Mary & George movie review & film summary (2024)
Movie Reviews

Mary & George movie review & film summary (2024)

It’s no longer the tired story of seducing one powerful man but rather about the effects of power. What will George do with his new station? How will it change him? How will he use it to change his nation and Europe at large? Yes, these questions are more typical of period pieces but it’s a common genre for a reason. When “Mary & George” gets around to asking them, it gets more interesting, no longer just trying to shock us with 17th-century sex. Instead, in the season’s back half, its talented actors and specific setting reveal something dark but essential about the human condition, beauty, and bravado.

As is to be expected of an actor of her status (she also executive produces), Moore thankfully escapes portraying the sexual details Galitzine enacts. Mary may trade in sex just as she positions her son to do, but she has other skills to deploy. Her ruthless disposition and keen understanding of human nature get her and her whole family ahead. Multiple times, she articulates that she’s after power for power’s sake and that her hunger for it will never be satiated. She’s not trying to be a good person, but she is good at the game she’s playing, not perfect, but strong and successful.

Moore does here what she does so well, bringing a bit of humanity to a character who could be a snarling villain. Under her care, Mary is an anti-hero—we root for her despite knowing we should not. The compromises she makes, the petty vengeances she latches onto, the few misjudgments she acts upon, those are what really powers this series.

In the end, the moral is unclear. Both Mary and George are rewarded and punished for their bad behavior (good deeds being fewer and further between). The show here isn’t having its cake and eating it too, but rather exposing the historical record. In real life, these two unsavory underdogs rose quite high, succeeding by some measures and failing by others.

Upon completion, “Mary & George” leaves a lingering sense of questions. Not about right or wrong but about how power works, the dangers of ego, and the nature of greed. In those aspects, the show is smart and provocative. Oh, and it shows a lot of butts too.

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