The critics’s embargo has been lifted and great reviews are pouring into the net for Cate Blanchett’s newest tv show: Mrs. America.
Here are the last updates. Enjoy!
In her meatiest role since 2015’s Carol, Blanchett laps up every last self-justifying drop of the contradiction that is Schlafly, a mother of six based in suburban Illinois who wheeled and dealed with Congressmen, traveled widely and wrote ceaselessly to spread her cause and eventually grew a grassroots movement that would put her favored presidential candidate in the Oval Office — all while preaching that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Mrs. America is keenly fascinated by how high a woman can rise while constantly cutting herself off at the knees.
Externally, Blanchett is flawless — from her sculpted updo (the wigs in this piece, I tell you!) to her arch and lilting speaking style, the actress has Phyllis Schlafly nailed. But the beauty of Blanchett’s performance is internal; Schlafly was a brilliant strategist, and you can practically see her thinking three steps ahead in every scene.
An often infuriating figure who forwarded her own agenda, it would be easy to paint Schlafly as a Wicked Witch of the Midwest. Yet Blanchett plays her with an unshakable conviction and enough cracks in her armour to imbue her with humanity.
The show clearly takes the pro-ERA side, and Blanchett does a remarkable job of keeping our attention without encouraging admiration for Schlafly. She adopts a sweet cloying voice and has a permanently fixed smile as she talks about the “libbers”, using the then-common derisive term for the women’s liberation movement. […] Blanchett subtly allows Schlafly to become harder and meaner as she becomes more powerful and power-hungry. But she never loses that frozen smile, placidly absorbing sexism along the way.
But it really boils down to Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, which is understandable given what a fascinating character she is, with all her complications, ambitions and vulnerabilities. While never shying away from Schlafly’s most unpleasant qualities, including her willingness to align with unsavory political allies (like the Ku Klux Klan), Blanchett finds a lot of humanity in a figure who was largely reviled by her generation.
Blanchett works to sell Schlafly as a loud, brash woman on a misinformation campaign you could connect to today’s political landscape. When she’s called out for her lack of facts, she doesn’t back down but just keeps talking in the hopes that the other person will shut up. The role doesn’t just require a woman who can yell, but one with a controlled anger to her, which Blanchett holds in spades. But she’s just as adept at the smaller scenes that create empathy for the woman. She struggles with her son being gay, not just in terms of how it would blow back on her, but how it fits in with the changes to the movement that would discriminate against the then-undefined LGBTQ community.