Saturday , June 19 2021

Calum Henderson: How good is Julia Roberts at Homecom, her first major TV show?

Julia Roberts is predictably excellent. What about the rest of this TV show podcast? Calum Henderson explores.

If you remember one thing about the Homecoming version, it's probably a fish tank. Bubbling far into the background, it was a smart way of setting scenes inside the office's main character show.

When you see it revived in the initial episode of the highly anticipated TV adaptation of Amazon's video, it's the kind you've always imagined it to look – maybe just a little smaller and not so many species of fish but still feels familiar.

This podcast-to-screen customization suffers the same behavior as many adjustments to books on the screen: no matter how good it is, you can never live up to the version that first existed in your imagination.

This is unfair, of course, not because of the lack of creativity. Along with Mr. Robo of the Maker of Sam Esmail, the show has a distinct visual style that perfectly matches the stressful, paranoid mood of the show.

Customized creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg rely heavily on original dialogue, allowing cameramen Esmail and Robot Toda Campbell to compete with the kind of spectacular long shots that Alfred Hitchcock was proud of.

The longest continuous recording in nearly three minutes, and offers a great home tour during a phone conversation between homeowner Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) and her boss (Bobby Cannavale).

The facility is a seemingly place to return US soldiers can safely adapt to civilian life, supported by workers like Bergman. Her phone call and the dazzling movie theater that follows him provide the first real indication that things may not be exactly what they look like.

Roberts is predictably remarkable as an idealistic Bergman, especially in his long, absorbing office scenes, talking to returnee Walter Cruz (Stephen James).

Her story takes place over two separate time lines – the current day at Homecom and four years in the future, where she works as a waitress on the unforgettable coast seas.

When an investigator from the Ministry of Defense comes up with a few questions about her time at home, she is strangely reminded of almost nothing about it.

These future scenes, in which Bergman begins to try to compile the mystery of her missing memory, are filmed in almost portraiture – like what you're watching on the phone.

Once you realize that your stream does not play, that really needs to be this, it's just another part of the idiosyncratic visual style of the show.

The original podcast was brilliant because the format restrictions made it in its favor, making you feel like you were eavesdropping on your complicated phone calls and recordings of counseling.

Some of them are lost in switching to the screen – the TV version feels much louder, the kind of show you want to double watch to fully appreciate.

That's great, just in a different way.

• Homecoming is available through Amazon Prime Video now.

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