TV Review: ‘The Regime’ | Moviefone

Film

Kate Winslet in 'The Regime.'

Kate Winslet in ‘The Regime.’ Photograph by Miya Mizuno/HBO.

Premiering on HBO and Max on Sunday, March 3rd, ‘The Regime’ is an attempt to create a new satirical series to fill the gap left by ‘Succession’, and also to provide another welcome starring role for Kate Winslet, who shines in an oddball role.

Yet the whole in this case is somewhat less than the sum of its parts, and it leaves you feeling sometimes disappointed, even as it has great moments.

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Does ‘The Regime’ Rule?

Kate Winslet and Guillaume Gallienne in 'The Regime.'

(L to R) Kate Winslet and Guillaume Gallienne in ‘The Regime.’ Photograph by Miya Mizuno/HBO.

The way the world is moving towards ever more polarized politics, and that our peace is under threat from despotic types, it’s perhaps the right time for the sort of satirical take on the subject deployed by, say Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove’ or more topically, the work of Armando Iannucci (who brought terrible people to screens in the shape of HBO series ‘Veep’ and before that, the British likes of ‘The Thick of It’ and its movie spin-off, ‘In the Loop’).

But is ‘The Regime’ the right show for the right (wing) time? That’s a more complicated question to answer. As a showcase for Kate Winslet, it’s certainly worth a watch. And there are some other solid performances around her too.

As whole, however, while the show has some good darkly comedic moments, it feels like it runs out of steam at a certain point, and even Winslet’s character has some issues that mean Chancellor Vernham doesn’t work as well as she might.

Script and Direction

Kate Winslet in 'The Regime.'

Kate Winslet in ‘The Regime.’ Photograph by Miya Mizuno/HBO.

Will Tracy handles the lion’s share of the scripting (running a writing team that also includes Seth Reiss, Sarah DeLappe, Gary Shteyngart, Jen Spyra and Juli Weiner), and while the ‘Succession’ veteran doesn’t look to replicate the style of his previous gig (or movie ‘The Menu’, which he co-wrote), he does channel some of its more vicious sides. In the early going in particular, there are annoyed underlings whose grumbling about their boss and her various eccentricities or pushing their own agendas would certainly fit in the halls of Waystar Royco.

Still, as the story develops and Matthias Schoenaerts’ character begins his rise to more of a powerful influence in her circle, that emphasis falls away and it all becomes something else, which is honestly less fun.

As for the look of the movie, with Stephen Frears setting the tone and feel, it has a prestige sheen that doesn’t lose the madcap undertone. It’s clear that HBO has spent some money on this one, and the director –– alongside ‘The Crown’ and ‘Broadchurch’ veteran Jessica Hobbs, makes sure that every dollar is on screen.

Performances

Matthias Schoenaerts and Kate Winslet in 'The Regime.'

(L to R) Matthias Schoenaerts and Kate Winslet in ‘The Regime.’ Photograph by Miya Mizuno/HBO.

Winslet walks the fine line of steely and offbeat here, Chancellor Vernham the sort of despot whose layers are many and varied, and whose neuroses are just as plentiful. This is a person who we meet as she’s obsessed with the humidity and mold in the palace and finds plenty of other issues to worry about as her reign hits real turbulence.

She’s never less than believable in the role and though she’s a truly awful person at times, Winslet and the writers work hard to give her a grounding in relatable problems –– a serious case of (dead) daddy issues, a voracious need to be loved and the sort of disposition that leads itself to influence. Though it’s that last aspect that causes the show to derail somewhat; Vernham switches tracks so often that it becomes more annoying than satirical.

But it’s not just her show; Schoenaerts’ Zubak also has his own journey, a soldier who led a violent action against some striking miners and finds himself set up initially as the latest patsy for the regime to pawn off on Vernham. But he has much more up his sleeve and quickly becomes more of a mentor figure to her. Their twisted relationship is at the core of the show, but like Vernham’s personality, it also starts to become wearing after a while.

Andrea Riseborough in 'The Regime.'

Andrea Riseborough in ‘The Regime.’ Photograph by Miya Mizuno/HBO.

That said, Schoenaerts is great in the role, bringing plenty of conflicted charisma to the role and fully embracing his journey through the various stages of being the Chancellor’s confidante.

Andrea Riseborough is worthy of particular mention from those around the central pair –– a devoted lieutenant and seeming best friend to Vernham, she also suffers through her son being treated as the ruler’s own. A son, it should be noted, who has epilepsy and needs regular medication. But she’s no shrinking violet; she has her own spine of steel when called upon and has a no-BS attitude.

Finally, there’s Hugh Grant, who plays the former chancellor, a man who has been thrown into a gulag and ends up being influential in his own right. It’s a small role, but an enjoyable kooky one.

Final Thoughts

Hugh Grant in 'The Regime.'

Hugh Grant in ‘The Regime.’ Photograph by Miya Mizuno/HBO.

This is certainly a worthy show for those who prefer their comedy dark and a little twisted, but don’t go expecting the next knockout series.

Still, we firmly predict Kate Winslet to get nominated for some awards, because let’s face it –– she’s Kate Winslet and she rules. It’s just a shame the series around her doesn’t always meet the same high standards.

‘The Regime’ receives 6.5 out of 10 stars.

Kate Winslet in 'The Regime.'

Kate Winslet in ‘The Regime.’ Photograph by Miya Mizuno/HBO.

What’s the story of ‘The Regime’?

The new show tells the story of life within the walls of a modern authoritarian regime as it begins to unravel.

After not leaving the palace for quite some time, Chancellor Elena Vernham (Kate Winslet) has grown increasingly paranoid and unstable when she turns to a volatile soldier, Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts), as an unlikely confidant. As Zubak’s influence over the chancellor continues to grow, Elena’s attempts to expand her power eventually result in both the palace and the country fracturing around her.

Who is in ‘The Regime’?

Around Winslet and Schoenaerts, the cast also includes Guillaume Gallienne, Andrea Riseborough, Martha Plimpton and Hugh Grant.

Martha Plimpton in 'The Regime.'

Martha Plimpton in ‘The Regime.’ Photograph by Miya Mizuno/HBO.

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