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FX's Black Narcissus is reminiscent of vintage Masterpiece Theatre

  • Amanda Coe's ethereal three-part limited series based on Rumer Godden's 1939 novel is "a work of art made to appeal to the very narrow audience that comes to a piece like this and expects a slow and methodical journey leading to no place in particular and best recommended for the lovely views," says Melanie McFarland. "Don't let the good looks fool you though, a trick played upon us by casting Gemma Arterton as Sister Clodagh, a young Anglican nun living in India when it was still under British rule. Among her fellow sisters of St. Faith, Clodagh exhibits the most steadfast devotion, and takes on the task given to her by her superior Mother Dorothea (Dame Diana Rigg in one of her final roles before her death) to open a convent school in a remote village in the Himalayas called Mopu."


    • Black Narcissus begs the questions: What is this and why is it even on FX?: "Too long to be a movie and too short to satisfy as a miniseries, this Black Narcissus dabbles in being all of the above, and, alas, doesn’t fully succeed at any of them," says Hank Stuever. "But it doesn't deserve a thumbs-down review, either. Thanks to some excellent and at times gripping performances — especially from its lead, Gemma Arterton — Black Narcissus remains intriguing while never quite getting to the point of riveting. Even when it drags, it’s still beautifully shot (a good bit of it on location in Nepal) and visually compelling. For at least an hour or two, that’ll do."
    • There is too much filler in Black Narcissus: "The biggest issue with Black Narcissus is the justification of its running time," says Kristen Lopez. "All three episodes see heavy emphasis on flashbacks, whether that’s the death of the Princess or Clodagh’s past relationship. These fragmented snippets are lovely and show a contrast between their lives now and the idyllic past they wish to get back to, but the buildup leads to just staid reveals with little bombast to them. By the final episode it’s hard not to see them as filler."
    • Black Narcissus doesn’t quite know how to get hearts racing like its tenuous premise requires

    TOPICS: Black Narcissus, FX

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