AMC’s New Anne Rice Series Is Smart & Stylish
Dec 31, 2022
Nothing ever dies. It’s true in television as much as it is in vampire fiction, as the last few decades of weaponized nostalgia have seen dozens of properties remade for the small screen. Most of them are mere echoes of the original hits, but sometimes a creator finds a new pulse in a dead franchise, and that’s the case with AMC’s “Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire,” a surprisingly entertaining, nuanced, and well-made drama that echoes “Hannibal” in numerous ways, both in style and in how it refashions familiar characters for a new generation. It’s got real life.
The structure of this new take is similar in that it’s framed as a memory play, a discussion between an immortal and a journalist. The writer is again Daniel Molloy (a perfectly cynical Eric Bogosian), refashioned from a naïve youth to a bitter veteran, someone who sat down for an interview with his subject decades earlier and has the scars to prove it. The show even brings the pandemic into its opening episode, and it feels like the declining state of the world (and his own human condition due to Parkinson’s) pushes Molloy to sit with his most dangerous acquaintance—the world is ending, why not do something crazy that almost killed you the first time? And repurposing Molloy from a dumb kid who wanted to be a vampire to someone who has seen the dangers of the world gives the show a new energy right from the very beginning. (It also might technically make this a sequel more than a reboot but whatever.)
READ MORE: ‘Let The Right One In’ Review: Showtime’s Adaptation of Hit Novel & Film Lacks Bite
Molloy travels to Dubai to re-interview Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), a relatively young vamp in that he was turned in New Orleans in the 1910s. He again recounts his life story to Molloy, including the insight that comes from another five decades above ground, and the show largely takes place back in the Bayou in those early days of the century, only intercutting a few times an episode, usually for Molloy to challenge Louis on something he may be eliding. Sometimes Molloy can feel a bit too much like a writer’s highlighter, clarifying the themes of the flashback that was just presented, but Bogosian is engaging enough and his dialogue sharp enough that the crutch can be forgiven.
Most of “Interview with the Vampire” takes place in the 1910s as Louis struggles as a young, Black business owner in New Orleans. Even before Louis meets the vampire that will change his life, he’s presented as a complex character in his own right, grounding what will come when he suddenly craves human flesh. Louis has an ultra-religious brother Paul (Steven Norfleet), who increasingly disapproves of his brother’s lifestyle. The incredibly talented team of creator/writer Rolin Jones (“Friday Night Lights”), executive producer Mark Johnson (“Better Call Saul”), and director Alan Taylor (a legendary vet of “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” and dozens of other prestige dramas) really set up the world of Louis in New Orleans before he meets a captivating stranger named Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid).
READ MORE: ‘Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ Review: Ryan Murphy’s Obsession With Monsters Yields A Middling Morbid Spectacle
Of course, anyone who has read the books or remembers the Neil Jordan movie knows what happens next. After what plays more like a courtship than in the previous versions, Lestat turns Louis into a vampire and the two become a formidable pair—the charming Frenchman and the street-smart local. The AMC version leans heavily into the sexual relationship between Louis and Lestat that the Jordan film controversially only hinted at, which really gives the show a different energy. This isn’t as much a tale of transformation as it is a story of exploration and expression. Lestat doesn’t change Louis as much as he opens up something inside him, something that was already there and only needed a jolt of the supernatural.
Pulling that off requires talented performers in the central roles. Reid and Anderson prove to be more than up to the challenge of their complex parts. Anderson is a captivating lead, someone who feels like he’s organically in the moment, facing the joys and setbacks of his predicament in a way that never falls into camp like it so easily could. The way he goes for realism allows Reid to play Lestat a little more broadly, leaning into the character’s vicious eccentricities. He devours a line like “They were your brothers and sisters once, and now they are your savory inferiors.” He can be incredibly charming around a dinner table and incredibly deadly later that night when he’s looking to feed. And both Reid and Anderson know how to tonally balance a show that can sometimes flirt with camp, as any undead love story is prone to do.
It’s interesting to note that Bryan Fuller was once attached to a TV version of the Anne Rice books because it feels like some of his notes remained (and it’s also a reminder that Rice influenced “Hannibal”). Once again, we have a predator who gorges on culture as much as plasma, devouring art and music as much as he does his victims. It makes for a show that feels rich around the edges, one that embraces the human potential for both creativity and evil as much as it centers on creatures of the night. And, again, the pandemic gives it interesting shading in that the current interview segments are almost framed as a society in its end days, unaware of the life that used to spill out into the streets a century ago.
“Interview with the Vampire” blends the Southern Gothic escapism of something like “True Blood” with the rich cultural commentary of “Hannibal” and somehow finds a way to keep those two tones from destroying one another. It’s a show that can be very smart about class and race in one scene and just be about a vampire punching through a man’s head in another. It embraces both the intellectual and the carnal in ways that aren’t often seen on TV and were arguably even lacking from Jordan’s version. From “Game of Thrones” to “The Lord of the Rings,” this year in TV has been all about revisiting familiar worlds. Who would have guessed that so much life would be found in this one? [A-]
“Interview with a Vampire” debuts on AMC and AMC+ on October 2.
Publisher: Source link