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Tom Stoppard's adapation of Ford Madox Ford's WWI novels is challenging, beautiful, and heavy on the Cumberbatch...
HBO / 300 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: September 10, 2013
Downton Abbeythis ain’t. With Parade’s End, HBO offers another release in its long line of programming that is challenging and provocative while it delivers the melodramatic goods of long-form TV. Viewers expecting Benedict Cumberbatch to simply deliver flowery dialogue while wearing nice costumes will find Parade’s End somewhat impenetrable, but that is stylistically what Tom Stoppard and company seem intent on establishing.
This adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s novel mirrors in many ways HBO’s Mildred Pierce from 2011. Todd Haynes’ magnificent miniseries was a bit too dense and chameleonic for mainstream audiences (it won some big awards but wasn’t roundly admired by viewers), but this was purposeful: by investigating not only the time and place of his source material but the genre play of its socio-cultural syntax, that miniseries was immensely profound – if perhaps a bit headier than most television fare.
Parade’s Enddoesn’t have quite the rocket-burst effect of Mildred Pierce, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a wonderfully rich experience. Stoppard does a wonderful job of whittling down Ford’s prose – there is a lot of extensive description filler in his books – reducing the WWI melodrama at hand to its concise, evocative core. You have to keep up with Parade’s End in ways you don’t with Downton Abbey, but rest assured: if you stay with it, your investment will pay off.