Directors: Damon Thomas, Paul Walker & Hans Herbots
Starring: Julia Stiles, Adrian Lester & Lena Olin
Synopsis: Riviera follows the story of Georgina Clios, the smart and resourceful second wife of a billionaire banker who dies in a yacht explosion – setting in motion a dramatic chain of events that exposes the darker flipside to Riviera’s glitz and glamour.
Rating: 15 Duration: 450 minutes Release date: 25 September (UK)
It’s a shame that Riviera isn’t a better show. There is plenty here to enjoy here, but the 10 episode long show from Sky Atlantic drags on and pushes the audiences patience further than it should. Julia Stiles does her best as an art curator who falls for Anthony LaPaglia’s smug billionaire, but the show has too many characters doing very little and perhaps would have benefited from a less is more approach.
Of course, less is more seems somewhat ironic when you spend even five minutes with Riviera. An expansive and expensive cast has been assembled in Julia Stiles, Lena Olin, Adrian Lester, Amr Waked and Iwan Rheon. Then there’s the James Bond style opening credits and the over the top theme song which should tell you all you need to know about this show. The setting does indeed look bloody lovely, but it must have cost a small fortune to film here. Also, there are helicopters, car chases, stunning shots of the coast and more money than a Premier League football club would know what to do with. Looking good is one thing, but there’s a vacuous undertone that is exposed early on and may put off viewers who are thinking of sticking around for the long haul.
Much like The Night Manager, Rivera is sumptuous to look at, but isn’t anywhere near as compelling. What starts off well soon falls into some familiar genre tropes. At the same time, there is a sense that little in the way of fun will be had here. Plenty of the dialogue feels clunky and unnatural, while the disdain the entire Clios family has for each other seeps its way into the audience. Younger brother Christos (Dimitri Leonidas) is a junky womaniser who likes to compare the art game to the Wild West as if it were some last resort for rebels and vagabonds looking for a thrill. His sister Adriana (Roxane Duran) is depressed in the way only people with unlimited money, no commitments and no threat of having to work for a living can be. While eldest sibling Adam (Rheon) has a penchant for his mother-in-law and who must have some secret to hide from everyone.
Fortunately, there are some saving graces here. Amr Waked’s determined police officer and his Interpol counterpart played by Phil Davis bring a rugged appeal and determination to Riviera and allow some real-world logic to play out. Likewise, Adrian Lester is best friend to Georgina (Stiles) and lends the show a charm it was otherwise lacking. Lena Olin’s Irina brings added class and gives the audience something to chew over. Stiles maintains a steely eye throughout, but you do wonder how much her character earns the arc that the shows creators throw her way.
Riviera is not a bad show at all, in fact some of it is quite enjoyable. It just lacks the spark to really kick on and ends up feeling very average. In a world populated by “must-watch” TV shows, average simply will not do.
- Interview with Julia Stiles