(Directed by Craig Zobel) (HBO; Foxtel, 2021)
There are more sombre crime series on streaming services than a world-weary detective can poke a blood-stained stick at. How then to choose which to watch – and why watch at all? Pull up a rumpled armchair, push away the AA booklets; give this one a go.
Mare of Easttown, a Foxtel series written by Brad Ingelsby, has held our grumpy, misanthropic attention for four of its seven episodes. Mary-Something ‘Mare’ Sheehan (Kate Winslet,) an unsmiling Philadelphia small-town detective, tramps along, bottom lip dragging on the muddy ground, six-inch-long dark roots (seriously?) pulled back off her make-up-free lemon (sorry, face). The town is redneck, poor, cold, wet and full of weirdos. Mare is dogged by a personal tragedy, of course. She is in a personal legal fight, of course. She can’t stop vaping, of course. An out of town detective, a young and perky guy (Evan Peters, excellent but miscast) is assigned to follow Mare round, of course. You get the picture.
But we watch because Winslet is affecting and we feel that the story is going somewhere. The fear is that finally it will disappear up its own clichés of predictability or that it will blow up in a shower of fireworks and unlikely reveals, (which would be worse).
But in the meantime, Winslet is naturally engaging. Guy Pearce (as an unlikely love interest) smiles a lot and we wonder if he is untrustworthy or merely smug. Angourie Rice (Mare’s daughter Siobhan) overacts. She will soon rival Toni Collette in Hereditary or Rene Zellweger in….well, everything…for twitching as a method of demonstrating deep felt emotion. She also, unfortunately, features in two scenes meant to leaven the misery – a tooth-achingly sweet teenage pickup and a parachuted-in slapstick scene.
Julianne Nicholson as Mare’s friend, Lori; Cailee Spaeny as the hopeless single mother Erin; Jean Smart as Helen, Mare’s caustic mother and Jack Mulhern as Dylan, convey just the right levels of repressed anger and disappointment. Otherwise the be-bearded and be-anoraked men can be difficult to distinguish. The real stand-out in the cast though, is Mackenzie Lansing as Brianna Delrasso, Dylan’s fabulously nasty girlfriend. So limited that she’s even resentful of poor Erin, Dylan’s ex. The malice oozes out of the screen.
Perhaps the story will be predictable (did we mention the possible child-molester priest? Did we say that Mare was once the town’s sporting sweetheart?), but it’s the ride.