Sometimes in Cannes it’s fun just to hover at the fringes of a party to observe the interactions, the body language, the eye-rolling, who’s drinking what and who isn’t.
The shindig for HBO’s The Idol, which screened this week, was at the Palm Beach, with its interior shaped like an amphitheatre so that one could view the comings and goings as if it were a gladiatorial combat with participants in sequinned gowns and tuxedos. Lily-Rose Depp is The Idol‘s undoubted star, no matter what The Weeknd thinks, and victory was hers as she was ushered into the VIP section. The Weeknd — aka Abel Tesfaye — may see it otherwise as he and his entourage arrived to stake their claim well ahead of Ms. Depp and her posse.
But Depp’s the heat source in The Idol. She’s immensely watchable in all the ways that a star is but also because you want to leap out of your seat and protect her — both her character Jocelyn, a pop star who’s a little whacky and way too vulnerable, and the actress herself.
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What is she doing in this jumble of Fame meets Fifty Shades of Kaka meets All About Eve written by Euphoria‘s Sam Levinson, Tesfaye and Reza Fahim? It’s a show purporting to be viewed through a female gaze penned by three blokes.
Just as important, if not more, what was The Idol doing at the fabled Cannes Film Festival taking over the Grand Lumiere to show two 50-minute episodes of a six-part TV series?
Levinson may well be the god of Euphoria but to walk the same path trodden by Godard, Truffaut, Hitchcock, Tarantino, Loach and Campion is not an honor given lightly, yet the festival authorities deemed The Idol worthy of a place in history.
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No wonder Levinson burst into tears at the end of Monday night’s screening — technically Tuesday morning because it was past midnight — Tears of relief that he’d pulled it off. We can grant him that moment. It’s a heck of a big deal to receive that level of adulation in that room at the Palais. It’s likely never to happen again.
But Depp will be back here again.
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She oozes with talent. Maybe Hylda Queally, her top rep at CAA, figures that Depp will garner such worldwide attention because of The Idol that she’ll land some classy, well-written movie with an A-list filmmaker attached.
One hopes so.
Here’s the thing though: The Idol is flashy and glossy but it’s also dangerous. Depp’s Jocelyn mutilates herself in the most horrendous ways.
Teenage girls, and boys, are going to watch The Idol. Of course they are. They watched Euphoria, and The Idol is being sold as scandalous TV. Of course they’re going to tune in to see what it’s all about. It’s all dressed up to appeal to them, and impressionable young viewers will think it’s okay to gratify yourself with a crystal tumbler.
It’s surely not. Is it?
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In some strange way Levinson, Tesfaye, Fahim and their enablers at HBO have already won because here’s this column lambasting them; drawing attention to something high octane, something forbidden.
Adults can always turn it off, but kids will find a way to watch it. The fear is that they’ll want to emulate the behaviour in it. They’ll want to be Jocelyn.
One of the smartest comments in The Idol is made by Nikki, a record company executive played by Jane Adams. She talks about kids in the flyover states, and by the same token those who don’t live in big, sophisticated cities in Europe and elsewhere, who become obsessed by how a big star behaves. It’s the complete antithesis of their humdrum, little lives. They’ll want what Jocelyn’s having.
Maybe the best way to view The Idol then is as a cautionary tale. What is the cost of fame for those who pursue it and for those who are bedazzled from afar by its false promise?
The Power Of ‘May December’
Charles Melton, a stand-out in Todd Haynes’ get-your-tongues-wagging-sex-scandal movie May December, departs Cannes in a few days to spend five weeks in Vancouver to complete the seventh and final season of Riverdale. The Canadian city has been his home from home for seven years.
“I get to say goodbye to all my friends on the show,” Melton reflected wistfully. “I’m ready for a new chapter.”
You bet he is.
Melton is superb in May December, which also stars Oscar winners Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman. The younger school-age version of Melton’s character, Joe, has an illicit affair with Gracie (Moore), a married co-worker who he meets in a pet shop.
I confessed to Melton that initially I was slightly confused by the age range because Joe was in seventh grade when he played grown-up games with Gracie, who was 36.
We have a different system in the U.K. so I can’t deny being taken aback when later in the film it’s explained that Joe was 13 years of age. “I was thinking about whether people would fully understand what the grade levels mean,” Melton told me as we chatted at the Kering Women in Motion dinner honouring Michelle Yeoh.
The shattering consequences of that inappropriate relationship can’t be swept away, but Gracie seems to be in almost total denial of her responsibility. Or as Haynes puts it to me, ”She’s blind to it.”
I actually saw some of the consequences of those relationships first hand, as my foster mother sometimes cared for their children. It took me years before I could piece together how a kid barely in his teens was dad to a toddler, and that the (much) older woman who I thought was the teenager’s parent was the mother of the baby. It happened the other way around too.
I had blocked all that out until May December rekindled it all and I now see it for what it was. That’s the beauty of great movies — they enable you to dig deeper, but only if you want to and you’re if able to face up to what you discover.
The Kering dinner was terrific fun, by the way.
And I was thrilled to have met Lily Gladstone, the quiet power source of Martin Scorsese’s The Killers of the Flower Moon. What a performance!