Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren in ‘Yellowstone’ Spinoff – The Hollywood Reporter | Daily News Byte

Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren in ‘Yellowstone’ Spinoff – The Hollywood Reporter

 | Daily News Byte

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Paramount+’s one-hour pilot 1923the only episode of Yellowstone prequel made available to critics, is less of a template for a compelling ongoing series and more of a very loose amalgamation of things that creator Taylor Sheridan seems to be charming this week.

Native reeducation schools! The Tsavo Man-Eaters of Kenya! Grazing rights!

1923

The Bottom Line

Ford and Mirren are great, but the plot needs corralling.

Air date: Sunday, December 18 (Paramount+)
Cast: Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, Marley Shelton, James Badge Dale, Darren Mann, Brandon Sklenar, Jennifer Ehle, Aminah Nieves, Jerome Flynn, Timothy Dalton
Creator: Taylor Sheridan

Perhaps the pieces of 1923 will come together eventually and maybe they’ll come together quickly — again, I’ve only seen one episode — but in the short term, it’s unlikely that Sheridan’s carefully cultivated core audience will care. Between the star-studded cast led by Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, the familiar wide-open Big Sky vistas and periodic totemic recitations of the name “Dutton,” 1923 immediately offers a lot to learn (and potentially annoy) about.

Ford and Mirren play Jacob and Cara DUTTON — any and all mentions of the last name “Dutton” feel pronounced in all-caps as dramatic irony shorthand for adding “You know, as in Yellowstone for 100 years” — owners of a prosperous cattle ranch in Montana. As Ford and Mirren play a couple who realize the misery of what they hope is a distant utopia, 1923 is clear that a Mosquito coast also a prequel.

Jacob arrives in 1894 and finds himself raising his brother James – the “Like Tim McGraw in 1883!” is implied — sons John (James Badge Dale) and Spencer (Brandon Sklenar). The busy Dutton clan also includes John’s son Jack (Darren Mann), who is eager to become part of the family’s nurturing legacy and marry the slightly more prim-and-proper Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph).

The folks at the Montana Livestock Association are concerned about the lack of pasture for their cattle and about the sheep raids run by local herders, led by Jerome Flynn’s Banner — a conflict that links the Old Country (or Old Countries, because it was a clash between the Scots and the Irish).

Meanwhile, in the unlikely wilderness of Montana, we meet Teonna (Aminah Nieves), an Indigenous teenager facing abuse at a residential boarding school run by the strict Father Renaud (Sebastian Roché) — I choose to believe that the “Renaud” means that the series is also a prequel The Chocolate War — and overseen by the cruel Sister Mary (Jennifer Ehle).

And then there’s a storyline in Africa, where an initially unknown mustached man hunts big game and holds back the trauma of his service in the Great War.

How hidden scars from the Civil War are central to the psychology of 1883The First World War is as prevalent in the backstory of 1923 because Prohibition and the looming Great Depression were for its inevitable future. All of this is tied together with Sheridan’s trademark fixation on human nature’s sadistic disregard for… well, everything. As Isabel May utters in the series’ opening voiceover, “Violence has always haunted this family,” which in this case sounds like a huge understatement. As Sheridan shows, violence is the basis of the DNA of the American dream, a strain of our ingrained identity that we can bring to the land, the people who once occupied the land and one that we can export around the world. . too.

The more spread the 1923 pilot gets, the more speculatively concerned I get.

When it’s on a firm footing of all things Dutton — fiercely determined older men, rebellious and potentially disruptive younger men and the confident and supportive women around them — the 1923 the pilot is completely watchable. Director Ben Richardson is a regular within the Sheridan universe as both director and cinematographer and he is a master of the visual grammar of the world, even the parts of it that annoy me, like the very clean production design throughout. He knows how to turn a dime from beautiful shots of miniature horses against towering skies and herds of livestock moving across vast plains to tight close-ups of restless men and busy women brooding about to the nobility of the land and so on. The TV critic in me likes to point out — not that Taylor Sheridan’s cohorts care — that every thing that 1883 and 1923 The attempt to do is done better and better at Amazon’s The English.

Ford, comfortably entering the character actor phase of his career that he probably prefers began in the ’80s, growls with impressive weight and gets sad value in every inch of his thick face. Introduced rifle-in-hand, but still conveying just enough of the necessary emotion, Mirren is a good foil, though she does boast the kind of troweled-on, exaggerated accent that might dare to be talked about without killing it. of one of the unspeakably great. actors of our time (see also Dame Judi Dench in Belfast). So far, Dale (and on-screen wife Marley Shelton) feel generally underused and Timothy Dalton, who chews up the scenery in the show’s trailer, hasn’t even made his first appearance.

The residential school stuff is unrelenting sadism and, while I’m sure it’s accurate sadism and I’m sure there’s value in teaching insulated Yellowstone to viewers about these schools, the scenes feel like exactly the kind of exploitative reproduction of trauma — by white writers and directors, no less — that concerns viewers when slavery or the Holocaust are treated similarly. Perhaps when that storyline becomes more than verbal abuse, whips, blood and tears, it will be more believable to include. Oh, and Jennifer Ehle is overqualified for this “barbaric nun” role, so I hope Sister Mary becomes more interesting in a hurry.

And about the African scenes? Well, I get that Sheridan saw The Ghost and the Darkness and read some Hemingway, but so far the show’s serious take on colonialism has bordered on the silly, and two things in the last five minutes that should have been surprising made me laugh out loud in ways that were definitely unintentional.

Inequality has an advantage, though: Most 1923 The pilot is a mismatched enigma, but the pieces I like make me more curious than ever Yellowstone o 1883. After watching just one hour, I think my review goes to, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

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