Saturday, July 13, 2024

‘A Man in Full’ series review: Jeff Daniels’ beautifully-acted and mounted show runs on empty 

A still from ‘A Man in Full’ 

A still from ‘A Man in Full’ 

Creator David E. Kelley has impeccable credentials as does director Regina King. Kelley is the creator of prestige shows including Big Little Lies, Mr. Mercedes and The Undoing, while King has directed the excellent One Night in Miami. When Kelley sought to adapt the patron saint of counterculture journalism, Tom Wolfe’s second novel, A Man in Full, we should not be blamed for getting our hopes up. Yes, Kelley also made the frustratingly opaque Love & Death.

A Man in Full 

Episodes: 6

Run time: 38 to 48 minutes

Creator: David E. Kelley

Starring: Jeff Daniels, Diane Lane, William Jackson Harper, Aml Ameen, Tom Pelphrey, Sarah Jones, Jon Michael Hill, Chanté Adams, Lucy Liu, Bill Camp, Evan Roe

Storyline: A real estate tycoon finds himself on the brink of bankruptcy and has to make some tough choices

The limited series, A Man in Full, is again magnificently, meticulously put together and acted, but unfortunately leaves one largely unmoved. The show opens with a massive celebration for Atlanta real estate tycoon, Charlie Croker’s (Jeff Daniels) 60th birthday. All the principals are introduced.

There is Croker’s wife, Serena (Sarah Jones), his son, Wally (Evan Roe), ex-wife, Martha (Diane Lane), her friend, Joyce Newman (Lucy Liu), Croker’s lead lawyer, Roger White (Aml Ameen) and his nemeses (thanks Po!), bankers Harry Zale (Bill Camp) and Raymond Peepgrass (Tom Pelphrey).

Zale with Peepgrass’ help wants to bring Croker down pressuring him to pay the money owed to the bank, which is to the tune of $800 million. While Croker is desperately trying to get the money, buy time or find a “white knight”, other things are going wrong too.

His secretary Jill’s (Chanté Adams) husband Conrad (Jon Michael Hill) is arrested for assaulting a police officer. Even though the officer attacked Conrad, the prognosis does not look good for a man of colour attacking a white law enforcement officer. Judge Taylor (Anthony Heald), a stickler for the letter of the law and not the spirit, is not very sympathetic.

Croker asks White to help Jill and though White has no experience in criminal law, he wishes to fight for Conrad. Sirja (Eline Powell), who Peepgrass had an affair with, is demanding an obscene sum of money. White’s friend, Mayor Wes Jordan (William Jackson Harper) wants Croker’s help to get dirt on his opponent and in a quid pro quo promises to get the bank off his back.

A still from ‘A Man in Full’ 

A still from ‘A Man in Full’ 

With all these plot lines, there is no dearth of action or significant looks and sneers passed between the characters in this breathless bingeable show. There is a rape in jail, with a spot of Shawshank for Conrad, and the relationship between Peepgrass and Martha including the wholly gratuitous sex between them. Sirja shifts quickly from being a foe to an ally, for no apparent reason, and we are as shocked and repelled as the potential investors Croker invites for a taste of the country, by the scene at the ranch in Turpmtine.

Daniels wades into Croker, who Zale rightly describes as the “Duke of Bombast,” with gusto, biting off lines such as, “There is a bone yard full of folks who died dancing on what they perceived to be my grave.” Diane Lane, William Jackson Harper, Jon Michael Hill and Lucy Liu do what they can with their sketchy, incomprehensible roles. The farcical ending with the buzzing robotic knee is the final nail in this well-produced coffin.

Now, one can only wait with trepidation for Kelley’s adaptation of Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent.

 A Man in Full is currently streaming on Netflix

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