From Russia, With Love

I stumbled upon the DVD of Series 1 of ‘A Young Doctor’s Notebook’ and bought it purely because of Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm’s faces on the cover. I’m easy like that…but I never expected to find a real gem.

‘A Young Doctor’s Notebook’ is set in 1917 in a very small, rural village in Russia where the Doctor (played in his younger years by Daniel Radcliffe and in his older years by Jon Hamm) is sent to work straight out of University. It is a BBC production and is currently angling for a series 3, so keep your eyes peeled! (Note: Up until recently, I did not know that Brits call their seasons ‘series’).  playhouse-presents-a-young-doctors-notebookpunnery.wordpress.com

Series 1 only has 4 episodes that run about 26 minutes a pop, making the whole thing about the length of a feature film. So if you hate it…you haven’t wasted much time. But if you love it like I did…you will be instantly craving more. Bear in mind this is a very dark show and is not at all meant for children. There is gruesome humor, lots and lots of blood, and very real medical dilemmas, but the splendor of it comes from Radcliffe and Hamm, who often share the screen, almost living in parallel universes, with the Older Doctor giving advice to his younger counterpart.

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What I particularly enjoyed is that Radcliffe is moving away from his ‘Harry Potter’ roots by taking on such a different role in a long line of many bold choices, but he doesn’t lose that likeability he became famous for. You really feel for him as he stumbles around the freezing cold, middle-of- nowhere clinic with his imposing nurses and under the shadow of his predecessor, Leopold Leopoldivic. He’s green behind the ears when it comes to being a doctor and is always running back to his room to try and consult his books anytime a patient comes in.

In this way, the series starts off on a comical note, as the Doctor gets into a routine, but the meat of this show comes through the ‘flash-forwards’ to the Doctor in his older years who is a very serious morphine addict. There is a very chilling moment when the older Doctor convinces his younger self to start the habit which changes his life forever.

Watch it for the peak into Russian history. Watch it if you like dark comedies or are bored of traditional medical shows. Watch it for the two amazing leading men. But just watch ‘The Young Doctor’s Notebook’. And if you do, tell me about it!

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Baby, Baby, Baby

A few weeks ago, Rosemary’s Baby debuted in NBC as a two part miniseries. Now that the dust has settled from social media first impressions and purist reviewers, it is time to decide what was good, bad, and deliriously demonic about this modern day remake.

The Story

Gory and blunt, this was a good attempt at a horror movie that peaked at a half a dozen parts along the way, but fell flat for the remaining 4 hours. It should have been half the length to avoid confusion, since Rosemary’s feelings about the Castevet’s change suddenly between the two segments and then revert to how they once were. This miniseries, based off of the original film starring Mia Farrow, follows Rosemary Woodhouse (Zoe Saldana) to Paris where her husband Guy (Patrick Adams) has acquired a teaching job with the help of her best friend Julie (Christina Cole–you’ll recognize her from What a Girl Wants if you grew up in the 90’s). Rosemary gets her purse stolen and chases after the criminal, finally getting back what was rightfully hers as well as a wallet belonging to Margaux Castevet (Carole Bouquet). As a reward, Margaux invites Rosemary and her husband to a party at her swanky apartment, where they are both introduced to Margaux’s husband, Roman (Jason Isaacs) and are given a black cat as a parting gift. From there, the Castevet’s deeply involve themselves within the Woodhouse’s lives. It is truly a modern day Faustian bargain, as Guy promises his first child to the devil in return for fame and fortune. This element was the most fascinating about the entire miniseries and I believe anyone with an appreciate with a good ‘Devil Made Me Do It’ story will find an odd pleasure in watching this.

The Cast

Patrick Adams was perfectly hateable as Guy, but the part was very one-dimensional and he did as much as he could with it. Unfortunately, even with four hours of screen time, there was hardly an explanation of the thirst Guy had for this type of fame (not to mention why he slept with Rosemary’s best friend so long ago or how the met and got married). A role like this shows that Adams can tap into a quiet evil, which will open up opportunities for him in the near future.

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Guy and Rosemary arguing over their unborn child.

Carole Bouquet was perfectly creepy as Margaux Castevet; she represented every stereotype of French upper-crust society in a way that was not overdone. From the kisses she bestows on both Guy and Rosemary, to pushing homespun remedies on Rosemary to get her through the pregnancy, her paranoia and obsessive nature is apparent throughout the film. As mentioned with Guy, her character was also a bit underdeveloped. Her intimate relationship with her husband was unclear, as were her feelings about Rosemary’s baby.

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Roman and Margaux

Jason Isaacs, on the other hand, was perfectly cast as Roman Castevet. My opinion on this has nothing to do with the fact that I already adore him as an actor, but he took a part that could have given itself away with the first half hour, and changed it into something complex. Granted, the writing of Roman’s character gave Isaacs more freedom to do this, but he nailed every scene he was in with a quiet, believable aloofness.

Likewise, Zoe Saldana completely stole the entire four hours and pushed her acting chops to the limit. Her performance was what made this miniseries something more than a dreary Lifetime movie knockoff. She managed to spend the entire four hours in a state of intense emotional pain that was entirely believable to the audience and not over-act it. You unravelled and fought with her and she was simply stunning.

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The Film

There was clearly thought put into this film and the settings and lighting were well done. Agneizka Holland has a great command of what she wanted to portray and there are so many messages interwoven within the film that come as afterthoughts when the credits roll instead of slapping you in the face during an important scene. This type of nuanced filmography is hard to do, but Holland does it well. There were a few scenes that did not seem to match with the pacing of the rest of the movie and stand out as poorly edited compilations, which was disappointing since so much of the movie is very grounded and quiet.

Overall, Rosemary’s Baby is unexpected, oddly delightful, and unnerving. Judge for yourself by watching the entire miniseries here.