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Variety ‘Alias Grace’ Review

It’s hard to not compare Netflix’s “Alias Grace” with that other streaming platform’s adaptation of a Margaret Atwood novel, Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The Hulu series, starring Elisabeth Moss, debuted just this past April; “Alias Grace” premieres at the Toronto Film Festival Sept. 14 and then on Netflix Nov. 3. For fans of Atwood, being suddenly blessed with two weighty productions within six months of each other is a rare gift.

Though there are obvious similarities between the two — it is almost funny, that both stories focus on one particular wide-eyed white woman wearing a demure cap — they are quite different interpretations of Atwood’s prose. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a drama, softens the brutality of the plot with exceptional, masterful visuals. “Alias Grace,” a miniseries, is much less cinematically adventurous, but much more narratively complex. This is in part due to the vast difference between the two Atwood novels. “The Handmaid’s Tale” presents a dystopia; “Alias Grace” is a piece of postmodern historical fiction — one that incorporates fragments of actual historical record with first-person narration and epistolary structure. The patchwork narrative is brilliantly deliberate, because throughout the book, Grace is piecing together quilts.

It makes for a story that is a lot more challenging to bring to life than its staid setting in Victorian Canada might appear. For a book that is essentially un-adaptable, though, “Alias Grace” presents a remarkably faithful and dazzlingly complex portrait of servant girl Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a real-life “celebrated murderess” who was found guilty and imprisoned, at 16, for the killing of her master and mistress. The details of what exactly happened cannot easily be summarized, because questions remain to this day — about her intent, her involvement, and the story’s primary concern, her character. “Alias Grace” is an attempt to understand her, but the viewer will likely find, by the end, that that attempt raises more questions than it answers.

“Alias Grace” introduces us to Grace through the attentions of Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), an early practitioner of what we now call psychiatry. Dr. Jordan’s mission is to investigate whether Grace is now insane, or was insane at the time of the murders, as that might be an avenue to pardon her. At first Grace is skeptical of his questions, but as she grows more comfortable, her story expands. But, counter-intuitively, the more she says, the less clear it is what she actually means. “Alias Grace” is built around the unrelenting ambiguity of its protagonist, and it manages the Herculean effort of making a six-part miniseries thrum with that same sense of being adrift in a woman’s story without having any idea of who she really is.
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Buzz for ‘Alias Grace’ makes Toronto’s Sarah Gadon feel like a “silly pretender”

By 3:45 on Wednesday, Sarah Gadon and Edward Holcroft had been shuffled around Toronto’s new Bisha Hotel by publicists for hours.

It was the last day before the TIFF premiere of Alias Grace — the new miniseries from CBC and Netflix, based on Margaret Atwood’s Giller Prize-winning novel of the same name. And despite the co-stars’ glittering résumés, for Toronto-born Gadon, doing the whole press-and-publicity dance in her hometown is weird.

“I woke up today in my own bed, then I go put on some fancy clothes and go around a hotel,” said Gadon, 30, who was named one of TIFF’s “Rising Stars” in 2012. “It makes me feel like a silly pretender.”

Her family would be in the audience for Thursday’s premiere at the Winter Garden Theatre. More likely than not, she added, she’d know the festival volunteers working the event.

“It’s kind of like being the home team playing the home game,” she said.

And though their newest project is a brooding, gothic take on the real-life 19th-century story of accused murderer Grace Marks, Gadon and Holcroft’s interactions were light and teasing on Wednesday afternoon.

Read the full article on The Star.

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THR ‘Alias Grace’ Review

Writer Sarah Polley, director Mary Harron and star Sarah Gadon deliver a twisty tale of murder and transgressive femininity in Netflix’s Margaret Atwood adaptation.
With its Margaret Atwood pedigree, concealing bonnets and backdrop of a society in which women are either decorative or chattel, there will be an instinct to compare Netflix and CBC’s miniseries Alias Grace to Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

It’s an instinct best avoided, because for all of the ways in which The Handmaid’s Tale is bombastic and incendiary, Alias Grace is internalized and simmering and harder to instantly mobilize around. Consistently literate, thoughtful and insinuating, the mini also boasts an intriguing and deliberately evasive lead performance by Sarah Gadon, work that again probably shouldn’t be compared to the juggernaut that is Elisabeth Moss’ Handmaid’s Tale work.

