A tale close to home, “The Act” is a fictionalized story inspired by Gypsy Rose Blanchard and the murder of her mother Dee Dee. As a lot of you might know, Gypsy Rose was a Springfield resident in 2015. Once upon a time, Gypsy met a man online and they fell in love, and did a bunch of gross Skype sex stuff, at least according to the show. Even better than that, they decided to meet up in sunny Spring Vegas and loverboy did what prince charmings often do — he murdered Gypsy’s mother in her sleep and the two fled the home.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Love, murder and icky Tumblr sex? That’s not interesting even just a teeny little bit. I sure wish there were something more to this show.” Well luckily there is, you sicko. Gypsy isn’t just your average girl — I mean she is, and that’s the weird bit, I mean, uh … it’s like this:
Gypsy lived most of her life in a wheelchair, taking a slurry of medication for a slew of illnesses that — get this — she doesn’t have. She doesn’t need any medication and the only illness she has ever had is a slight lazy eye — she never needed the wheelchair. And that is just enough daytime-TV style drama to get this turned into a Hulu original series!
If you’re interested in the story then I guess that’s enough reason to watch. Personally, I’m not drawn in by fiction that seems to focus on telling the stories of people you’d find on an episode of “Cops,” or “Hoarders,” but I am of the belief that every story has something that makes it worth telling. That special “something,” however, is usually not weird incel dudes with a vampire persona baiting reclusive girls into online BDSM. In case you couldn’t tell, I hate that “The Act” exposed me to that and I will resent Hulu for it until I die.
Now, perhaps there may be some redeeming quality to the production that brings it back from the brink. Perhaps, but not quite. Not that there is anything exceptionally wrong with the production, it just doesn’t hold up that well. The cinematography and the editing both have some bizarre flaws that are obvious attempts to spice up the show.
For example, a large chunk of the show is shot in portrait mode. This is used in close up shots to show more detail on the face of whoever the subject of the shot is. This wouldn’t be so odd except that there are plenty of close-ups where the background is also in focus, so it is difficult to see any purpose to the drastic focus change other than convenience.
There are plenty of really evocative shots where the camera moves ominously down a narrow hallway, or where we catch a wide shot at an angle meant to show another character spying on another’s actions. These shots definitely stand out but they clash with the realistic style of the other half of the show. The incredibly powerful choices in a select few scenes make it difficult to care about the simple scenes and makes them feel like filler in between the more exciting scenes, and the realistic scenes make it hard to take the more creative scenes seriously.
Another really kooky point of interest that comes up, is that in scenes where the “romance” makes an appearance, the lighting goes absolutely bonkers. Nothing could be further from the realism that the show begins with. Specifically in the fifth episode when Gypsy meets her internet lover, the harsh fluorescents of a movie theater bathroom are instead replaced with an overpowering magenta, as well as some ambient blue light that seems to come from nowhere.
While I am usually a fan of oversaturation of color, the way the lights fall on Gypsy trying to get sexy with a man who looks greasier than the bottom of a Pizza Hut box gives off way more of a crusty vibe than a mystical one.
To contrast the production, the acting in “The Act” is stellar. Everyone on the cast has a lot to work with and they manage to cover all their bases with skill and subtlety.
The actor that makes the biggest impression is Chloë Sevigny. She plays a mother and neighbor to the Blanchards. Her role is delivered with consistent underlying emotional struggle and she is able to communicate her complex, internal thought process without needing to articulate her every impulse.
At the end of the day if you want to learn a little more about Springfield lore, and if you like watching shows about true stories of screwed up people, you’ll find something to appreciate in “The Act.” It isn’t terrible but there are a lot of better things out there. It isn’t playing it safe and you can tell that the creative team involved was trying, which is more than can be said for a lot of shows being made. 4/10