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I AM THE NIGHT Review – Pulp Mystery That Takes Itself Too Seriously

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I Am the Night Review — Fun pulpy noir, despite the lack of definitive tone.

I am the night reviewI’m a true-crime addict—I read all the books, listen to podcasts, and of course watch each and every one of the lurid shows on the Investigation Discovery Channel—so when I heard about TNT’s I Am the Night, I simply had to tune in.

Helmed by director Patty Jenkins and her writer husband Sam Sheridan, this is a limited television series that’s based upon the true and terrifying experiences of Fauna Hodel, which took place in Los Angeles during the 1960s.

Fauna, played with quiet intensity by India Eisley, is the mixed-race, illegitimate granddaughter of a filthy-rich, debauched gynecologist who just happens to be the one of the most prominent suspects in the infamous Black Dahlia murder case. You can’t make this stuff up, amiright?

Hot on the heels of the blockbuster Wonder Woman, Jenkins snags an over-the-top Chris Pine for a larger role on a smaller screen. He’s a major player as Jay Singletary, a once-promising reporter who tried to investigate Dr. Hodel but wound up with a drug habit and a career-killing obsession with the Black Dahlia’s death.

There’s a considerable cast of side-characters in the miniseries, the most compelling of which are Fauna’s mercurial mother Jimmy (Golden Lee); a rich recluse called Corinna (Connie Neilson) who holds her secrets close; and the granddaddy himself, creepy (and possibly murderous) perv George Hodel (Jefferson Mays).

I watched four of the six episodes and am surprised, and sorry, to say that the Jenkins-directed ones are the dreariest. Having seen and loved her 2003 breakout film Monster (about serial-slayer Aileen Wuornos) I expected better.

When Victoria Mahoney (You, Queen Sugar) takes the reins, the story picks up and the look and feel of the series becomes more stylized. I can only assume that the final two episodes, which are directed by the talented Carl Franklin (Mindhunter, Ray Donovan, and one of my favorite noir detective flicks, Devil in a Blue Dress) will be even better.

While Pine overacts at times and the California-born Fauna speaks with a Southern accent, my only real complaint about I Am the Night is its lack of decisive tone. It sometimes tries to be funny, but isn’t cutting enough for subtle satire of the genre (think: Inherent Vice). It hints at atrocities, but is afraid to go too dark (think: True Detective). Instead, it aims for the formulaic route. That’s not a bad thing, but it does keep I Am the Night from true greatness.

If, after reading this I Am the Night review, you’d like a sneak peek, find it here TNTDrama.com

I Am the Night Review — Fun pulpy noir, despite the lack of definitive tone.

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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on StaciLayneWilson.com

2 Comments

  1. Avatar R Grose on February 11, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    I agree with you that Chris Pine was definitely overacting at times. And I’m a big fan of his, so was surprised to see him doing that. Had to quit watching after 2 episodes. Thanks for your review.

    • Avatar Staci Layne Wilson on February 18, 2019 at 11:26 am

      Yeah, I like him too. He’s a good actor, but he did go over the top here.

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