Tag Archives: Chloe Sevigny

HBO’s Doll & Em is smart but lightweight

'Doll & Em' premieres tonight on HBO.

Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer (from left) co-created, co-wrote and star in ‘Doll & Em,’ a six-part miniseries premiering tonight on HBO.

Doll & Em, a six-part comedy premiering tonight on HBO, clearly is a labor of love for real-life best friends Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom) and Dolly Wells, the British actresses who co-created and co-wrote the project, as well as starring as “themselves.”
For the rest of us, the miniseries is pretty lightweight, although it explores an interesting question: What happens when someone who fits perfectly into one compartment of your life suddenly intrudes on another, very different part?
Tonight’s premiere opens with Emily attending the Independent Spirit Awards with Bradley Cooper, where she is interrupted by a frantic phone call from London. Dolly, her lifelong best friend, is going to pieces over the implosion of her latest relationship.
A supportive Emily immediately flies Dolly to Los Angeles, where Emily is about to begin work on a high-profile new movie project. Strictly to help her friend, Emily also proposes that Dolly take a temporary job as her assistant, to earn a little money and also be able to spend time with Emily on the set.
It’s a well-intentioned yet disastrous move, because it blurs the relationship lines between them. Dolly is Emily’s best pal and houseguest, yet she’s also her employee. Emily wants to give her grieving chum the attention she so desperately needs and expects, but she’s also about to tackle the most challenging role of her professional career, and she doesn’t need any distractions.
And Dolly is an epic distraction. She’s happy that her gig as Emily’s assistant allows her to tag along to a Hollywood party where Susan Sarandon is among the guests, yet becomes hurt and resentful when she is shunted into a room with a child guest while the A-listers socialize elsewhere. Emily also feels uncomfortable asking Dolly to perform even the most undemanding task, which, God knows, the self-absorbed Dolly would never think about tackling unbidden just because her friend needs help.
Worse, Dolly demonstrates an appalling lack of discretion, blurting out confidences and embarrassing Emily in front of her professional peers.
Over the course of its six half-hour episodes (HBO is airing two per week, over three weeks), Doll & Em charts how the chemistry between the two women starts to change as they try to adjust to their new personal “roles” in each other’s lives. This isn’t really a laugh-out-loud comedy, but rather a character study that arouses sighs and smiles of rueful recognition.
After being stuck in a shrill, poorly written role on HBO’s The Newsroom for two seasons, Mortimer is delightful and engaging playing a fairly sane, non-neurotic woman, although her Emily is subject to the insecurities any actress in Hollywood over 40 would be prone to. When the friendship between the two women ultimately fractures, it’s mostly Dolly’s fault, not because Emily hasn’t tried her best to be supportive.
Wells, who probably will be unfamiliar to most American viewers, has a tougher job of it, because ultimately Dolly is selfish and unsympathetic. This may, in fact, be this actress’s wheelhouse: The only other thing I’ve seen Wells in is the hilarious Britcom Spy (currently streaming on Hulu Plus), in which she starred as the sour, perpetually disapproving ex-wife of Darren Boyd’s title character.
In addition to Sarandon, Chloe Sevigny, John Cusack and Andy Garcia also turn up as themselves, and actor Allesandro Nivola (American Hustle), who is married to Mortimer, serves as producer of Doll & Em.
Chloe Sevigny (right) guest stars with Emily Mortimer in 'Doll & Em,' premiering tonight on HBO.

Chloe Sevigny (right) guest stars with Emily Mortimer in ‘Doll & Em,’ premiering tonight on HBO.

Those Who Kill joins Bates Motel on A&E

'Those Who Kill' premieres tonight on A&E.

James D’Arcy and Chloe Sevigny star in ‘Those Who Kill’ premiering tonight on A&E.

