the only things you seem to be able to rely on are the opening titles which have passed unscathed through into their third series.  I figured everyone would want to copy The Wire and have their opening music covered by a different cool artist each series – but maybe with Damages they need to leave you something that tells you which way is up.

The other now perennial feature – which gets a tad annoying at times – is that whenever they cut to what will be the denouement which gets slowly revealed episode by episode, everything goes slightly off kilter, with washed out colour and “eek eek” music.  It’s a useful signalling device in case you wonder why the person you have just seen bouncing happily round the office is now dead in the dumpster and oh he’s alive again.

And as a piece of TV rhetoric it’s great – constantly changing your perspective on what you’re seeing as the backstory unfolds.  In other hands it could be poor – and it verged on the hammer whack when you saw loyal and much put upon Hewes associate Tommy Shayes (who sadly only has two acting styles – happily stunned or unhappily annoyed – and wears that David Steel sartorial suicide note, the white collar and coloured shirt) watching his name going up on the door of the firm alongside Patty Hewes’, all the while you knew, you just knew, it was going to be him in the dumpster.

And this is clearly the show to be on if you want to make a strong left-field career move.  Dunno who their acting coach is but boy are they worth it.  Glenn Close had already made great TV with The Shield, but season one showed Ted Danson was not Sam Malone.  Season two had William Hurt doing his best stuff since way back.  And now season three – Martin Short! Continue reading

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