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Granger at the Movies: ‘The Crown,’ ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

By Susan Granger
Special to WestportNow

Thank you for your e-mails asking where to read my Entertainment Reports in the future. I am joining the staff of www.westontoday.news, which is expanding to include more of Westport. I hope you will join me there and follow me @susangranger on Twitter.

Susan Granger at the Movies

As if Britain doesn’t have enough Brexit problems, Netflix’ Season 4 of “The Crown” reveals Charles, Prince of Wales (Josh O’Connor), as a total cad. In cahoots with his mistress, scheming Camilla Parker-Bowles (Emerald Fennell), he married virginal, vulnerable Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) to whom he had no intention of being faithful.

Pressured by his family to marry an “eligible” young noblewoman, Charles continued his adulterous affair with Camilla, who was married to another man … as Diana said: “There were three of us in this marriage.”

Perhaps Charles is a throwback to his Hanoverian ancestors—George I and George II—assuming that, as heir to the throne, he’s entitled to have a mistress and his wife has no reason to complain.

According to Emma Corrin: “The brittle coldness, the elaborate traditions and the expectations of behavior … I don’t think (Diana) anticipated that. I think she expected to join a family.”

So lonely Diana is shown roller-skating through the corridors of Buckingham Palace and suffering from bulimia. Divorced in 1996, she died in a Paris car crash in 1997. Charles and Camilla married in 2005.

Concurrent with the Charles/Diana/Camilla triangle, this new season profiles the prickly relationship between Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson), beginning with a disastrous weekend at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Created by Peter Morgan, the storytelling is episodic, utilizing historical events—like the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s uncle—as background to explore rivalry and intrigue, revealing behind-closed-doors details about the Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne, and others.

Ignore complaints about “authenticity.” Obviously, the dialogue is fictional since no one overheard what Philip really said to Charles, etc. although some of it is lifted verbatim from Royal Family biographies.

I was particularly intrigued by the “Favorites” segment, revealing the shallow, entitled arrogance of the Queen’s offspring: Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward; it’s filled with foreshadowing.

And everything feeds back to Elizabeth, the reigning monarch; that’s why it’s called “The Crown.” As Prince Philip remarks in the concluding episode: “She’s the oxygen we all breathe.”

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Crown: Season 4” is an addictive, tantalizing 10—the best season yet!

J.D. Vance’s sprawling, brawling best-seller—“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”—is about his chaotic childhood in Middletown, Ohio, where much of his extended family moved from Kentucky’s Appalachian region.

It’s what’s been termed exploitive “poverty porn,” detailing his mother’s chronic drug addiction, pivoting from personal “down home” recollections to inevitable culture clashes.

In the film adaptation by Vanessa Taylor (“The Shape of Water”), directed by Ron Howard (“Apollo 13,” “A Beautiful Mind”), it comes across as a family drama, a resonant slice of rural Americana.

The non-linear plot is related by teenage Vance (Owen Asztalos) and adult Vance (Gabriel Basso). After a turbulent childhood, Vance joined the Marines, served in Iraq and went on to Yale Law School.  How he made that difficult transition, we never really find out.

Then on the eve of a pivotal job interview with a prestigious law firm, he’s summoned home by a family crisis. As always, it revolves around his perpetually drug-addicted mother, Bev (Amy Adams), suffering from a heroin overdose. For years, she was protected and defended by Mamaw (Glenn Close).

Now it falls on guilt-riddled Vance to decide what to do with Bev: who will take care of her and where she can go. Because her health insurance has lapsed, the hospital won’t keep her. And no one, including the audience, seems to care very much what happens to her.

Perhaps what resonates most is the painful perseverance of many American families that live below the poverty line, struggling for survival.

Bev is such a raw, unsympathetic character that it’s the kind of role Amy Adams must have yearned for to validate her versatility. Mark her as a Best Actress nominee.

Almost unrecognizable in a curly, gray wig, “aging” makeup, and oversized shirts, Glenn Close, as eccentric, indomitable Mamaw, is in line for a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

So on the Granger Gauge, “Hillbilly Elegy” is a country-fried 5, filled with sociopathic characters in search of a story.

For devoted fans, the premiere of the 17th season of ABC’s medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” contains a shocker: the reappearance of Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Derek Shepherd, a.k.a. “McDreamy.”

In addition, it’s the first series to incorporate to stress of our current pandemic, as the staff of Seattle-based Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital tries to cope with the COVID-19 virus.

After caring for a multitude of patients, exhausted Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) develops coronavirus symptoms and is hospitalized. In her feverish delirium, the ghost of Derek, her beloved husband who died in an accident during season 11, is calling out to her on a deserted beach.

“Grey’s Anatomy” revolves around surgical interns, residents, and attendings as they become seasoned physicians. The title refers to “Gray’s Anatomy,” Henry Gray’s classic textbook, first published in London in 1858.

Developed by Shonda Rhimes, it’s the longest-running scripted prime-time show currently on ABC. The series centers on Meredith Grey, daughter of esteemed surgeon Ellis Grey (Kate Burton), working alongside various other doctors who struggle to balance their personal lives with their hectic schedules.

They’re supervised by Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.). Each segment begins with a voice-over narration foreshadowing the theme of the episode. The surgeons frequently form a personal connection with their patients which often relates to the doctor’s private life.

Showrunner Krista Vernoff explains that—this year—they wanted to show what healthcare workers have experienced: “Over 1,700 health care workers in the US have died of COVID. Many thousands more have been infected. Healthcare workers are on the front lines of this crisis, waging a war for which they were not trained.”

“We saw an opportunity to dramatize and illuminate their plight through the incredibly well-loved and well-known character of Meredith Grey. Doctors and nurses are fighting for us—and the least we can do is wear a mask, socially distance, and stay home whenever possible.”

FYI: Ellen Pompeo is one of the highest-paid TV stars, earning $575,000/episode/$20 million a year.


Susan Granger

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

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