Just when I think the increasingly threadbare serial-killer crime genre is in the process of fading, along comes another show like Those Who Kill, which premieres tonight on A&E Network following the Season 2 premiere of Bates Motel.
Set in Pittsburgh but based on a successful Danish TV series, Those Who Kill stars Golden Globe winner Chloe Sevigny (Big Love) as recently promoted homicide detective Catherine Jensen. Jensen is a prickly type who frequently ticks off her colleagues with her boundary-crossing style, especially after she insists on teaming up with forensic psychologist Thomas Shaeffer (James D’Arcy). Schaeffer, we soon learn, has an unfortunate history with Catherine’s boss, Frank Bisgaard (James Morrison), who holds Schaeffer responsible for botching one of his own cases in the past.
Still, after Schaeffer leads Catherine (with almost comical speed) to the burial ground her latest quarry is using for his victims, she’s confident he’s the man for the job – even though he has an unsettling knack for connecting a little too deeply with the killer’s psyche.
If Schaeffer is a bit strange, though, Catherine is a pretty odd duck herself. She keeps pictures of the homes of serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer on her living room wall, and is convinced that a member of her own family is behind the unsolved disappearance of her older brother, who vanished several years ago.
This is the kind of back story that gives an actress several interesting notes to play. I just wish Sevigny didn’t feel compelled to play all of them at once. Sevigny always has been a very … well, let’s say “generous” actress, but her performance in tonight’s premiere is just all over the place, with far too many shrill notes verging on hysteria. Since series pilots often feature broad performances as the cast tries to fill in the rough outlines of their characters, I’m hoping she will dial it back in coming weeks, because frankly I’d hate to live in any large city where this high-strung loose cannon was packing heat.
On the plus side, D’Arcy – a British actor who copes with an American accent reasonably well – is very interesting in his role, and veteran actors Bruce Davison and multiple Emmy winner Kathy Baker will appear in future episodes. Also, the guy running Those Who Kill behind the scenes is Glen Morgan, whose past work on The X-Files leaves me cautiously optimistic for this new show’s prospects.
Fun fact: D’Arcy played Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock, the 2012 theatrical biopic starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role. Which leads us, not a moment too soon, to the welcome return of A&E’s hit thriller Bates Motel, in the time slot immediately preceding Those Who Kill.
As fans may remember, Season 1 faded out on the image of Blair Watson, the high school advisor of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), lying dead on the floor of her home, her throat cut. Earlier in the episode, we had seen Miss Watson giving Norman a ride in her car during a torrential downpour. As Norman waited for her to drive him back to the Bates Motel, Miss Watson adjourned to her bedroom to change clothes. Her door slipped ajar, giving Norman a provocative glimpse of the teacher partially undressed. Cut to Norman running home, hellbent for leather, and into his mother’s arms.
Season 2 opens with Norma (Vera Farmiga) getting a robo-call from the school principal informing her of Miss Watson’s death. She asks Norman again about what happened the night before, but all Norman is able to recall are disjointed fragments, none of them particularly stabby.
Flash forward four months, and business is booming at the Bates Motel. Norma is almost – dare I say it? – happy, although she worries that Norman is becoming morbid, practicing taxidermy in the basement when he isn’t making regular trips to Miss Watson’s graveside. (Before you think Norma finally has sharpened her parenting skills, think again: She’s worried Norman’s behavior will make people think she’s a bad mother).
Soon, however, Norma has another distraction to fret about: Work is about to begin on the dreaded highway bypass, long delayed for lack of funding, which would re-route tourists away from the motel. She is not pleased.
That’s only scratching the surface of tonight’s season premiere of Bates Motel, but suffice it to say that, among other things, by the time the hour is up we have reason to wonder whether Norman really did kill Miss Watson. More to the point, Farmiga and Highmore slip back into their mother-son roles effortlessly, picking up one of the most amazing double acts you’ll find anywhere in prime time.
'Bates Motel' returns tonight on A&E.

Max Thieriot (as Dylan), Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore return tonight in ‘Bates Motel’ on A&E.