By Amanda Gilmore
Sam Levinson’s latest TV Series is Euphoria meets 50 Shades of Grey, while set in the world of a Pop Superstar.
The first two episodes, which screened Out of Competition at Cannes, sets up the mindset of Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp). She recently lost her mother which led to a nervous breakdown that derailed her last tour. Now she’s releasing anticipated new music with the hope to be the greatest, sexiest pop star in America. However, she’s still grieving over her loss, leaving her vulnerable.
Cue club owner Tedros (Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye), who sees the vulnerability and takes advantage of it. He swoops in and helps her remix her newest single. As Jocelyn is already underwhelmed by the original version, Tedros ignites a passion within her again. But will this new romantic-professional relationship bring new heights or the deepest of lows for the Popstar?
There are lots of provocative sexualized scenes in The Idol. For those familiar with Euphoria, the scenes here are dialed-up a notch further. However, these provocative scenes are being used to highlight bigger themes and messages within the Script. Here, Levinson — and Co-Creators Tesfaye and Reza Fahim — are dissecting the highs and lows of a life of a pop icon.
In the first episode, a compromising photo gets released online of Jocelyn. It shows the singer with ejaculate on her face. Everyone on her team immediately attempts to spin this into a positive light for the star. This brings us to the life of the busy bees that surround and ‘manage’ a popstar. Additionally, it highlights how they keep her protected from these horrible things for fear of another break.
The people surrounding Jocelyn care for her deeply. Some even take on the role of pseudo-parents (Hank Azaria and Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s characters) even if they don’t always know what’s best. The person who will move mountains for her is her best friend and Assistant Leia (Rachel Sennott). Sennot is superb as the caring friend who’s the only one who sees Tedros as the snake he is.
In his acting debut, Tesfaye, dawning a Rattail, gives a chilling performance as the manipulative Tedros. In these first two episodes, the Actors share tantalizing scenes that people will have mixed feelings over. However, once again Levinson is using them to inform the viewer of the mental states of his characters. Tedros is controlling while Jocelyn succumbs to his demands.
Depp gives a groundbreaking performance that will skyrocket her character. And the Supporting Cast is outstanding. To name a few not priorly mentioned: Troye Sivan, Jane Adams and Blackpink’s Jennie Kim. And at the end of the second episode, Red Rocket breakout Suzanna Son delivers a show-stopping performance while sitting at a piano.
We’re excited to see where the Series goes from here.
The Idol screens at Cannes ’23:
Mon May 22 at 10:30PM at GRAND THÉÂTRE LUMIÈRE
By Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Assassination Nation had its International Premiere in the Midnight Madness Programme at TIFF this year. However, if you happened to miss it you’re in luck it will be releasing in theatres on September 21. While it was showing at TIFF ’18 we had the chance to sit down with the Director of the Film, Sam Levinson and Cast members Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse and Abra about this imminent cult classic.
See the Trailer:
Q: Sam, why did you feel you needed to write this and bring this world to life?
LEVINSON: I started writing this five days before my wife gave birth to our first child. I was really nervous about where our country was headed, just the amount rage that seemed to be bubbling up. And I think I wanted to emotionally unpack it and deal with it in the only way I know how to, as a Writer and a Filmmaker. And I think that was part of it but also, I wanted to write a Film that I thought mirrored the emotional intensity and vitality of the internet. You open up your phone any morning and you’re reading about someone getting shot or here’s a street fight or here’s someone singing a song to a dying family member. And that’s all in the span of about 5 minutes. and it’s an emotional rollercoaster. It’s so intense and it adds this kind of, I don’t know the best way to describe it as, but this sort of dizzying feeling about how do you navigate this world and keep your sanity. If you were to take that and mix it with young people today in some way this movie sort of serves as a road map for how to navigate the world… and the fantasy of sometimes how you wish you could navigate this world, which is by, you know what, saying “fuck you, I don’t give a shit. I’m not going to take it anymore.” Its [The Film] this sort of crazy piece but I wanted to reflect the sort of madness of the internet.
