Rating four out of five. I was a bit hesitant about watching this as it is a true story and an Amazon original production, a combination that often results in an excess of artistic liberty and thus no relationship to the “true story”. This is not the case with a “A Very English Scandal”, it is a very solid effort, hews to the historical events portrayed and it maintains it’s high quality through three one hour episodes.
The story is simple, Jeremy Thorpe, an english politician (played by Hugh Grant) has a love affair with a young man (played by Ben Wishaw) who later blackmails him for small amounts of money and getting him a new national insurance card ( our social security card). By the time the blackmail begins Thorpe had started to rise in the party and had hopes of even becoming Deputy Prime Minister so he initiated discussions with his BFF, also a parliamentarian about getting rid of the young man by murder most foul. The attempted murder resulted several years later in Thorpe and his cohorts being tried at the Old Bailey with attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. The case riveted Great Britain for many months.
The first episode could be considered the slowest, although i didn’t find it slow at all. However, it does include scenes of the love affair that may make some “uncomfortable” but that I thought were necessary to give the impression of a love affair, as opposed to just a casual encounter or one-night stand.
The second episode consists of Thorpe’s obsession about “offing” the young man growing and he has his cohorts begin arranging and actually attempting the murder. I found this episode introduced quite a bit of humor about the goings on of the another “can’t shoot straight gang”.
The third episode is about the trial and verdict but it very cleverly shows the type of man Thorpe was and also the character of the young man. The Judge in the case was obviously one of the ” English old school” types and you could say he was more than a wee bit biased in his directions to the jury. It is worth noting that at the time of the trial in 1979 homosexuality was legal in the UK, whereas, it was illegal in the early sixties when the affair took place.
I give kudos to the casting director of this production, as every one perfectly suited their role with one exception, Hugh Grant, at the age of 58, playing the young Thorpe In his early thirties. You can, with the magic of make-up an actor to look older but it is quite another thing to make him look 26 years younger. Despite the age thing, Hugh Grant, still gives a solid performance but there is no doubt in my mind that Ben Wishsaw is the star of this series. I would say his performance was brilliant, even better than in “London Spy. I was almost remiss in not mentioning the usual solid performance of Alex Jennings as Thorpe’s BFF, Peter Bessels, he is one of these actors we all recognize but can’t name. Look at his resume, very impressive.
I give this movie a very solid four out of five. I might have given it five but the age thing with Hugh Grant was difficult to accept and also, my rating was affected by his dreadful “old boy” drawl at the start of the movie, which seemed to modulate a bit as time went on. Other than these two points this three part mini is a winner and all concerned deserve credit. A testament to the show, our household binge watched it in one night. Definitely, a contender for this year’s Bafta or even Golden Globe awards.