The Noir Side of Hollywood in ‘Swimming with Sharks’


In a typical yr, Los Angeles sees 284 days of sunshine. That’s 40 p.c greater than the common for the US. So I used to be shocked on the unrelenting darkness of Swimming with Sharks, the brand new collection on the streaming service ROKU. 

Oh wait, I get it. 

The underside of Tinseltown is darkish.

That’s simply the primary of many apparent decisions made by creator, author, and actor Kathleen Robertson and her workforce. Swimming with Sharks is trendy, edgy, fairly intentionally artwork directed, however superbly acted. It’s additionally disappointingly predictable. And, by protecting a number of months within the lives of Hollywood movers and shakers in lower than three hours, it’s paced at a jagged and breakneck velocity that leaves little or no time to empathize with any of its deeply broken characters.

ROKU, which acquired the title when it purchased the short-lived Quibi Channel, is selling the collection as “Your new responsible pleasure.” And the outline is apt, regardless of the present’s shortcomings. There may be inherent satisfaction in watching glamorous individuals behaving badly. And, the extra salacious scenes push boundaries in stunning methods. Suffice it to say, you’ll by no means have a look at a pomegranate acai throat lozenge fairly the identical method once more. 

Swimming with Sharks begins with apparently naïve newcomer Lou Simms (Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men) beginning a coveted place as an intern for Fountain Studios head Joyce Holt (Diane Kruger, Farewell My Queen). It’s a job any aspiring filmmaker would die for, even if Holt is a stone-cold bitch who expects her employees to anticipate her each want, and wait on her hand and foot. If this sounds a bit like The Satan Wears Prada, you’re not too far off — besides that Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep in one among her many Oscar-nominated roles) was the queen of haughty verbal put-downs. Joyce actually hurls a Louboutin stiletto at her assistant’s head. 

There are two different key variations. Whereas Satan Wears Prada deftly dramatized the sadomasochistic dynamic between an government arch-villainess and her minions, the sooner movie additionally celebrated moments of absurdity and humor. There may be a lot absurdity in Swimming with Sharks, however not an iota of comedian reduction. The opposite distinction is that Lou Simms isn’t any Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway). Lou has her personal agenda, and it has nothing to do with paying her dues.

Lou arrives at Fountain Studios from Colorado, wide-eyed, in braids and a schoolmarmish gown. She goes out of her strategy to seem easy and harmless, and Holt’s two assistants (Ross Butler and Thomas Dekker) alternately be part of her for drinks and eat her for lunch. However, Lou has a secret — a number of secrets and techniques, really. Her identify and story are invented for the event, and beneath her blonde braids, she’s a conniving participant prepared for her massive break even when she has to interrupt some guidelines (and kill some individuals, and have intercourse, heaps and plenty of intercourse) to get there.

“Energy is a harmful, delicate creature. Intoxicating and fickle,” she tells us in one among a number of overwritten voiceovers. It’s by no means fairly clear whether or not Lou desires to be Joyce, make like to Joyce, or use Joyce to interchange her lacking mom (performed in flashbacks by Robertson). Regardless, she is ruthless and decided, calculating what Joyce wants and delivering it with an insidious precision that shortly makes her a favourite — and a goal for her colleagues. Shipka’s youthful look belies Lou’s near-maniacal obsession. Her efficiency is as fearless as it’s disturbing.

I confess that I needed to put aside my reminiscences of Sally Draper, hapless daughter and collateral injury of Don and Betty’s home discord. Shipka was already spectacular when she started her seven seasons of Mad Males on the tender age of eight. Sure, she is an grownup now (barely; she was born in 1999), and positively she will be able to select extra mature roles if she desires to. However I discovered myself squirming a bit when Lou makes use of intercourse to get what she desires. (See notice above about pomegranate acai throat lozenge.)

Kruger, whose Joyce appears like an older, finer-lined model of Lou (no accident, I’m certain) provides a efficiency that turns into surprisingly dimensional. Though she begins off as an extremely well-dressed antagonist, we be taught later that she needed to navigate a #MeToo minefield early in her profession, and now, as she approaches midlife, she and her artist (and faithless) husband are fighting fertility. The truth that she, somewhat shortly, succumbs to Lou’s machinations speaks to an actual want for a pal. It’s lonely on the prime.

Simply ask Fountain Studios’ proprietor Redmond, performed to the hilt by Donald Sutherland. Redmond is a mean-spirited, manipulative predator who’s dying of most cancers — too slowly, by Joyce’s rely. There’s a way that neither Joyce nor Lou is liable for her personal dangerous habits. They’re each merchandise of males like Redmond and the trade they constructed. Rounding out the forged, and giving the fabric their all, are Erika Alexander as a sought-after author who isn’t above being bribed (once more see notice concerning the throat lozenge), Finn Jones as Joyce’s head of promotion, and Gerardo Celasco as Joyce’s husband, who’s glad to seduce younger Lou, studying too late that she’s his spouse’s intern.

Swimming with Sharks is predicated — fairly loosely — on a 1994 film by the identical identify, a black comedy that starred Frank Whaley because the beleaguered assistant to Kevin Spacey’s abusive producer. However, centered round girls’s experiences, the brand new collection is extra of a contrepoint to 2019’s glorious The Assistant. In actual fact, that movie, by Kitty Inexperienced and starring Julia Garner (Inventing Anna), really evoked a better sense of dread. Though Swimming with Sharks is ready as much as be a thriller, the thrills are a bit too apparent, pile up a bit too quick, and are in the end underwhelming.

In case you’re in search of a smooth modern story of the seedy facet of Hollywood (to not point out new concepts for throat lozenges), there’s a lot to savor in Swimming with Sharks. And at lower than half-hour an episode, it’s a fast and straightforward binge, on TV or on-line.

Nevertheless, regardless of the most effective efforts of its forged and creators, Swimming with Sharks sinks underneath the burden of its heavy-handed artwork route, gratuitous intercourse scenes, and overwrought script. Chances are you’ll discover whenever you’ve completed that the story doesn’t keep afloat, or in your thoughts, for lengthy. 

Swimming with Sharks is offered in your streaming tv’s ROKU Channel or on-line at



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