Review: The Great

Elle Fanning in The Great

The Great is a rowdy and ribald comedy based very loosely on the story of Catherine the Great of Russia. It bills itself as “an occasionally true story.” There really was a Catherine the Great of Russia. Stop there. That was the true part.

The Great comes from Tony McNamara, who also created The Favorite. The two have some qualities in common. They skewer the royal subjects in their sights. They portray people as animalistic, with uncaring disregard for those they rule.

One can’t help comparing the lewd, unenlightened Russian rulers of the 18th Century to their modern counterparts in America. Since modern English dialog is used in the film, characters often say things that might come right from the mouths of our current rulers.

Nicholas Hoult in The Great

Adding to the likely comparisons to modern rulers is Nicholas Hoult as Peter III. He’s presented as an adolescent, ignorant, braying fool of a man. By contrast, Elle Fanning as Catherine was progressive and farsighted about what would be good for Russia.

It sounds like a heavily laden allegory, and it is. Told in the most brutish terms as a comedy.

Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning in The Great

Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning are brilliant. They lead a cast of stellar performers.

Phoebe Fox as Marial, Catherine’s servant, was simply fantastic. She was a former lady now reduce in status. She was the one who first suggested to Catherine that a coup to remove Peter as emperor was a good idea.

When Catherine got on board with the idea of a coup, she enlisted the help of Marial, the scholar Orlov (Sacha Dhawan), her lover Leo Voronsky (Sebastian De Souza), and General Velementov (Douglas Hodge).

It was but a tiny band of rebels. Huzzah.

In ten episodes of scheming, season 1 leads us to the moment when the coup may or may not begin and be a success. Which, of course, means there must be another season of this comedic, off-color version of Catherine the Great’s story.

Important in this often untrue history was the Archbishop (Adam Godley). Having an old guy about who often announces what God wants for everyone seems to be an essential character among the ruling class. Also important was Peter’s Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow).

Peter’s closest companions had known him since childhood. They were married now: Georgina (Charity Wakefield) and Grigor (Gwilym Lee). Their marriage was quite complicated.

Like any self-respecting period drama, the costumes and settings in the emperor’s palace were gorgeous. Elle Fanning was resplendent – her hair, her make up, her dresses – dazzling.

The Great poster

Take a look at the trailer. The series is on Hulu.

Have you watched The Great? What was your opinion of it?

Author: Virginia DeBolt

After many years as an educator and writer, Virginia retired from working life. She's always loved a good movie or TV show and wants to use her free time to talk about them with you now. She's Old Ain't Dead!

2 thoughts on “Review: The Great”

  1. Virginia, your posts are written the way I expect movie reviews to be written. They never are of course, so it’s refreshing to read yours. Don’t stop please.

    Just so you know, I really am writing Season 2 of LA NIÑA. It’s going well. I posted early chapters on line on Facebook to see if I could get some traction with Caracol Internacional but they seem to have lost interest. If nothing else I’ll end up with a really exciting book that never gets published. But the adventure itself is playing out in my head as I write. The complexity of the plot is like playing three dimensional chess. I can readily see why it took a team of screenwriters to write the screenplay for LA NIÑA. Later events mean you have to frequently revisit earlier chapters for a rewrite. That bounces into other chapters like a racket ball.

    As the writer, you get to say who lives and dies. Another benefit I hadn’t considered at the outset is that I get to describe what really happens to a person who gets shot. Movies never tell that story well. The reason it’s important to be told properly is so that people who are tempted to use guns understand, that shooting someone is a life changing event that could happen to them. The consequences are never as depicted in movies.

    I’ve decided I’m going to write Season 1 as a book too and use the subtitles for (most of) the dialogue. Who ever wrote the subtitles did not have a very good command of the language. The book can fix that and fill in some of the holes in the plot.

    I did manage to get Marco Martinez of Caracol mildly interested but not enough for him to actually do accomplish anything. Regardless, I plan to keep badgering him. I’m also going to see if I can find out if the show’s star would actually be interested in performing in Season 2. If she isn’t there is no point in pursuing Season 2 as a movie. I guess I’m going to have to learn a bit of Spanish to pull that off.

    We make our own fun right? Just doing this is one more adventure for me. Oh, one more thing, there is a Canadian connection in Season 2. And that part of Season 2 is real, though not part of the original Belky’s life. So I even have photos of Belky in Canada.

    Another interest as I mentioned in another post is that Colombia really did treat their social issues with courage and imagination. That message is still relevant. Season 2 will drive that message a little further. I hope Caracol will relent and pick up on my ideas for that reason. Season 1 made money. Season 2 would make more and continue carrying the message that there really are ways to solve civil wars.

  2. funny but there is no chemistry as it used to be in another series doctor doctor. once the series.

Comments are appreciated!