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Finally, Kristen Wiig's talents have found a suitable platform in the form of Palm Royale's review.
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Finally, Kristen Wiig’s talents have found a suitable platform in the form of Palm Royale’s review.

You can see so clearly what they were trying to do with Palm Royale. Its setting in the pivotal summer of ’69 lets them include period detailing like Mad Men did. There’s a soupçon of Big Little Lies and Mean Girls, with its outsider-v-queen-bee-and-wannabes setup, and a large measure of the glossy camp escapism of Marc Cherry’s (never-bettered) Desperate Housewives.

The necessary components are all in place. Kristen Wiig, known for her comedic skills but capable of much more, plays Maxine, a former beauty queen from Chattanooga. Maxine’s ultimate goal is to become a member of the prestigious Palm Beach society, and she makes a bold move to achieve it. She sneaks over the unguarded back wall and inserts herself into the private conversation of the elite. These individuals include Evelyn Rollins, a philanthropist who takes pride in her volunteer work and is portrayed with a fierce energy by Allison Janney. Second-in-command is Dinah Donahue, married to an ambassador but having an affair with her tennis instructor (Leslie Bibb). Rounding out the group is Mary Jones Davidsoul, a recent widow played by Julia Duffy.

Maxine’s rough and unrefined behavior doesn’t completely deter everyone, but rather allows her to gain an advantage. This is the first of many instances where Palm Royale fails to fully escape into a story of fantasy or be taken seriously, as it attempts to do at certain points. The television in Maxine’s hotel room constantly shows then-President Richard Nixon (indicating how lies can come from the highest levels). Laura Dern portrays second wave feminist Linda Shaw, who is passionate about enlightening Maxine during their sessions at the local bookstore Our Bodies Our Shelves (this line can remain), as women also fall victim to deceit about their own situations. The fact that Shaw’s language and concerns are more in line with modern feminism rather than the late-60s ideals is another missed opportunity.

One of the most noticeable flaws in the show is the paradox that Maxine actually holds a high social position because she is married to the estranged heir of the wealthy Delacore family, known for their plastic and mouthwash products. This statement serves as a critique on the extravagance and irrationality of wealth, but it falls short due to the lack of clarity between the seemingly contrasting fields of plastic and mouthwash. As Dinah remarks much later, this information should have been emphasized from the beginning.

Carol Burnett in Palm Royale.

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Reworded: Through her marriage, she gains entry to her husband’s comatose aunt Norma’s apartment (portrayed by none other than Carol Burnett), as well as access to Norma’s jewels (which she pawns for membership fees and a new wardrobe) and designer Gucci handbags. However, when Norma passes away, her husband stands to inherit it all. One cannot help but question why she doesn’t simply wait a few months and avoid subjecting herself to this added stress.

The concept suggests that indulging in a life of relaxing by the pool is enough to make any woman yearn for more. This holds true even for someone as spirited, appealing, and contemporary as Maxine. She craves it, and the expectation is for us to want it for her. However, even escapism requires a reliable and efficient source, which this excuse of a vehicle at its best can provide only a sputtering two-stroke.

If Maxine were a ruthless manipulator, exploiting every opportunity to achieve her goals, it could be exciting. However, she doesn’t seem to improve her skills beyond when she first broke through the barrier. She causes a minor car accident in order to reconnect with Dinah and then uses a secret to threaten and blackmail her. However, even this only yields limited success. She lacks the cunning to juggle multiple schemes as the plot requires, and her unlikeable nature prevents the audience from fully supporting her. When Evelyn uncovers part of her past, one might hope that the powerful Janney would simply eliminate the pesky insect and effortlessly move on.

If the program delves into deeper themes, it could serve as a contemplation on social hierarchy and the dangerous consequences of desperately chasing status. It seems to be commenting on our current era of Instagram fame – if the character of Maxine was born 60 years later, she would likely strive to become an influencer or even a full-fledged celebrity. However, the connections between the intangible social status in the show and the validation through likes and reposts in modern times are not made explicitly enough.

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The actors and their performances are fantastic, however the episodes in the series seem to be too packed and too lengthy. While enjoyable, it could have been even better.

Source: theguardian.com