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The review of Alice & Jack features Andrea Riseborough and Domhnall Gleeson, but their chemistry is lacking.
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The review of Alice & Jack features Andrea Riseborough and Domhnall Gleeson, but their chemistry is lacking.

I don’t know when television commissioners are going to learn that when a programme manages to bottle lightning, with all the viewing figures, social media buzz and general kudos that comes with that, the very last thing they should do is try to replicate it.

The new TV show on Channel 4, Alice & Jack, is being marketed as a timeless love story. It seems to be an attempt at creating a similar vibe to Normal People, but with a target audience of slightly older individuals. The lead character, Alice (played by Andrea Riseborough), is a successful financier who fits the description of “enigmatic” and “feisty” as requested in the casting call. She meets Jack (played by Domhnall Gleeson) for the first time through a dating app. Jack is a somewhat disorganized but kindhearted scientist who is passionate about finding cures for diseases. Despite Alice’s cold and harsh demeanor, Jack is drawn to her and they end up having sex at her place. The next morning, Alice kicks him out and makes it clear that she never wants to hear from him again.

The beginning of their relationship is supposed to be the start of a powerful love that will greatly impact their future. However, it feels more like a typical, uninteresting date between a boring woman and what today’s youth would refer to as a “beta cuck.” The chemistry between the actors is not convincing and the use of the word “enigmatic” is forced. As the story unfolds, flashbacks to her childhood try to portray her as a complex and damaged character, but the backstory is too shallow and predictable, making it just another cliche.

The list also includes observations about their personalities, such as “penetrating insights into his psyche by her”, “evocative but ultimately pointless comments from both”, “significant differences in their personalities shown through everyday activities like getting morning-after croissants”, and of course, “longing gazes throughout”.

If there is no genuine or comprehensible love between them, the rest is insignificant and ultimately meaningless. Phrases like “You are the one thing I would handle with care in this world” and “She left a void in my heart” are given an impossible task to carry the weight of the situation. She disappears for extended periods of time, he tries to move on but is haunted by memories of her. They both come across as foolish – Alice as a calculating and self-centered person, Jack as naive and uncomplicated.

The narrative is disrupted by the addition of Aisling Bea as Jack’s wife, Lynn, a few years into the story. While Riseborough’s performance is understated and her character is not well-developed, Bea’s character is lively and full of energy. This undermines the idea of a timeless love story, as Lynn is charming, attractive, and humorous. Jack appears to be out of his league, making the idea of him longing for a woman he had a brief encounter with years ago seem unbelievable and ridiculous.

Alice returns and ruins his life. The only appropriate reaction is: “You brought this upon yourself, buddy.” He deceives Lynn and becomes even more attached to Alice when her tragic past – the only thing that can justify her character – is uncovered at her mother’s funeral. When Lynn discovers that Jack lied to join Alice at the funeral, they end their relationship.

Afterwards, Jack and Alice become more intimate and she expresses sentiments like: “I love you, but our future is not meant to be,” “If I could choose anyone to be with, it would be you,” and: “You embody everything I desire but cannot have.” These are the kind of moments that make you wish the actor received a bonus for each time they delivered these lines.

The story continues without end. The characters, Riseborough and Gleeson, are approaching an age where their behavior may be seen as childish (their exact ages are not mentioned, but they are in their 40s and appear to be portraying characters 10 years younger at the start of the story). This results in an even more ridiculous tone in the early episodes. In contrast, the characters in Normal People had the excuse of being teenagers when they first met. We all remember the intensity and hormones of that age and could sense the chemistry between Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones. Alice & Jack tries harder and harder to convince us of their relationship, but even with the talented actors giving their best, there is not enough evidence to make us believe in it.

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Source: theguardian.com