Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Young Pope - Review

The Young Pope
HBO
Rating: ****1/2

The title itself caught my attention many months ago when HBO began promoting its new limited series, The Young Pope. I'm not Catholic but was certainly curious about Jude Law playing a youthful "Your Holiness," which the character insists on being called even to close friends.

I'm not sure which I find the most interesting: the often surreal scenes (episode 4 a random note about Greenland and music appears as its prime minister dances) or the deadpan jokes that are sprinkled throughout. Aside from the strange quality of the setting at the Vatican, this series is just unique. I may not be Catholic but I am spiritual. The questions raised about God's existence and belief are provoking and inspiring. I like nothing better than a show that is intelligent, and The Young Pope is deftly written and every scene interesting.

Now episode 1 was laden in too much intellectual reflection and slow-moving dialog. By episode 2 and then 3, the pace quickened and the intrigue heightened. The story line with Ester, the young married, unfaithful woman who is barren, got underway by episode 3 and fully fleshed out by 4. The scene in which the Pope drops to his knees to pray for her conception while she has sex with her  husband is intense. The Pope's prayer rings of raw sexuality and desire of his own even though he is simply praying, but he even breaks a sweat. Meanwhile, we see Ester pushed up against a window as she gives her "beauty" to her husband.

Lots of metaphors and flashbacks develop the stories and push it along with informed meaning. What I find most fascinating is the banality of the scenes' content juxtaposed against the backdrop of this sacred place, The Vatican. One never thinks about "Your Holiness" smoking, but he does. And Sister Mary's funny t-shirt scrawled with "I'm a Virgin" is a wink and smile.

In short, watch The Young Pope whether you're religious or not -- it's highly entertaining.

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