Starz’s Gaslit Provides a Surprisingly Captivating Counterbalance to Woodward & Bernstein’s Established Watergate Narrative By Mostly Skipping It

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“Gone is the rhythm of Woodward and Bernstein reporting in All the President’s Mentheir knocking on doors being slammed in their faces, their call to the White House and hearing different versions of the same encounter, their bickering over word choice and their clashes with their editors,” says Roxana Hadadi of the series. limited edition of eight Watergate episodes starring Sean Penn and Julia Roberts from creator Robbie Pickering. “In its place, Gas lighting centers the people who were punished by Nixon for refusing to acquiesce to his increasingly paranoid demands, and who were mostly removed from the commonly accepted version of events in the decades that followed. When the series, which premieres April 24, pulls off this reframing, it’s a tense, stylish thriller that finds horror in unabashed submission, groupthink and gender dynamics all too easily reinforced by media coverage of personalities. outspoken women.”

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  • Gas lighting is a disappointment on every level: “At a media event last month, (Dan) Stevens said that Gas lighting means telling the “human stories” behind Watergate,” says Inkoo Kang. “In almost every aspect of this attempt, it fails. With Martha as the only exception, the characters are cardboard cutouts or cartoon villains. (Two weddings form the emotional heart of the show, but I couldn’t tell you why either couple got together.) The show has been described as a political thriller, but it has so much fat and filler that it seems ideologically opposed to the very idea of ​​suspense. Whenever Martha is offscreen, it’s closer to a black comedy – the men behind the plot are portrayed as clumsy, delusional imbeciles – except it’s awfully unfunny.”
  • Julia Roberts delivers her best performance in years: “From a distance Gas lighting looks like a Watergate prank, an ironic version of the scandal of the century,” says Chris Vognar. “Think again, or better yet, see for yourself. The Watergate conspirators were goofy enough without the benefit of easy comedy. What this Starz limited series offers instead is a remarkably human portrait of hubris and truly mundane evil, with an unlikely heroine at its heart. That would be Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, played by Julia Roberts with a mixture of pathos and charm. A media darling and Nixon’s White House cheerleader, she knows too much about the cause of the administration’s stench. She is held against her will and drugged by the President’s men, including her husband, played by a prosthetically covered Sean Penn as a domineering, cheerful slug. This is the best job Roberts has done in several years. As we see Martha at her best, and then her spark dies, Roberts reminds us that she’s not just a movie star. She’s also a top actress.”
  • Gas lighting manages to deftly avoid the pitfalls that so many TV docudramas fall into, finding a weird and fun angle that helps it stand out from the crowd:”Gas lighting Just Mister Robot writer Robbie Pickering, with Sam Esmail also on board as executive producer, and he combines the cerebral, bizarre vibe of this show with a dash of Veep’s crude cynicism,” says Dave Nemetz. “It’s proudly bizarre , and it wisely avoids the stagnation of history lessons provided by inferior docudramas like Showtime’s. The first lady. It tells a story, first and foremost, where people actually talk like human beings and not like wax figures in a museum. It also injects goofy humor into the mix, like when the Watergate robbers debate the merits of a windbreaker versus a jacket while committing a crime.”
  • Mister Robotthe influence of is everywhere Gas lighting“It’s moodily lit and marked with ominous chords,” says Richard Lawson. “(Composer Mac Quayle wrote the music for both Gas lighting and Mister Robot.) The writing sometimes turns into feverish poetry, the characters slipping the boundaries of their daily function to consider the greater darkness that surrounds them. This happens most often with Liddy, played as an extremist madwoman by Shea Whigham. Its sinister fugues are the most gripping parts of any episode. The work Whigham does doesn’t exactly match Roberts’ more measured take on his character, or Dan Stevens’ restless version of John Dean. These two exist in a much more linear and literal show than Whigham, which gives Gas lighting an unbalanced gait. Sometimes we fuss with the wild, atavistic identity of American conservatism. Other times, we just watch sympathetic stars weave their way through the thorny story. Gas lighting never really decides what he wants to be, how abstract he wants to become. It seems content to crumble into easier middle ground, like an important streak about important things.”
