April 12, 2024

Prince Andrew Is a Major Villain in Epstein Interview Drama

In November 2019, Prince Andrew, Duke of York and his team had a problem that wouldn’t go away. After a photo of Prince Andrew next to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was released about a decade earlier, allegations of sexual abuse by Epstein survivors and rumors of lecherous behavior followed the Duke for years. When Epstein’s mansion and private island home in Manhattan were raided in the fall of 2019, Prince Andrew’s relationship with Epstein and his girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, could no longer be avoided. The Duke had exhausted his options, and if he ever wished to fulfill any of his public duties again, he must first face that same public.

Spoonwhich premieres on Netflix on April 5, taps into the timeline leading up to Prince Andrew’s November 16, 2019 interview on the BBC News night programme, in which journalist Emily Maitlis held the duke’s loafers to the fire for the first time. Although the events in this fictional retelling are recent, those living outside Britain may be completely unfamiliar with the now infamous interview. But whether you’re intimately aware of this moment in royal history or completely unaware of its importance and impact, Spoon It’s still a joy to watch it unfold.

The film’s proceedings are made no less fascinating by their cultural relevance, thanks to a tight script from screenwriters Geoff Bussetil and Peter Moffat that cuts all the unnecessary fat from the story. Tight direction and a cast of skilled performers help on that front too, allowing the film to keep a brisk pace without rushing through all the details necessary to disturb, enrage and titillate viewers. Fans of journalistic films with a few more stakes can find this Spoon to be light on drama, but its execution is no less compelling. The film is smooth and understated and gets to the point without turning itself into a compelling spectacle – exactly what journalism is all about.

Keeley Hawes, Rufus Sewell

Netflix

Spoon opens with a vignette peering into the trial of paparazzo Jae Donnelly (Connor Swindells), who in 2010 took the photo of Prince Andrew and Epstein strolling together in Central Park. It’s a fast and exciting cold open, one that lays a foundation for the rest of the film to build on. One photo can be enough to change the course of history and, in the case of Donnelly’s photo, reveal some new topics for journalists to follow. A leap forward in the space of nine years News night producer and guest booker Sam McAlister (Billie Piper) does just that as she responds to an email from Prince Andrew’s secretary, Amanda (Keely Hawes), about a new youth-focused initiative the Duke is launching.

The film cleverly illustrates how small gestures can lead to major breakthroughs in the world of journalism. Just like in Jae’s photo, Sam’s innocuous response to Amanda – “I’d love to talk” – was all it took to finally hook a colossal fish. Sam, frustrated that her colleagues don’t trust her judgment and journalistic skills, pursues her trail and meets Amanda for a chat to talk headlines. As a middle-class single mother – who walks with her head held high and a Chanel brooch glinting from her jacket in the lobby of BBC News – who could be threatened by job losses at the broadcaster, Sam has no time for games.

Sam’s personal situation could easily be illustrated in silly ways meant to tug at the heartstrings of the viewer, but Spoon is smarter than that. Bussetil and Moffat know that their characters don’t have to be desperate and desperate to connect with an audience. Watching Sam’s fearless nature is enough to sympathize with her, and Piper’s portrayal of her character never devolves into schmaltz either. She is understated, yet persuasive enough to convey the spirit of a journalist who knows how to communicate with her subjects. It’s a pleasure to watch her – and the film’s script – avoid exasperated newsroom outbursts or familiar “gotcha” twists.

It’s that unwillingness to make false bets Spoon a truly unique journalistic film. After 2022 She said, which sometimes veered into tricky territory, it’s refreshing to see a film that takes a subject from the same domain and portrays it neatly. The absence of uncertainty about what might happen with the Prince Andrew interview (it doesn’t go as the Duke hopes, but that’s far from a spoiler) works in Spoon‘s favor. We have seen enough journalistic films in which the controversial subject could wriggle out of a tight position at any time thanks to power, money and institutions. But this film is an exceptional look at what happens when you have nowhere left to go. We, as viewers, see Prince Andrew’s demise taking place behind the scenes. And while we know what will happen, it can be just as much fun watching a movie knowing someone is getting their comeuppance as it is worrying about whether justice will be done.

Keeley Hawes, Rufus Sewell, Charity Wakefield in the film Scoop on Netflix

Keeley Hawes, Rufus Sewell and Charity Wakefield

Netflix

If Spoon‘s cast wasn’t that talented, that may be another story; it takes a gifted collection of actors to make a story gripping, even when you know the outcome. In addition to Piper and Hawes – who brilliantly portray the repressed but irresponsible Amanda – Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell are equally terrifying as Emily Maitlis and Prince Andrew respectively. Although she plays the woman who ultimately provided the Duke with the shovel he used to dig his own grave, Anderson’s role is relatively small. Still, she makes a lasting impression and proves a formidable presence against Sewell’s Duke.

However, it’s Prince Andrew who steals the show here, just like the real man did in his train wreck of one News night interview. Sewell conveys all of the Duke’s remarkable charm, which he used to minimize the severity of the accusations against him over the years, as well as all of his creepy neuroses. Smarm is the name of the game when it comes to portraying someone like Prince Andrew, and Sewell’s version calls it out in spades. It is a mesmerizing sight to see him caressing the plush fur of the collection of plush animals that adorn the Duke’s bed and watching him mock Maitlis as he slowly fans the flames of his own self-immolation. And for anyone unfamiliar with Prince Andrew’s interview, Sewell sharply conveys all the silly confidence the Duke displayed during the hour-long conversation. It’s a captivating performance, and without Sewell’s talents it would be much more difficult Spoon to convey the need for good journalism.

That’s the point: journalism doesn’t always have to be groundbreaking and full of big, breathtaking moments to be important. Sometimes it’s about advancing a story and taking it to a new place so that the audience served by journalists can respond accordingly. Spoon deftly reveals this state of symbiosis in a stylish, well-acted package that’s hard to put down. It may not be the most powerful or exciting journalistic film, but that’s exactly why it’s so refreshing. Watching the system do its work can be just as exciting as what happens next, and that’s something future stories could take into account when adapting real-life events into semi-fictional stories.

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