(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reel Thoughts: Sweet Revenge

Lying, scheming, murder and betrayal in the tony Hamptons… how could ABC’s Revenge not become a hit? Brothers & Sisters star Emily VanCamp took a very different role as “Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke,” a young woman who comes to the Hamptons with the singular mission to bring down everyone who helped send her father to his violent death. This puts her on a collision course with the ultra-wealthy Grayson family, headed by cold Conrad (Henry Czerny) and ice queen Victoria (Madeleine Stowe). She is aided by a network of her late father’s friends, including eccentric gay billionaire Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann).

Revenge is the perfect show of the moment. Anger at the wealth and greed of the “One Percenters” like Mitt Romney and Wall Street bankers makes watching their stand-ins on Revenge endure Emily’s wrath very satisfying. Mike Kelley’s delicious drama is pitched at a melodramatic level that gives it a campy boost, especially in the diva-like performance of Madeleine Stowe. The layers of intrigue, backstabbing and shifting loyalties never seem to end, which is just the way we like it.

Amanda Clarke was living an idyllic life as a child with her father David after the death of her mother. She had a puppy as well as a bad case of puppy love for Jack Porter, the young son of Stowaway Tavern owner Carl Porter. Then her world came crashing down, after a horrific terrorist attack downs an airliner and her father is framed for the crime by the wealthy Graysons, who actually were guilty in the crime. As Revenge opens, Amanda is now Emily and armed with vast wealth and insider information, she takes down the people who sent her father to prison (and later death) one by one in very entertaining ways.

Van Camp narrates every episode, à la Mary Alice Young on Desperate Housewives, and her unemotional delivery gives them a comic edge. By the season’s end, Emily has accomplished much of what she thought she wanted with unintended consequences for her and all of those around her. Next season (starting this Sunday, September 30) promises shocking reveals, such as who isn’t really dead and what caused a fateful plane explosion in the season one finale. Van Camp is perfect as Emily/Amanda, as she battles her feelings for both dark and dangerous Daniel Grayson (hunky Joshua Bowman) and good guy Jack (Nick Wechsler). Everyone on Revenge wants revenge on someone, so of course Emily’s plans don’t always go off as planned. She is adaptable enough to come out on top, making her the anti-heroine of the year.

If you missed Revenge last season, the Complete First Season DVDwill be an irresistible treat. If you are already a member of Team Emily or Team Victoria, you will love all of the extras the DVD supplies. Deleted scenes, bloopers and fun behind-the-scenes looks at the gorgeous sets and costumes will satisfy all of your desires to live vicariously. It is a hoot to listen to Stowe, whose “knowledge about her body” and hands-on approach to her costumes make her sound more like haughty Victoria Grayson than she intended.

Season two of Revenge may veer off into storylines you never expected, but no other show delivered such delightful plot twists episode after episode. Truly, this Revenge is a sweetly evil treat.

Hamptons Exposed! Our Five Favorite Scandals on Revenge:

Things happen in the Hamptons that don’t stay in the Hamptons, and they are jaw-dropping! If you don’t want to know, read no further, but these are a few of our favorite things.

  •  Nolan Ross is gay, and how!: Forty year-old Gabriel Mann plays the eccentric tech inventor in a blond Bieber cut that’s way too young for him. When he casually reveals his sexual orientation, you aren’t prepared for just who he hooks up with. Daniel Grayson’s college pal Tyler (humorously bad actor Ashton Holmes) will do anything to get ahead, including bedding the randy billionaire, Victoria Grayson’s personal assistant Ashley Davenport (Ashley Madekwe) and in a moment of personal weakness, he tries to seduce Daniel when drunk. Nolan is a paragon of virtue in comparison, albeit one who lets his libido torpedo Emily’s plans.
  • Victoria Grayson, adulterer!: What makes Victoria’s betrayal of Emily’s father so terrible is the fact that she was having a torrid affair with him, yet went along with her cuckolded husband’s plan to frame him to save herself and her unborn child (Whose child? Watch and see!).
  • Never trust the Help!: Ashley Davenport seems so sweet and oblivious to Emily’s machinations, even as she is unwittingly aiding her boss’ downfall. Beneath the lovely British exterior, however, Ashley is as scheming as the rest of the folks on Revenge. Trouble is, she hooks her wagon to former hustler Tyler, who isn’t going to get her anywhere.
  • Amanda’s back! Who is she?!: If Emily Thorne is really Amanda Clarke, who is the trashy Amanda Clarke who shows up on Emily’s (formerly Amanda’s) doorstep? Why it’s the real Emily Thorne, played by Brittany Murphy look-alike Margarita Levieva. The “Amanda” who returns proves useful to Emily, and is especially good with a deadly tire iron!
  • Lydia Davis takes the plunge!: With friends like Lydia, played by former supermodel Amber Valetta, Victoria needs no enemies. Her best friend is sleeping with her husband, but not for long! When Emily’s tricks make it look like Lydia is responsible for blackmailing the Graysons, Victoria’s right-hand man Ryan Huntley gives her a helping hand... right over the railing of her expensive loft balcony. Good thing that car was there to break her fall... and most of her bones!
 Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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