So Gracepoint aired last night, and it’s every bit as queasily self-conscious as I’d feared it would be. Of course, being a remake, it’s impossible to be any other way(unless it’s been a decade or two since the original, and even then there will be comparisons.)
The fact that the entire show is resting on David Tennant’s narrow shoulders is unsettling; while he’s more than capable of carrying the story, he shouldn’t have to. It’s an ensemble show, and the rest of the ensemble is unfortunately showing their roots as graduates of the Zooey Deschanel School of Emoting. (“Omigod you guys I’m so sad.” “Omigod you guys I’m so scared.”)
Even Anna Gunn seems hamstrung in Gracepoint, and anyone who saw her in Breaking Bad knows she’s got the chops. She just doesn’t seem to know when to dial it up or down here, and neither does anyone else. (Well, except Tennant, but it must be acknowledged that he has the advantage of having made this show once before.)
The first thing I noticed, unfortunately, was the cinematography. Everything is too brightly lit, too blue, too HD – it’s washed out like soap opera lighting, which unfortunately gave me flashbacks to Passions (Remember that trainwreck?) which is never good. Then there was the self-conscious “THIS IS A PERFECT SLEEPY HAPPY FAMILY TOWN” vibe they were attempting to create, right down to the “Gracepoint: America’s Last Hometown” banners hanging from light posts. It was just one anvil after another smacking us upside the head.
The shot-for-shot remaking is a strange technique. I’ve seen it done elsewhere and I don’t quite understand the appeal of it. I suppose one could argue that it’s like seeing the blurry images sharpened up and made new, while preserving the original meaning – but done poorly, as it’s done in Gracepoint, it feels more like a bad LARP.
(Full disclosure time: I’m a pretty hardcore David Tennant fangirl. His work on Doctor Who is of course stellar, and has made him the star he deserves to be. But if you want to lose your socks entirely, watch him in Takin’ Over The Asylum, or Hamlet. In the first, he’s playing an emotionally disturbed twenty-something while actually in his twenties. In the second, he’s nearly forty but still comes off as an emotionally disturbed twenty-something. Plus, Claudius is played by Sir Patrick Motherf**king Stewart. What’s not to like?)
Point is, when you’re doing something besides soaps or reality shouting TV, you need to actually make your characters live and breathe. Body language matters, people. I only took a handful of acting classes and even I know that. If you just stand there with the same look on your face in every scene, I’m not gonna buy your emotional beats no matter how hard you anvil them at me. Hell, even Olivia Colman in her Eighties outfit on “Look Around You” wasn’t this stiff and awkward, and she had a reason to be.
So. That’s Gracepoint in a nutshell, and while I’m going to stick out the rest of the episodes for Science, I’ll recommend you just go watch Broadchurch instead.
Or watch Gracepoint muted, because Tennant is still ridiculously good-looking.