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The Act

The Act: Suspenseful, Dramatic, and Exquisite

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The Act: Suspenseful, Dramatic, and Exquisite

Hulu is the production house behind extremely popular, and highly successful, series like The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), The Mindy Project (2012-2017), and so many more. More recently, Hulu launched yet another incredible series entitled The Act (2019)

The Act is based on harrowing real-life events, which left us more terrified than any one of those extremely violent horror films. Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette) is a single mother of a chronically ill child, Gypsy Rose (Joey King). From the outside, Dee Dee is a kind, compassionate woman, but from the inside, she is a woman with some dark secrets. Dee Dee suffers from Munchausen by proxy syndrome: “a mental health problem in which a caregiver makes up or causes an illness or injury in a person under his or her care, such as a child, an elderly adult, or a person who has a disability. Because vulnerable people are the victims, MSBP is a form of child abuse or elder abuse.” 

Given her complex mental condition, Dee Dee abuses her daughter Gypsy by making Gypsy believe that her body and mind are not like everyone else’s and that she is sick. As Dee Dee tries to prevent her daughter from growing up and living a normal life, Gypsy tries to push back, creating drama which eventually ends in the murder of Dee Dee. 

The plot line is exquisitely executed; yes, the actual story is interesting, but we ought to give the show’s writers huge credit (because, let’s face it, how many times were real-life events dramatised in a poor and uninteresting manner). In addition to the well-executed plot, the acting is impeccable. Patricia Arquette manages to physically transform herself into Dee Dee, to the extent that we had to double-check that this was in fact, Arquette. Furthermore, Arquette’s soothing maternal, yet almost creepy voice adds layers of depth and manage to reflect the intensity of her mental condition truly. Moreover, Arquette’s facial expressions, stares, and glares create confusion among viewers (in a great way, of course); as you are watching Dee Dee and observing her body language, you will be as confused as her daughter Gypsy “did she ever truly love Gypsy, or is she just using her to get free things and special treatment from her neighbours, friends, and society? What’s the line between love and possession?” 

Speaking of Gypsy, Joey King also excels at playing her character. Her high-pitched voice, which can be extremely annoying at times, and her child-like dreams, appearance, and speech make her an ideal victim for someone like Dee Dee. Additionally, once Gypsy starts rebelling, King manages to deliver the necessary change in character, without that shift being too extreme or over-the-top. 

As for the cinematography, the series’ frames and shooting do a great job of expressing the themes. For example, in the initial episodes, we see Dee Dee observing a large cabinet filled with the vast amount of medications that Dee Dee forces upon Gypsy; the camera then shifts to Dee Dee’s face as she relishes in the glory of, what to Dee Dee, is the most prized of possessions, and what they represent to her mentally unstable persona. 

All in all, The Act is a must watch!

360 Tip

Joey King and Patricia Arquette both worked together in the TV show Medium (2005 - 2011).

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