If you’re going to re-make perfection . . .
***SPOILER ALERT***(“Perfection” here being the 1975 film of the same name), you really ought to have something substantial to add, or perhaps a unique new perspective, and sadly this lacks both. I’d have to give the prizes for best acting, most appropriate casting, and most reliable/believable accent to, well, the Rock to be honest. If nothing else, this stands as a testimony to the Lost Art of Subtlety, which made the film so wonderful. As others have commented, the Rock simply isn’t in it enough; this isn’t (check by returning to Joan Lindsay’s original novel) a boarding-school hot-bed of secrets/lust saga, it’s a mystery about (funnily enough) schoolgirls going on a picnic at Hanging Rock, and the strange events that occur on the day, which are never entirely explained (even in the novel). The film is consistently atmospheric, tense and unnerving for that reason; this is just crass. The gentle frisson of awakening sexuality depicted in the film, e.g. by the girls lacing each other into their corsets, has been replaced by the admittedly stunning, (if, in one of many clumsy casting decisions, the somewhat unlikely to be a “Rothschild” heiress, with her extremely blonde hair/blue eyes/generally WASP-y look), Irma, lustfully rolling around on the floor of the dorm with Miranda in their underwear, whilst fervently Bible-bashing junior (in rank) mistress Mrs. Lumley roots around in Miss McCraw’s possessions and discovers a “marital aid” that, after we’ve seen her wave it about for the 94th time, one realises appears to be more wooden than some of the acting contained herein, and would have surely have caused some really quite unpleasant splinters. As aforementioned, the casting in general is frankly a rather off; no, I don’t know who Natalie Dormer is, but if a real Rothschild were going to send their daughter to her College for Young Ladies, she would certainly have pronounced English like a lady herself. All three “star” ‘pupils' are clearly far too old to be at school. The “film” Michael was actually quite creepy, had a truly aristocratic “look", and one really did believe he might have had something sinister to do with the day’s events. This Michael fails to convey any of that, or anything much at all. The endless back stories not only add nothing, they are a tedious distraction. The cherry on this frankly inedible cake comes at the end of episode 3, when the police sergeant starts questioning the Headmistress about the reliability of the references she has obtained for her teaching staff, a truly laughable anachronism. Yes, Enhanced CRB checks were all the rage in Britain’s formal penal colony in, er, 1900, weren’t they??!!! To be fair, it does has three episodes left to redeem itself, but I’m afraid I can’t quite see that happening.