‘The Idol’ Evaluate: The Weeknd Places Lily-Rose Depp By means of the Ringer

What The Weeknd desires, The Weeknd will get in “The Idol,” a skintastic, dark-side-of-showbiz fable that perpetuates the parable that pop stars are company puppets with no say in their very own image-making, even because it permits hit-maker The Weeknd to name the pictures (and reshoots, apparently, for the reason that five-part HBO sequence was overhauled late in manufacturing to swimsuit him).

Image “Blonde” as Joe Eszterhas may need written it, however with higher music.

After making a toe-dip cameo as himself in A24’s “Uncut Gems,” the R&B phenom-turned-TV producer plunges head-first into performing right here, teaming with “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson to think about a shady super-predator simply seeking to corrupt an unsuspecting younger pop singer. The edgy, high-gloss HBO sequence, which premiered the primary two of its 5 episodes on the Cannes Movie Competition, calls for a whole lot of star Lily-Rose Depp. She performs “rags-to-riches, trailers-to-mansions” Jocelyn, a mono-monikered Britney or Miley kind who appears empowered one second, impressionable the subsequent.

Embracing scandal from the outset, “The Idol” opens with Jocelyn mid-photo shoot, making an attempt to wriggle out of the nudity rider in her contract. “It’s my physique!” she insists, satisfied she ought to present extra than simply “aspect boob” on her subsequent album cowl. (Clearly, no such protections exist for Depp, whose costumes consist principally of straps and strings and never a lot else.) A contemporary-day princess of kinds, Jocelyn is attended by an entourage of yes-people — from co-managers Chaim (Hank Azaria) and Future (Da’Vine Pleasure Randolph) to her spin-doctor/publicist (Dan Levy) and lifelong bestie Xander (Troye Sivan) — who’re collectively extra involved with telling her what she desires to listen to than giving her the sincere fact.

To that finish, nobody desires to tell Jocelyn of the most recent disaster: Somebody has leaked a compromising picture of the singer, and no-nonsense label exec Nikki Katz (Jane Adams, hilariously inappropriate) and the Reside Nation rep answerable for her upcoming tour (Eli Roth) are each dropping their minds. “How are 14-year-old ladies going to purchase tickets to the live performance when she’s frosted like a Pop Tart?” Chaim asks in one of many smarmy present’s campier traces.

For all of 23 minutes — most of them eye-witnessed by a Self-importance Honest author (Hari Nef) — “The Idol” feels prefer it is perhaps providing actual insights into how the music {industry} does injury management, the best way “Within the Loop” and “Veep” confirmed their characters consistently placing out political fires. Then the picture scandal blows over, forgotten nearly as rapidly because it flared up. Jocelyn heads out to the Hollywood Strip, sporting an ultra-short, ultra-sheer social gathering costume that will get her immediately observed by Tedros (The Weeknd), a mysterious music-industry fringe participant — a supervisor who crosses the traces along with his purchasers, treating them the best way a pimp does his steady — who’s been ready for her to enterprise into his internet.

Evaluate their first encounter to the masterfully crafted meet-cute in Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born,” and it’s “The Idol” that comes off wanting shallow: Levinson offers us just about no indication of why Jocelyn and Tedros’ characters would possibly click on earlier than sending them sneaking off right into a stairwell to hook up. Interrupted by the singer’s finest pal/assistant Leia (Rachel Sennott), Jocelyn heads dwelling and proceeds to masturbate ferociously, choking herself until she climaxes.

One may argue there’s one thing revolutionary in the best way Levinson depicts feminine sexuality — though the solid of “Showgirls” would most likely beg to vary. Whereas that undertaking all however ended Elizabeth Berkley’s profession, “The Idol” positions Depp as a fearless performer. Her barely-there wardrobe and hyper-erotic choreography push again on the form of superstar intercourse shaming blasted by docs corresponding to “Framing Britney Spears” and “Janet Jackson.” However Levinson takes issues too far within the different course, getting kinky anytime Jocelyn and Tedros are collectively.

The script (overhauled by Levinson, Reza Fahim and The Weeknd after an earlier, Amy Seimetz-helmed model was scrapped) appears calculated to idiot audiences into considering they’re observing how Hollywood operates, when a lot of it quantities to tawdry clichés lifted from Sidney Sheldon novels and softcore porn. “Showgirls” a minimum of was a thinly veiled “All About Eve” remake, whereas “The Idol” performs like a sordid male fantasy.

Levinson by no means convincingly establishes why Jocelyn deserves to be labeled an “idol” (a kind of overused hype phrases that’s all however misplaced its which means) or what sort of position mannequin she represents to her followers. We’re advised she’s recovering from a psychotic break, which pressured her to cancel a earlier tour. The present catches up along with her halfway via an enormous makeover, which Jocelyn decides isn’t almost as passionate as feels inside. With Tedros’ assist, she remixes her “World Class Sinner” single to function hot-and-heavy panting, which the label unexpectedly rejects.

However Tedros’ scheme is simply getting began: Seducing Jocelyn got here manner too straightforward, and the extra he emerges as an affect on Jocelyn within the episodes forward, the much less room there may be for “The Idol” to faux that it’s celebrating this imperiled singer’s autonomy — as an artist or as a lady. “Pop music’s like the last word Malicious program,” Tedros tells her, and the identical may very well be stated for zeitgeist-shaking TV sequence: They could be a supply machine for subversive social critique. Bother is, Levinson’s worldview appears corrupt. It shouldn’t take degradation and struggling to make Jocelyn stronger. “Euphoria” audiences received’t be too stunned by the shameful manner he treats Depp’s character, as each she and the present seem trapped underneath The Weeknd’s thumb.

“The Idol” will premiere on HBO on June 4.

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