The Idol arrived on HBO on Sunday amid an avalanche of negative press about behind-the-scenes turmoil involving series creator Sam Levinson and star The Weeknd. Did all of that bad buzz translate to the screen, though? Let’s find out!
The premiere introduces us to Jocelyn, a pop superstar played by Lily-Rose Depp. (Yes, Johnny’s daughter.) She’s bouncing back from the death of her mother and a stint in a mental health clinic and is now weathering a scandal involving an, um, intimate leaked photo. She’s also naked or practically naked in nearly every scene, including an album cover photo shoot where she insists on showing her breasts. An annoying intimacy coordinator tries to keep her covered… so they lock him in the bathroom! We meet her team as well, including Dan Levy as her publicist and Rachel Sennott as her best friend/assistant Leia, as they scramble to keep Jocelyn from finding out about the photo leak.
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Between the leak, a new single dropping and a Vanity Fair writer watching her every move, it’s a lot, and Jocelyn unwinds by hitting the clubs, where she’s transfixed by a charismatic club promoter named Tedros, played by The Weeknd. They bond over a dance to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and end up getting hot and heavy in a back hallway, and he also encourages her to push her music to another level. She’s so inspired, she goes home and masturbates while choking herself. She also starts questioning whether her new single is any good and decides to bring Tedros into her life, even though Leia admits, “I hate his vibe… he’s so rape-y.” (Jocelyn: “I kinda like that about him.”)
Tedros arrives at Jocelyn’s home with the serene air of a cult leader, greeting Leia by kissing her on the lips and sniffing drugs in the bathroom. Jocelyn, wearing a slinky red robe, wants to play her new single, “I’m a Freak,” for him: “I just think you’re enough of an asshole that you might tell me the truth.” He claims he likes it, but he ‘s not sure how much of a freak she really is, teasing her with an ice cube while they talk. He encourages her to get out of her own head — while putting her robe over her face and choking her with the belt. He pulls out a knife and cuts a hole through the robe over her mouth, declaring: “Now you can sing.”
So what’s our verdict? Well, it’s shot beautifully, like Levinson’s Euphoria is, and it seems at times to be attempting to expose the ruthless showbiz assembly line that chews up women like Jocelyn and spits them out. But when Jocelyn is slapping her own ass in slow-motion, it’s hard to tell if this is a satire of lurid Hollywood exploitation or just… lurid Hollywood exploitation.
Alright, now it’s your turn: Give the Idol premiere a grade in our poll, and tell us in the comments if you plan to keep watching.
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