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Anna Paquin’s Flack lifts shiny lid of PR to reveal a dark heart

There’s plenty of fun to be had in this stuff, even if some of it borders on cliche; then again, the trope of the philandering celebrity chef who doesn’t want his wholesome image tarnished is a trope for good reason. And if you liked The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City and Absolutely Fabulous you’ll find elements here that are comfortingly familiar.

Many of the best lines go to Sophie Okonedo as Caroline, head of the London office. She’s a whisperer rather than a shouter but the quiet delivery does nothing to mask the menace in her words.

Anna Paquin stars as Robyn, a trouble shooter and star handler at a London public relations firm, in <i>Flack</i>.

Anna Paquin stars as Robyn, a trouble shooter and star handler at a London public relations firm, in Flack. Credit:Fox Showcase

Laying out the firm’s policy on drug use among employees, she’s brutal. “You can speedball your tiny tits off if it makes you better at your job,” she says. “But if it affects your work – and thus my work – when you get home you shall find me hiding under your bed with a garden hose and a length of razor wire.”

Reclining in a chair in her office while a beautician administers Botox injections, she orders her to “keep it coming. I want to look like a 10-year-old boy before we’re done”.

Prepping her crew for a stage-managed ceremony in which a gay star footballer is to be married before the full glare of Hello! magazine, she warns: “Footballers’ weddings are the Mogadishu of the PR calendar, the perfect f—ing storm of brainless overpaid wankers given the night off from running around kicking things. They will fight, they will drink, they will run around trying to put their penises into everything.”

She’s Samantha Jones crossed with Ari Gold and she’s awesome.

Paquin with co-stars Lydia Wilson, right, as the well-heeled and cynical Eve, and Rebecca Benson, centre, as new girl Melody.

Paquin with co-stars Lydia Wilson, right, as the well-heeled and cynical Eve, and Rebecca Benson, centre, as new girl Melody.Credit:Fox Showcase

But there’s a dark heart to Flack, as you might guess from the opening sequence in which a string of words rapidly crossfade before resolving into the title: Face, feel, fame, fight, fickle, fraud, fall, facade, false. Flack.

It’s an empty game, in other words, and Robyn is being eaten from the inside. She knows it’s soul-destroying but, damn, she’s good at it. No one lies like she does. Trouble is, she can’t switch it off – not the work, not the lying, not the self-hatred that comes with it.

The series begins with her rescuing that gay footballer from a near-calamity – a rent boy has OD’d in his hotel room – and it culminates with the same footballer’s wedding to a woman, at which Robyn briefly lets the facade slip.

“It’s all f—ing meaningless,” she says to a couple of her celebrity clients. “We’re sacks of meat collecting shiny things to make us better than other sacks of meat. That’s it.”

And, she might have added, some of that meat is rotten to the core.

Follow the author on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on twitter @karlkwin

Karl is a senior entertainment writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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