Portion of the stress-free of looking at Renée Zellweger in What/If, Netflix’s 10-episode melodrama, is imagining the actress’ enjoy internal monologue as she learn every script. What went thru the Oscar-winner’s mind, to illustrate, when she got right here to the scene the put her personality — infamously ruthless project capitalist Anne 1st viscount montgomery of alamein — harangues a rival in her penthouse… while taking pictures arrows correct into a wooden statue’s buttocks? Or how referring to the capper to episode 5, in which Anne prunes a department off of an especially unhappy-taking a test bonsai tree, old to turning to repair the digicam with the menacing, lifeless-eyed gaze of a killer shark? (Moreover, used to be Zellweger angry when she stumbled on the edge of her lace-front wig looked as if it would be exhibiting your total time?)
What/If is the creation of Mike Kelley, the one who briefly revived the art work of the high-time cleansing soap with ABC’s Revenge. That series delivered opulent camp for approximately a season-and-a-half of, but it indirectly exhausted the myth’s perfect absurdity and sputtered alongside for about a more years on fumes. What/If shares powerful of Revenge’s intellectual DNA — it, too, pits a dastardly diva in opposition to a engaging-minded underdog (Suburgatory’s Jane Levy) — but this time Kelley properly chose to ranking his soapy operatics to an anthology layout. And because it appears, limitations may possibly maybe maybe possibly additionally be freeing. In accordance with the first half of of the season, Kelley’s drama plans to burn sizzling, vivid and loopy for 10 episodes old to flaming out — if now now not spectacularly, now now not now now not as much as on its enjoy overblown terms. What/If does now now not soar the shark — it begins with the shark in its rearview think and it never looks support.
Lisa Donovan (Levy) is a young and talented scientist, the founding father of a “medical solutions” company called Emigen Molecular Sequencing. All she wants to conclude is assign lives — impressed by her dinky sister, who died from a curable function of leukemia — but Emigen is broke, appropriate about a months away from total financial extinguish. Enter Anne 1st viscount montgomery of alamein. (Oh boy, does she enter. Zellweger’s personality first appears within the support nook of a resort bar, because the digicam pans up her vivid gams and stops appropriate attempting her face. “I’ll beget a gin martini!”) As San Francisco’s most neatly-known billionaire, Anne can assign Lisa’s company with about a keystrokes and a wire switch — all she wants in return is one evening with Lisa’s blankly vivid husband, Sean (Glee’s Blake Jenner).
It isn’t powerful of a spoiler to instruct that Lisa and Sean settle for Anne’s rude proposal, after some requisite hand-wringing, finally. The money is now now not going to handiest enable Lisa to begin her company with corpulent funding, this may possibly well maybe maybe additionally enable Sean — a historical Basic League Baseball pitcher whose explosive mood ended his career — to originate a brand original career as a firefighter. However when Sean returns from his evening with their mysterious benefactor, his knuckles bloodied and his soul bruised, Lisa is conscious of she’s made a large mistake (cue GOB Bluth GIF). With out a time machine in search, our heroine decides that the handiest skill she will be able to exact this sordid contaminated is by uncovering the true fact about Anne 1st viscount montgomery of alamein’s motives and discovering a skill to — within the grim parlance of high-time skullduggery — consume her down.
Nothing about What/If moderately clicks. Anne 1st viscount montgomery of alamein is speculated to be fantabulously prosperous — she lives in looming high-rise emblazoned with a huge M, for Pete’s sake — but the panoramic San Francisco “seek for” delivery air her penthouse window is moderately clearly a painted backdrop that the manufacturing does dinky to hide. Naturally, she has a butler named Foster (Westworld’s Louis Herthum), but he defies his aristocratic office (and moniker) by following an completely enterprise-casual costume code, skulking spherical in fleece pullovers and delivery-collared polo shirts. Characters ignore purple flags with impunity, as when Lisa learns that Emigen’s first clinical trial resulted in “a hundred% efficacy” — a desire any scientist, especially a perfect wunderkind like herself, would immediately fetch suspect.
The part is, this voice appears to comprehend it’s a huge number. Soap opera is a mode that rewards extra — from outsized shoulder pads to huge leaps of common sense — and Kelley, alongside with director Phillip Noyce, gifts all the pieces to the viewer with a cheery, exaggerated wink. When she’s now now not taking pictures arrows at Lisa, Anne holds subtext-weighted down expository conversations with her next to an costly-taking a test chessboard. Nearly every episode functions a admire gala, including “a dim tie gathering of elite opponents on the tip of their fields,” an affair dubbed “The Détente.” And the most important to Anne 1st viscount montgomery of alamein’s sad past is literally a huge situation of keys, displayed with ominous prominence in a glass case smack at some stage in her penthouse.
The ensemble takes a range of approaches to this materials. As Lisa, Levy is targeted and managed; it’s possible you’ll maybe maybe possibly additionally virtually if fact be told feel the actress straining to ground the wild What/If universe in some semblance of actuality. It’s a dinky disappointing: Levy is a talented performer with a reward for wry humor, and I stumbled on myself wishing she allowed herself to beget a dinky more stress-free. As an alternative, she’s like a bookish pupil who does the general work on a neighborhood venture while her lab companions doodle of their notebooks and gaze into condo. Of the general supporting avid gamers – including Samantha Ware as Lisa’s handiest friend Angela and Juan Castano as Lisa’s brother Marcos — handiest Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters) appears dialed in to the voice’s freaky frequency. As Angela’s boss/illicit lover Dr. Ian Harris, Annable openly telegraphs the sinful underbelly of his personality’s handiest-boyfriend-ever exterior. (Even his chilly cap of salt-and-pepper hair appears to foretell probability.)
Powerful of the appearing is flat. Jenner, bless his heart, has roughly one expression to bring deep rage, gentle happiness, polite confusion. In a roundabout scheme, it doesn’t topic. All the pieces serves to spotlight Zellweger’s gloriously goofy performance. As Anne 1st viscount montgomery of alamein, the actress doesn’t so powerful chew the environment as soak up it thru every pore. Powerful like Madeline Stowe in Revenge, Zellweger instructions the screen with regal condescension, delivering every line in a breathy, high-pitched murmur — it’s toddler talk, weaponized. Regardless of drove her to instruct yes to this weird and wonderful project (past, you know, money), I’m very much joyful that she did.
The identical may possibly maybe maybe possibly additionally be mentioned for Netflix itself. The streamer doesn’t always function appropriate decisions when it involves its copious capital, but — to quote Anne 1st viscount montgomery of alamein, Sinful Genius — “nothing wonderful is ever performed with out sacrifice.” If Netflix (and Zellweger) are attractive to sacrifice a dinky of their prestige sheen in describe to provide viewers a weekend’s worth of escapist silliness, appropriate on them both. Pull the automobile spherical, Foster — I’d are attempting to consume consume one other outing to crazytown. B