The Act is a Gripping Drama You Shouldn’t Miss

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The Act is a Gripping Drama You Shouldn’t Miss

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

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The Act, streaming exclusively on Hulu, has received rave reviews for its first season – and for good reason. The new series is a chillingly well-acted depiction of eerie true events. In June 2015, Gypsy Rose Blanchard told her boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn, to murder her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard. Public sympathy for Dee Dee gradually shifted to sympathy for Gypsy when investigators discovered that Gypsy had been a victim of her mother’s abuse since she was a little girl.

Gypsy was a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP), a condition in which a parent or caretaker induces or feigns illness in another person to gain sympathy or attention, according to WebMD. Dee Dee told everyone from doctors to neighbors that Gypsy suffered from a host of ailments: leukemia, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, asthma, sleep apnea, vision and hearing impairments, and a severe sugar allergy. She had Gypsy’s salivary glands removed and a feeding tube inserted in her stomach, and she forced her to take dozens of unnecessary medications. She made Gypsy use a wheelchair to get around, convincing her that she would get sicker if she tried to walk, and told people that Gypsy was mentally deficient, with the mind of seven-year-old.

If Gypsy tried to walk or rebel against her mother’s antics, Dee Dee would tie her to the bed, occasionally for weeks at a time. Actresses Joey King (Gypsy) and Patricia Arquette (Dee Dee) do an excellent job of portraying the complicated mother-daughter relationship, one of public adoration and private animosity as Gypsy uncovers the extent of her mother’s lies.

Fans might recognize King as the star of the 2018 Netflix original movie The Kissing Booth. The film has a 20 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was a cliched, poorly-written rom-com that felt better suited for the Lifetime network. After seeing her in that movie, I was skeptical, but King delivers an Emmy-worthy performance in the Act. She truly becomes her character, both emotionally and physically (King shaved her head for the role). I hope King continues to accept more compelling roles like this that showcase her true talents; she has bright acting future ahead of her.

It is Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette who steals the show for her portrayal of Dee Dee Blanchard. There were moments while watching The Act that I forgot I was watching an actress and not the twisted mother herself – Arquette’s performance is that astonishing.

The rest of the cast – Chloe Sevigny, AnnaSophia Robb, and Calum Worthy – is also incredible. Worthy, who plays Godejohn, is probably most well-known for his supporting role in Austin & Ally on the Disney Channel. He does an incredible job in this more mature role as a murderer with multiple personalities. Like Arquette, his emotional transformation makes him nearly unrecognizable.

Although the performances are fantastic, the series is not perfect. The first few episodes got me hooked, but around episode 4 things started to get a bit slow. As some critics have noted, I wonder if the series would have been better suited as a two-hour movie. Either that, or there could have been less episodes, or shorter episodes. The series is still compulsively watchable, but I found myself wondering when the infamous murder would finally happen.

What’s interesting is that Gypsy, who is currently serving a ten-year sentence for second-degree murder, was not remotely involved in the making of The Act. According to the Springfield News-Leader, the Blanchard family is considering taking legal action against Hulu. They say that writer and producer Michelle Dean cut off contact with them while The Act was in development, after they had initially been promised some of the proceeds from the show.

Leaving out the controversy that’s starting to brew with the Blanchard family, The Act is well-made and suspenseful, and it sheds light on a disorder that many people know little about. I got a Hulu subscription just to watch the series, and I’d encourage others to do the same.