Critical Condition: The Act

The Act | Lightbox, weekly from Thursday

☆☆☆☆ “Based on the true (and truly insane) story of how Missouri transplant Dee Dee Blanchard was murdered by her daughter Gypsy in 2015 after years of duping the public — and Gypsy — to believe Gypsy had leukemia, muscular dystrophy, and a host of other fake ailments, The Act imagines what their hell looked and functioned like … The Act hums along with suspenseful, sometimes terrifying timbre as it shows Dee Dee brainwashing and manipulating people and Gypsy longing for escape from the prison that is her home.” — TV Guide.

☆☆☆☆ “Hulu’s strange limited series blends true crime, fairy tale and horror, anchored by spectacular performances from Patricia Arquette and Joey King … The Act isn’t always the easiest series to watch, and after five of eight episodes I’m still not sure if this format is exactly ideal for the story, but I know that Arquette is, once again, a revelation and that King is taking a leap from promising young performer to star. That’s more than enough for an endorsement.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

☆☆☆☆ “The combination of subject and sequencing creates an eerie atmosphere, but pushing a bit further stylistically could have made this a campy treat instead of something caught between sincere storytelling and the bizarre true story. Still, after five of the eight total episodes, The Act is a satisfying exploration of one girl’s desperate bid for independence.” — IndieWire.

☆☆☆ “Just months after playing a heavily accented woman enticed to commit crimes by her tragic pathologies in Escape at Dannemora, Patricia Arquette is doing the same thing — just with a different accent, different crimes, and different pathologies — in The Act. Both Showtime’s prison-break drama from last year and Hulu’s newer offering have similar mandates, spending the length of a season looking into a single crime story and excavating from it insights about character.” — Variety.

☆☆☆ “Runs into the same problem Dannemora did: a story that’s ultimately not capable of sustaining around eight hours of television … There are twists and turns to the central relationship and the reason it comes to a violent end, but the story starts to feel repetitive quickly, and the lead performances (and nimble direction by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Adam Arkin and others) can only mask that for so long.” — Rolling Stone.

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