There is a scene in the 1939 Twentieth Century Fox movie “Second Fiddle” where Ice Queen Sonja Henie is practicing the exaggerated expressions of silent movie acting in front of a mirror. We are immediately struck by the moment’s presumably unintentional dichotomy; the inability of the world’s greatest professional and amateur skater – most of her Olympic and World Records still stand – to invest any of the characters she played under her contract with Darryl Zanuck with the slightest bit of motivation or charm. I got this Sonja flashback as I watched the opening scene of the much-ballyhooed “The Idol” on Max (we have lost the HBO, and the change in moniker seems so apropos for this piece of overhyped trash) in which our heroine Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp), an up-and-coming pop idol, is asked to go through the gamut of emotions from sexy girly pose A to sexy girly pose B during a photo shoot.
The similarities, however, end there. While Henie’s films were no masterpieces, they were usually pleasant enough, bolstered by some of Fox’s A-listers, such as Tyrone Power and Don Ameche, together with a cherished supporting player like Edna May Oliver. Apart from Depp, a natural actress who unleashes her talent around the series’ Hollywood Hills locations like rose petals in the Santa Anna Winds (her dad is Johnny Depp and her mom is Vanessa Paradis), “The Idol’s” five episodes proceed downhill at an astonishing pace and into a sea of mediocrity.
Created by Sam Levinson (“Euphoria”) and Abel “The Weekend” Tesfaye, the series follows Jocelyn’s sleazy adventures in Hollywoodland with minimal clothing. Levinson, who did good work with Zendaya in “Malcolm and Marie,” is at sea here, unable to connect with Jocelyn’s character on any level, especially when she has anything to say about her music. Jocelyn is more akin to the Stevie Nicks – influenced Daisy of “Daisy and the Six” than she is to a teenage Brittany or Christina. However, Levinson’ never seems to realize this.
Jocelyn’s posse is a very boring bunch indeed. Lots of yes people and toadies who are utterly disposable. As a result, the supporting cast, which includes such talents as Rachel Sennott and Jane Adams are, mostly wasted. As for The Weekend, who plays Jocelyn’s Svengali/lover, he’s not flat-out dreadful. In fact, here and there, there is a glimmer of screen presence. However, his participation in “The Idol” will do him no favors.