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Why the TV remake of 'Clarice' is an insult to the original

Independent Online (IOL) logo Independent Online (IOL) 2021-05-05 Debashine Thangevelo
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Seriously, why would CBS attempt a remake of “The Silence of the Lambs”?

The network has been tackling remakes with unmistakable gusto. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, provided that it does the original justice.

And the network failed to learn anything from the flop that is “The Equalizer” with Queen Latifah. The TV series misfired for several reasons, among those were the mediocre storylines and terribly lame action.

If anything, it got pity views largely due to Latifah’s involvement. Of course, this is more of a testament to star-clout once again providing a safety net.

a man standing in front of a brick building: Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall in “The Equalizer.” Picture: Barbara Nitke/CBS © Provided by Independent Online (IOL) Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall in “The Equalizer.” Picture: Barbara Nitke/CBS

This brings me to “Clarice”, which sees Australian actress Rebecca Breeds slipping into Jodie Foster’s iconic role as Clarice Starling.

Before delving into this TV remake, there are a few things I would like to point out - Jonathan Demme’s 1991 psychological thriller “Silence of the Lambs” is celebrated as one of the greatest as well as most influential films of all time.

Based on Thomas Harris’s novel of the same title, the film, while terribly disturbing, was most compelling, too. And it cleaned up at the Oscars.

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, an exceptional psychologist as well as cannibalistic serial killer, and Foster as Clarice Starling, a fresh out of the academy recruit to the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, will forever be remembered for one of their finest performances.

The movie made Empire’s 500 greatest movies of all time - it ranked at 48 - and it was listed as the fifth-greatest and most influential thriller movie by The American Film Institute.

This psychological thriller was truly in a league of its own from the casting, scriptwriting to directing.

And it is for this very reason that a remake of “The Silence of the Lambs”, especially for a TV series, should be done with careful consideration.

In 2013, NBC released “Hannibal” with Mads Mikkelsen delivering an impeccable performance as Hannibal Lector while Hugh Dancy was cast as a gifted criminal profiler, Will Graham.

a group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses: Laurence J. Fishburne III as Jack Crawford, left, and Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in a scene from Hannibal. Picture: AP Photo/NBC, Brooke Palmer © Provided by Independent Online (IOL) Laurence J. Fishburne III as Jack Crawford, left, and Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in a scene from Hannibal. Picture: AP Photo/NBC, Brooke Palmer

The series was a hit. The writers wonderfully blurred the line between right and wrong with the two characters. They looked at inner darkness versus inner goodness.

It ended after three seasons but with mostly favourable reviews.

Unfortunately, I don’t see “Clarice” making such strides.

Of the two episodes I’ve watched so far, I struggled to connect with the lead character, who lacks screen presence.

At the start of the series, there’s a very interesting interaction between United States Attorney General Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson) and Clarice.

Ruth says, “You are a woman with a very public reputation for hunting monsters.”

“I can’t have a reputation, I’ve only done it once,” Clarice responds.

“It is time you owned that reputation,” Ruth asserts.

And so Clarice joins Martin’s new VICAP task force, a specialist team responsible for taking down murderers, serial killers and sexual predators.

The writers attempted to give several characters interesting backstories, including linking Ruth and Clarice - Clarice saved Ruth’s daughter while trying to catch the Buffalo Bill serial killer.

Sadly, this so-called connection is one that is more agenda-driven than heartwarming, which I believe was the true intention here.

Meanwhile, Clarice is battling her own demons and her psychiatrist has misgivings about her being back on the field.

Yes, she gets the job done. But she is weighed down by a lot of emotion.

And that’s the issue I have. The writers have taken a strong, formidable character and turned her into an emotional casserole that would be better cast in an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”.

Even when she is challenging her superior, she kind of cowers and backtracks.

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If the writers thought she would be more endearing as an empathetic lead, they were sadly mistaken. Not for a series saturated with dark and depraved characters. If anything, she should have balls of steel and defiantly heroic.

The storyline, somewhat misogynistic at times, has taken an unapologetic tour de force character and turned her into a pussyfooting lead.

And that is the greatest tragedy of this contrived remake. It’s antiquated, boring and, truth be told, an insult to the original.

“Clarice” airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Thursdays at 9.30pm.

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