Critical Condition: Patrick Melrose

Patrick Melrose | SoHo, 8.30 Tuesday


➢ “News that a TV adaptation of the Patrick Melrose novels was in the works quite rightly raised some eyebrows. Edward St Aubyn’s pentalogy, a semi-autobiographical series about a young aristocratic addict who was sexually abused by his father, would surely be impossible to film. The stories are all character rather than plot, and most of their strength comes from St Aubyn’s merciless prose, which captures Patrick’s broken interior with riveting exactitude. Lucky the first episode of Patrick Melrose, based on the book Bad News, renders all fears misplaced.” — The Telegraph.

➢ “It is a feat of sheer executive wheedling and ingenuity. It takes St Aubyn’s bitter, brittle material and, for want of a better description, cheeses it right up. It lathers it with the £90m-a-second production values of a luxury ice-cream advertisement. Heroin — and, indeed, child rape — is shimmeringly reappraised as a sub-GQ lifestyle opportunity between shots of classic cars, martinis and good antiques … It has all been borrowed, cap, jacket and shoes, from the BBC. It is big BBC event drama as done by Sky … The second episode is even better.” — Sunday Times.

➢ “The miniseries is an achievement on two fronts. For one thing, it’s the most remarkably faithful adaptation of a series of books in recent memory, capturing the tone and the aesthetic of the Melrose novels without sacrificing cohesion. But Patrick Melrose is also darkly entertaining, veering between young Patrick’s anguish and older Patrick’s episodes of situational comedy without diminishing either.” — The Atlantic.

➢ “Benedict Cumberbatch, the primly composed actor, makes for a perfect Patrick. In Showtime’s remarkable, decades-traversing new miniseries Patrick Melrose, Cumberbatch’s boarding-school anticharisma neatly coincides with a character who holds the world at arm’s length. And the actor’s calculatedness, known to fans of Sherlock, looks radically different as he counts the minutes, and even the seconds, until his next hit, or whiles away the hours after giving drugs up. His is a soulful, careening tale told with both novelistic sweep and deeply personal emotion.” — Time.

➢ “It’s that simplicity in structure that actually helps Patrick Melrose become a truly engaging miniseries. By establishing immediately that Patrick has never been able to recover from the horrors that befell him as a 5-year-old boy, and that in his adult life he’s an absolute mess trying to cope and navigate, it opens the door for the abundance of humour that fuels Patrick (one of the main traits that made the novels so widely appealing), and Cumberbatch snatches this opportunity and never looks back. It’s a wild, often hilarious, dark and sad but also hopeful roller coaster that is kicked off in a fury in the first episode.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

➢ “If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it’s almost impossible to watch Patrick Melrose outside of the current context and conversations about sexual abuse and authority. Although the backdrop is one of vivid wealth and socially sanctioned hedonism, Patrick’s suffering is, at its core, the same as anyone else’s. More difficult is the tedium that often accompanies the addiction/recovery/relapse narrative … Who wants to live vicariously through a former addict’s daily effort to stay on the straight and narrow?” — The Washington Post.

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