WATERHOUSE: Its like being on the other side of being so scared about your privacy and not wanting anyone to know anything about you, and then the other side is like, you know my worst parts you know things I’m capable of and like “two fingers up to you. I don’t care what you think, I’ going to survive this.”
Q: If there is one thing you want audiences to take away from this Film, what would it be?
ABRA: I wish we all and the people watching, on how we watch each other, we should have more empathy, and be less judgmental about everything. Just take less judgement, be less harsh and step away from the lens and question you’re lens for a minute. Even if it’s the right one, just step away for a minute.
NEF: I would like people to question their own certainty of the truth, of what is right, of what is kind, of what is good. I think that our nation is stratified on to lines right now that are 100% sure of their own rightness, righteousness. And if this Film could parochialize that kind of view a little bit and dig deeper and perhaps question it — that could be a catalyst for positive conversations.
LEVINSON: Yeah, and conversations that I think can ultimately move things forward because right now, at least in American, I feel like we are in this sort of stand off. And standoffs don’t normally end well. Its nerve wracking for all of us, in many ways.
NEF: I found myself questioning my own points of view, just during the filming of the Movie. When we were going to the Louisiana gun range and I was like “oh guns. I hate guns.” And I still have perhaps Liberal views on gun control, but you know, I was in a part of the country that I have never been in for an extended period of time. My prejudices about the conservative south or the lower belt where totally changed and shifted just by the time I spent down there. If you open your eyes and your heart you will be surprised.
LEVINSON: The thing with guns is, if I hear a gun shot I just wanna drop to the ground and hide. So it’s weird being in a gun range because you’re hearing shooting and you’re not supposed to react to it.
NEF: But also working with those guns, holding them and firing them, I understand why these things are important to people. Especially for people who feel extra vulnerable.
LEVINSON: 100% I get it. I think the emotional motivation and the psychological thought of being able to protect yourself. I completely understand that aspect of it no matter what my views are on the context of it. But I think that’s what the Movie is ultimately about. Their ideology in and of itself is bound to fail. And this Film is about discourse it’s about the way in which we communicate. It’s about the idea that if you operate with an absolute certainty that you are right, and that your actions are therefore just, then that is a recipe for a horror film and that’s what this Movie is about.
Elevation Pictures release ASSASSINATION NATION on Friday, September 21, 2018.
Review by Justin Waldman for Mr. Will Wong
Sam Levinson’s women empowerment to the power-of-four Film Assassination Nation is a violent, visceral, eye opening look at what it’s like to be a female teenager in the modern age with a bloody twist. Coming off the positive word of mouth from Sundance, it is no wonder why people loved this Film. It is an absolute blast and insanely entertaining, the Midnight Madness crowd is sure to devour the Film with absolute delight.
The Film centers around Lily (Odessa Young), Hari Nef (Bex), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) and Em (Abra) as they’re the “it” girls around high school. A hacker slowly starts to leak info about the residents of Salem, and it turns into a witch hunt massacre.
Assassination Nation screens on Tuesday September 11, 10:45 PM at the Ryerson and Wednesday, September 12 at 9:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre.
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Assassination Nation follows four female high school best friends in Salem. When a hacker releases personal web and phone data of Salem’s citizens, the girls have to protect themselves at all costs.
Writer-Director Sam Levinson creates a Film unlike any made before it. He follows his lead characters, four females, and depicts the violence and misogyny they face in their daily life. But he doesn’t make his characters passive and weak. Instead, they are active and powerful. Able to fend for themselves. Its action-packed from beginning to end with humour, violence, and blood … lots of blood. What very refreshing is that Levinson writes his heroes with flaws and questionable decisions. All which add to the believability of his characters in this satirical yet all-too-real world. And Levinson has found a perfect Ensemble of dominant women consisting of Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef and Abra.
Assassination Nation screens at Sundance on Jan. 21 at 11:59PM at PC Library, Jan. 22 at 12:15PM at Ray PC, Jan. 24 at 11:30PM at Prospector PC, Jan. 25 at 12:30PM at Ray PC, Jan. 25 at 11:59PM at Tower SLC, and Jan. 27 at 11:59PM at Tower SLC.
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