  • It’s easy to kiss Gas lighting“Period dramas about major historical moments can often feel like homework,” says Ben Travers. “Some crave it too, while others over-correct to a disastrous degree. But Gas lighting finds a balanced and refined happy medium. Director Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic) and DP Larkin Seiple (Everything, everywhere, all at once) keep their casts well-lit, their environments in shadow, and the backgrounds bathed in black. Their framings are thoughtful without stealing focus, images allow props, costumes, and period-appropriate lighting to convey the period (rather than pretending you’re watching on a lousy ’70s TV), and Appropriate attention is paid to Whigham’s crazy eyes and gorgeous mustache. His performance, alternating between brazenly enraged and feigning propriety, defines the series, although he is not alone. Penn slips inside his bald cap and padded jumpsuit with a physical conviction that so many latex-covered performances lack.”
  • Gas lighting mentions too often SNL“Starz’s eight-episode drama about the 1972 Watergate scandal and its aftermath gets off to such a bad start that initially I wanted to tell my editor that the series, based on the Slow burning podcast – not worth our time,” says Amy Amatangelo. “And yet, there was something that made me stare. In addition to Penn and Stevens, the series features, among others, Julia Roberts as Martha Mitchell and Betty Gilpin as Mo Dean. Could they, I wondered, all be wrong? What if the show had something new and different to say about this tumultuous time in American politics? I’m not so sure.” Amatangelo adds: “All the time I watched Gas lightingI ricocheted between thinking it was an empowering series full of memorable performances and it was a terrible series that too often felt like a Saturday Night Live sketch. More often than not, though, I felt like maybe the show was enlightening me.”
  • Gas lighting tries too many things at once, but Julia Roberts is dazzling: “Don’t worry, every time she is on screen, the Oscar-winning actress is incandescent like Martha Mitchell”, says Manuel Betancourt, adding: “As Martha, whether she’s in court with the press or defending herself against her husband John (Sean Penn, buried under prosthetics), Roberts dazzles.At first looking like a fragile, frilly bride, Roberts plays her like a relationship machine cunning publicity from a person whose loneliness has made her hyper-aware of how she looks at others, only for it to make her that much more comfortable selling an image of herself than not any version of the truth.”
  • Gas lighting is a surprisingly fun adventure through a dark period in American history that also manages to avoid being too lighthearted: “In the end Gas lighting is a story that reminds us that life isn’t even a tiny bit fair,” says Kelly Lawler. “In the polarization of our current times, it is both fun to make fun of Gas lighting and important to remember the lessons of history.”
  • By keeping Nixon off screen, Gas lighting lets himself be pulled off the hook: “The peculiarities of how Nixonian paranoia has played out in the national landscape defy easy comparison, and yet the series makes frequent, flat gestures towards modern times,” says Daniel D ‘Addario. “The series is based on the Slow Burn podcast hosted by Leon Neyfakh, which attempted to situate the Watergate story for contemporary listeners. Journalism can, perhaps, achieve this specific goal more elegantly than fiction: imagine a character minor delivering a monologue about how Americans can’t “live together without a common understanding of right and wrong”. That’s certainly true enough. But it’s also somewhat basic in conclusion: the fact that Watergate be a breaking point for American reality seems like a beginning idea, not the thing we are headed for.
  • Patton Oswalt, who plays ‘Nixon’s bulldog’ Chuck Colson, thinks his character was more like ‘Nixon’s corgi’
  • Shea Whigham says working with Sean Penn must have been like what Al Pacino went through working with Marlon Brando on The Godfather: “I mean, he won two Oscars, just recently, because he’s a master at what he does. And so when you see him at the start…it was pretty transformative,” Whigham says. “The main thing with Sean is that when I was a kid, I had the poster of Sean on the wall of my room, of Spicoli (in Fast times at Ridgemont High) and from (years 1983) Bad Boys.”
  • Gas lightingThe alternate title was “The Martha Mitchell Effect”: it’s an actual psychological term for when a patient’s beliefs are dismissed as delusions, but are actually true. “It basically means the same as being gaslit,” says creator Robbie Pickering. “And I think (the title) Gas lighting reflects the take we have on the show. We want to do this time in a way that feels fresh and new, exciting and fun, and also dark.”
  • Gas lighting creator Robbie Pickering wanted to set the record straight on Martha Mitchell: “You want to yell at these people, ‘She was the first one to tell the truth!'” Pickering says. Julia Roberts, who is also an executive producer, adds: “I saw All the President’s Men five times – I thought I knew the whole story. Pickering adds that he wanted to avoid the Watergate story that Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward imprinted on our memory via Alan J. Pakula’s iconic 1976 film. He also didn’t want a repeat of the Watergate story. ‘Oliver Stone. 1995 movie Nixon. “Oliver Stone and Alan Pakula and the people who went through this period make it seem very mythical and distant from ours,” says Pickering. “When you actually read the story, it’s a lot more relevant than that and a lot more silly.”
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