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A Man in Full review – skin-crawling Trump satire is a worthy Succession replacement
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A Man in Full review – skin-crawling Trump satire is a worthy Succession replacement

A Man in Full is largely about dicks. Metaphorical, mostly, but with the occasional real one popping up to cause trouble here and there.

The biggest metaphorical dick in this six-part Netflix adaptation by David E Kelley of Tom Wolfe’s satirical novel is Charlie Croker (Jeff Daniels). He is a good ol’ boy, Atlanta born and raised, turned real-estate mogul who has enjoyed swinging his appendage all over the state for his many years on the rise. Shortly after his lavish 60th birthday, however, he is summoned by the bank for what he thinks will be a simple refinancing meeting, only to find that they are calling in the nearly $1bn of loans they have made to him. Why? Because, explains banking head Harry Zale (Bill Camp), who could not be enjoying this more, “I am talking to a shithead about one of the worst cases of mismanagement I’ve ever seen.” The bank reckons too much has been spent on private jets, lavish 60th birthday parties and – above all – a private quail plantation for hunting and not enough on actual business. Croker is technically bankrupt. The party, and the quail hunting, is over.

Also at the meeting and barely able to keep his grin of satisfaction to himself is Croker employee turned nark Raymond Peepgrass (Tom Pelphrey, producing an absolutely skin-crawling performance throughout). It’s not all fun and games for him though, as his own (actual) dick has recently impregnated a young eastern European woman (“Also, I let him put it in anus”) who now wants $700,000 to compensate for the inconvenience of giving birth to his son.

Among the others involved and/or invested in Croker’s impending fall are his first wife Martha (Diane Lane, most recently seen in Feud: Capote vs the Swans and cementing here her welcome mid-life career resurgence), whose assets may not be as disentangled from her ex-husband’s as she had hoped, Martha’s best friend Joyce (Lucy Liu) who becomes a vital part of a second plot strand emerging slightly later on, and – most harrowingly – his receptionist Jill Hensley (Chanté Adams) and her husband Conrad (Jon Michael Hill). They are Black, and when Conrad becomes caught up in a police brutality case, his situation – aggravated by the furiously racist judge overseeing it – rapidly descends into nightmare. Charlie provides the pair with one of his lawyers, Roger White (Aml Ameen) and with other help, but as he is further distracted by his own problems, the Hensleys only suffer more.

White has his own problems too. His old college pal Wes Jordan (William Jackson Harper) is the mayor of Atlanta and running for office again, this time against a dangerous Maga-esque candidate, who could win. Unless the rumours that he sexually assaulted a women back when he used to pal around with White’s boss are true … Could Roger dig around and see if Charlie knows anything he could use? An unethical thing to do, sure, but it’s for the greater good of Atlanta, and its Black population especially.

With Kelley at the helm and Regina King directing, it was hardly in doubt that a smart, propulsive drama would unfold and A Man in Full is very much that. And, of course, although Charlie Croker is a better man than Trump (and, fictional or not, a deeper and more nuanced character), the tale of a man who has built most of his overvalued empire on confidence, bullying and bluster rather than sound business sense is timely. Though (possibly unlike Trump) Daniels’ Croker is not quite unpleasant enough to have you rooting for a painfully humiliating financial demise; you feel you won’t be shedding many tears if it comes to pass.

If, however, as seems likely, A Man in Full is Netflix’s attempt to capture the post-Succession audience, it may have a way to go. The new series is a solid, satisfying thing but it lacks a true satirical edge and it lacks flair. Every line in Succession was whetted to the finest edge and the whole thing was fired by an extraordinary rage, fierce intelligence and a profound knowledge of its characters and the world in which their real-life counterparts live. A Man in Full is a fine adaptation of Wolfe’s novel, but even the plentiful invective (“Time to take a Clydesdale piss on that man’s head”) cannot measure up to that side of Jesse Armstrong’s creation. A Man in Full is workmanlike in comparison. But perhaps that’s invidious. Standing alone, it is more than good enough.

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Source: theguardian.com