‘Roar’ features Nicole Kidman, who eats photographs but still falls short

What if Merritt Wever had sex with an anthropomorphized duck? What if Betty Gilpin was a real Barbie doll? What if Nicole Kidman swallowed photographs? What if Cynthia Erivo was slowly eaten alive? What if Alison Brie was a mystery-solving ghost?

Apple TV +’s new anthology series Roar, which premieres today, takes on the unmotivated task of portraying these bizarre, Black mirror-like scenarios plus more in an attempt to illuminate the anxiety, systemic obstacles, and occasional pleasures of being a woman in patriarchal society. It marks the first project by creative duo Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch since the violent cancellation of their exceptional Netflix series EMBER in 2020 and includes a few of the show’s most important cast members. Like Cecelia Ahern’s collection of short stories, from which the series is adapted, there is not much of a consistent line connecting these feminist narratives, apart from the show’s magical realism and the broad observation that women experience things. Likewise, the results of these surrealistic endeavors are extremely unsubtle, a little cheesy, mostly manageable, and at times unique.

First and foremost, the eight-episode series is a great opportunity to watch your favorite prestige TV actresses (and a couple of male heartbreakers) tense their performance muscles and demonstrate why they deserve to star in big movies – if they haven’t already. —Instead of getting lost in the current sea of ​​streaming programs.

Speaking of which, the ultimate queen of streaming Nicole Kidman, who acts as executive producer, stars in the series’ most gripping episode, portraying a woman watching her mother (played by Judy Davis) suffer from dementia and trying to regain her own. memories of consuming her childhood photos. Despite these strange, dramatic setups, the fables told in Roar are highly anticlimactic and often struggle to find satisfactory conclusions. However, this flaw is practical for this slice-of-life vignette, which succeeds as an impressive showcase for two actors. Who wouldn’t want to see 30 minutes of Kidman and Davis having tense, sometimes sentimental exchanges on a road trip? At other times, it feels as if Flahive and Mensch are just picking up ideas from the modern feminist encyclopedia and highlighting them over and over again without actually saying quite much.

For example, in “The Woman Who Disappeared,” starring Issa Rae, and “The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin,” starring Cynthia Erivo, the series demonstrates an understanding of the specific issues affecting black women. In Rae’s episode, she plays a successful writer whose memoirs are being processed into a film. While attending meetings in Los Angeles, she gradually becomes invisible to the white people around her, especially a group of male producers – one of whom is played by Nick Kroll – who want to turn their experiences of racism into a virtual reality experience for whites. audience despite her objections. The series does not know what to make of her dissolution at the end of the episode and inadvertently signs her state of being unseen and unheard of. Erivo’s episode similarly nods to black women’s medical needs, which are systematically neglected but are not interested in exploring the issue beyond a mouthful of action.

Additionally, there is not much austerity on “The Woman Held on a Shelf,” in which Betty Gilpin plays a trophy wife who abandons her modeling career to be shown in her home to her wealthy husband (Daniel Dae Kim). It also relinquishes the slightest study of the racial dynamics at stake in favor of centering on the oppression of a white woman. In the end, Gilpin’s enormous talent is wasted on a very obvious, extended metaphor that stops claiming that society values ​​women for their looks rather than their intelligence – nor is it captured in a way that is particularly fascinating visually.

The series does not know what to make of her dissolution at the end of the episode and inadvertently signs her state of being unseen and unheard of.

Oddly enough, the best thought out episode turns out to be “The Woman Who Was Fed by a Duck”, which has a logline that sounds like it was worded to go viral on Twitter for a week. It is written by Halley Feiffer and combines a well-known story about sisters in different places in their lives and, yes, bestiality, which is captured in a very cartoonish, fantastic and comical way, which prevents it from feeling totally disgusting – on top of the fact , that it seems clearly imagined. Out of all the series’ attempts to go to a really strange place, this landing sticks and still manages to bypass a nice conclusion. Of course, only an actor as charming and winning as Wever could portray a protagonist courted by a talking duck.

Alison Brie is as impressive as the ghost of a murdered woman who solves her own case while being poorly handled by two misogynistic investigators (played by Chris Lowell and Hugh Dancy). The episode is another interesting undermining of a genre that usually does not portray women in their entirety. Other episodes, like one with an older woman (Meera Syal), who literally returns her husband to a store as a faulty TV at Best Buy, can mostly be described as lovely and sweet.

Overall, I walked away from Roar with the same reaction I had on the HBO Max series Minx, about the creation of a women’s porn magazine in the 1970s. With the exception of a few episodes, it is the type of superficial, feminist television that takes honor to present progressive, purportedly radical ideas without illustrating any of these concepts in ways that are fresh and sharp. Thus, Roar as a project seems a bit self-serving, as if it exists primarily as an example of the type of “nuanced,” “diverse” stories women are allowed to tell on television at the moment. (It must be said that the series does not contain any uniquely queer stories or representations of trans women).

Maybe we should be excited about Merritt Wever being allowed to romance a duck on television. Unfortunately, that does not fully justify it Roar‘s existence.

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