A soft porn music video with the Euphoria aesthetic
Helmed by Sam Levinson, the creator of the immensely popular HBO show Euphoria, The Idol premiered its first two episodes at the Cannes Film Festival 2023. With some starry names such as The Weeknd aka Abel Tesfaye, Lily-Rose Depp, Blackpink’s Jennie Kim, Troye Sivan, Hank Azaria and Dan Levy, there was much excitement till the first preview clip dropped. Fans still gave it a chance at the Cannes premiere as no one-minute clip is enough to judge a whole show, but unfortunately it doesn’t bode well for The Idol.
With an interesting but predictable plot, dark and gritty aesthetic of the music industry and messy execution, The Idol is a waste of talent and money as the best way to describe it is as a soft porn music video. It follows the career of singer Jocelyn portrayed by Lily-Rose Depp who unsurprisingly is good despite her limited role.
As a child star turned young pop star she succumbs to the pressure of fame and has a mental breakdown after her mother passes away. As she tries to make a comeback, several hurdles are in the way, formed mostly by her own team of supporters as they don’t trust her anymore due to her coke-addled, unreliable behaviour.
Her best friend turned assistant is overbearing, while her dancer friend Dyanne played by the gorgeous Jennie (who steals the spotlight every time she is on screen) seems to have an ulterior motive for hanging out with her. Amidst the chaos, Jocelyn gravitates towards the suspicious but enigmatic club owner and manager, Tedros played by The Weeknd as she feels that he is the only one who understands her and supports her.
From the summary itself, one can predict how the story is going to go which is a shame as such a strong cast is wasted. Jennie is used as clickbait to bring in her fans while she is used as an extra, a pretty prop with a cliched role which you get an idea of from the beginning. Well, with big names attached to the project, it is odd that the technical style fails as well. The sound mixing goes overboard as the dialogues are drowned by ambience music. There is too much movement in the closeup because of which viewers lose context of what’s going on making it hard to follow, possibly why some may think they saw a blink and miss cameo of Alexa Demie in the premiere.
As for the aesthetic, it comes nowhere close to the trendsetting style of Euphoria which changed the fashion and makeup trends of the 2020s. Unfortunately for The Idol, there is nothing artsy about the scandalous, revealing and lingerie outfits which overly sexualise Lily-Rose even when not necessary. It looks vulgar and cheap just like the sex scenes which we will get to in a minute.
It feels especially disappointing as it could have been the big break for so many rising and new actors including The Weeknd who, despite him channeling the cliched, bad guy vibe, has the potential to be a good actor. Sure, The Idol has its moments, but they are so little, we can count them on one hand. While most of the lines are awkward, sometimes the humour comes through thanks to Rachel Sennott as the assistant.
The dialogues either feel like they were written by ChatGPT to emulate a distinct Gen Z style or consist of vulgar language meant to be reserved for a sexting session between a couple. But despite being a story told a million types, if it is executed well, it can be salvaged by focusing on Jocelyn trying to make her career work and staying true to herself since Lily-Rose actually meets the very high expectations. But even she cannot save this.
The Idol’s plot is so weak that at times it feels that there is no narrative. It’s just a repetitive barrage of pretty shots and pseudo intellectual lines till the explicit scenes make us want to drop the show. Repetitive and boring sex scenes take away from the non-existent story. And even there, there is nothing sensual or artistic about it as The Idol opts for cheap, vulgar shots that feel that they are straight out of a porn film.
All in all, The Idol is a cheap knock-off of Euphoria and can never reach its iconic, meme-worthy, trendsetting status, forever stuck in its shadow as the black sheep of the Levinson projects.
Only two episodes were watched as part of our ongoing Cannes 2023 coverage! We’ll have recaps and a full season review for you after this one has aired for the public!
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Verdict - 3/10