tue 16/07/2019

Dark Money, BBC One review - powerful idea poorly executed | reviews, news & interviews

Dark Money, BBC One review - powerful idea poorly executed

Dark Money, BBC One review - powerful idea poorly executed

Story of Hollywood child abuse fails to launch

Family in crisis: Manny (Babou Ceesay), Isaac (Max Fincham) and Sam (Jill Halfpenny)

It’s a topical idea, at least. Isaac Mensah, a child actor from a working-class family in London, has been cast in a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster, and when he returns home his family and friends are agog to find out what his amazing movie experience was like. But the sky falls in when Isaac (Max Fincham) plays his parents a video he shot on his phone, containing evidence that he was abused by the film’s all-powerful producer, Jotham Starr, the boss of Yonder Starr Productions.

Somehow though, the parts add up to less than a whole, with neither characters nor action feeling especially plausible, or that they belong together. While the exploitation of young or vulnerable people in Hollywood is a story we’ve grown painfully familiar with, Levi David Addai’s script is conceived as a small-scale domestic drama rather than an attempt to suggest the high-rolling glitz and big-budget unreality of a Star Wars-style production in California (the brief clips we glimpse supposedly from the film are clunky and lo-fi, presumably due to BBC financial restraints). The action seems more concerned with the vicissitudes of Isaac’s father Manny (Babou Ceesay) than with Isaac himself, as his dad tries to cope with his life with wife Sam (Jill Halfpenny) and the demands of his ex-wife Sabrina (Susan Wokoma) and the son he had with her, Tyrone (Tut Nyuot). Bizarrely, Isaac returns to school the day after flying back from California, despite being in a state of advanced trauma. He’s also apparently immune to jet-lag.

Dark Money, BBC OneUnderstandably, Manny and Sam aren’t certain how to handle the situation, but while Manny vows that he wont let Starr “get away with it”, Sam at least has the good sense to contact a lawyer. However, he pours cold water over their hopes of successful litigation. They’d have to pursue the case in America, he tells them, with no legal aid and in the teeth of a no-holds-barred onslaught from Starr’s phalanx of lawyers.

Partly, Manny and Sam are stricken with guilt for letting their son travel to a galaxy far, far away without them being on hand to protect him. It seems he was entrusted to the sole care of a chaperone, Cheryl Denon, played by Rebecca Front (pictured above) like a kind of well-meaning district nurse who’s blissfully unaware of the sort of shenanigans that go on in Hollywood Babylon. “I’ve never witnessed anything untoward,” she tells the distraught parents gormlessly. If she was the only thing who stood between Isaac and monstrous abuse, Manny and Sam ought to feel very, very guilty indeed.

It wasn’t long before the Mensahs got a taste of Starr’s financial clout and high-powered legal protection, though this was portrayed with the workmanlike clunkiness typical of this production. The upshot was, it seems, that they sold their souls. Perhaps it'll get better as it goes along.

Perhaps it'll get better as it goes along

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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