‘Gaslit’, a cynical and revisionist Watergate story with Julia Roberts and Shea Whigham showing off

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Up to 41 times John Mitchell is named in All the President’s Men, Alan J. Pakula’s classic that helped explain to the world what had happened in the Watergate case just two years after Richard Nixon’s historic resignation. Martha Mitchell, on the other hand, did not appear in the film. (Bob Woodward’s book defined her as “the Greek choir of the Watergate drama” and someone who warned anyone willing to listen to what had happened) and history forgot the first person to publicly point to the responsibility of President. Until now.

Gaslit rescues some of the forgotten stories of one of the most controversial (and ridiculous) episodes in the history of the United States with a clear objective: to laugh at the pathos behind the scandal and revisit the legacy of a woman that the America of the time chose to fetishize, judge or ignore. “Martha was right”concludes in its last moments a proposal that until then had fled from the sentimental in favor of a dynamic (and at times unbalanced) mix of absurd comedy and period drama with ramifications in today’s America.

After seeing her as Martha Mitchell, it becomes clear again that Julia Roberts is already part of the select club of big Hollywood starslike Brad Pitt who see how their versatility and talent grow over the years. Portraying her as Martha Mitchell allows him to transform her image, playing on the Southern accent, crawling on the floor, and flashing the unforgettable smile that made her America’s sweetheart. However, unlike her fictional husband (a Sean Penn as effective as he is artificial who doesn’t go much beyond her radical makeover), his approach to the character never stays on the surface.

The creator Robbie Pickering (screenwriter of mr robot and confidence man Sam Esmail) and the principal matt ross (CaptainFantastic) consciously and skillfully exploit the actress’s first performance since 2018, when she premiered the devastating family drama about the opioid crisis Ben’s return and his first series, the highly vindicatable homecoming. In the second scene of the first episode we see a lover of John Dean reacting to an interview with Martha Mitchell on television: “Fuck, it’s corny, although the smile is okay. I like his smile”. He only needs to break the fourth wall and wink at the viewer.

Roberts shines both in the most grandiose scenes and in the small detailsthose moments that know how to capitalize on the unique charisma of the actress of Erin Brockovich. “Do you know what you could focus on? In your bangs”, she relentlessly ditches an alleged friend when she gets fed up with being America’s latest joke. The exercise of revisionism is much more organic here than in, for example, Pam & Tommyanother miniseries this year about a woman mistreated by public opinion at the time.

In the stellar cast there is another actor who steals the screen every time he appears on the scene. Shea Whigham is terrifying as Gordon Liddy, the operational head of the espionage operation that ended the Nixon presidency. In Gaslit Giddy is a kind of unpredictable and wild animal that as soon as he vindicates (involuntarily or not) the figure of Hitler before his family as he burns the palm of his hand without stopping before the pain or the smell of meat (a moment that counted in off All the President’s Men and that here works as the perfect synthesis of a disturbing character who in real life would end up becoming a pop icon). His work, like Roberts’s, should be recognized by the Emmys.

Shea Whigham steals every one of her scenes in 'Gaslit' as the unpredictable Gordon Libby.

Shea Whigham steals every one of her scenes in ‘Gaslit’ as the unpredictable Gordon Libby.

It is no coincidence that Gaslit be more stimulating the further away or the more it complements the story known to allLike that sixth episode that explores the fall from grace of Frank Willis, the Watergate security guard who called the authorities on June 17, 1972 upon discovering that someone had covered the locks on some of the building’s doors.

Less stimulating is the other main narrative line chosen by Pickering to structure the story of the adaptation of the most popular season of the podcast Slow Burn (on HBO Max there is a documentary series with that name that tells the same story) : John Dean’s role as a cover-up for the operation, first, and a witness before Congress of the scandal, later, and his romantic relationship with Mo, an assistant of flight that would end up becoming his wife.

The good work of Dan Stevens (with an impeccable American accent that manages to make you forget its origins in downton abbey) and Betty Gilpin do not save a plot that sometimes seems like an excuse to go up to eight episodes.

Dan Stevens and Betty Gilpin in 'Gaslit'.

Dan Stevens and Betty Gilpin in ‘Gaslit’.

The portrait of negligence that borders on extreme stupidity and the power plays that end John Dean at the heart of a criminal plot are other details that elevate a remarkable miniseries that, however, is part of the ever-growing group of television productions that would have fit like a glove in a film format.

Gaslit It would have been a great movie if it had focused on the fascinating and virtually unknown story of Martha Mitchell. As a miniseries, despite everything, this is one of those products that, as normal people, The Great either Ramythey would deserve to take Starzplay out of the second line of the streaming wars.

The eight episodes of ‘Gaslit’ are now available exclusively on Starzplay.

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