So from here on, there will be no more references to Handmaid’s Tale.

Written in its entirety by Sarah Polley and directed in its entirety by Mary Harron, the six-episode Alias Grace won’t air until Nov. 3 on Netflix, but had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and will launch on Sept. 25 on CBC. I’ve seen the entire miniseries.
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The wonder women behind Alias Grace’s TV adaptation
Filed in Alias Grace Gallery Updates Interviews

The wonder women behind Alias Grace’s TV adaptation

I meet Sarah Gadon at the Drake Hotel. The first thing I ask the Alias Grace star after we pick a table and order some snacks: “Have you Googled Grace Marks?”

She shoots me an amused “Well, duh” look. Of course she’s Googled the 19th-century Irish-Canadian maid convicted of murder, sparking fierce debate regarding her innocence and pardoned after being incarcerated for nearly three decades.

Google was the basic first step in Gadon’s extensive research on her Alias Grace character, which included reading and re-reading the Margaret Atwood novel that the miniseries is based on; learning how to perform tasks like cooking, cleaning and sewing in the exacting ways a 19th-century housemaid would have performed them; and practicing a Northern Irish accent to the point that it gave her migraines because the “tight-jawed” dialect worked muscles in ways most of us never have to.

Gadon spent many sleepless nights preparing for the role, and would sometimes have to go for a run just to sweat off the anxiety.

But what I meant was: Has she Googled Grace Marks recently?

Gadon whips out her phone and there at the top of the search is the Wikipedia entry for Marks, with an accompanying picture. But the image is not a likeness of a 19th-century Irish maid. Instead, it’s a glamour shot of Gadon with flowing platinum-blond curls.

As far as the Interweb is concerned, Gadon is now the face of Grace Marks, the historical figure consumed by the actor interpreting her in the 21st century. According to Gadon, Grace consumed her, too.

“This role has kind of taken over my life,” says Gadon, who wrapped post-production on the series just a month before our mid-July meeting.
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The Globe and Mail: Alias Sarah

The multi-faceted Sarah Gadon tells Randi Bergman how she tackled a uniquely complex role in the latest Margaret Atwood screen adaptation.

As a Canadian woman, it’s hard not to worship at the altar of Margaret Atwood. But lately, her pre-digital prose has felt like sustenance for a new generation of feminists persisting in a precarious era for women’s rights. Hulu’s television adaption of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has struck a chord, inspiring new dialogue and even protests with its dystopian depiction of womanhood under theocratic rule. The forthcoming Alias Grace, a CBC and Netflix miniseries based on Atwood’s novel of the same name, feels equally timely.

Alias Grace tells the story of a 19th-century maid, Grace Marks, who was convicted and then later pardoned for the double murder of her employer and his mistress. Through Atwood’s interpretation of real-life events, Marks becomes an enigmatic mix of murderer and metaphor for the female experience. Written and produced by Sarah Polley, the series represents a shift for the CBC, whose earlier portrayals of Canadian Victorian life (à la Polley’s pastoral debut in Road to Avonlea) could be considered reductive. Alias Grace, on the other hand, is more nuanced. Case-in-point, its protagonist’s plea in the opening episode: “I’d rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are the only choices.”

The narrative of a complicated woman seems just what the world needs right now, and actor Sarah Gadon, who portrays Grace Marks in the six-part series that debuts on the CBC on Sept. 25, is ready for the challenge. I meet the 30-year-old on a discreet café patio in Toronto’s Summerhill neighbourhood on a summer Sunday afternoon. Fresh faced and with her hair pulled back, Gadon’s striking, Hollywood-ready beauty explains why she was plucked from relative obscurity to star in an Armani Beauty campaign in 2015. She’s magnetic, inquisitive and palpably excited about Alias Grace and, as she describes it, “the task of trying to crack Grace.”

“I got so wrapped up in whether she did [commit murder] or not and the various layers of preparation, that I’d wind myself up into this ball of anxiety that I would just need to go for a run,” she says of preparing for the role.
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The Globe and Mail ‘Alias Grace’ Mini Review

Alias Grace

Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel will get a full review when it airs on CBC and everyone can see it. A “CBC original,” and with involvement from Netflix – which will stream it in other markets – it arrives at a fortuitous time. However, the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale is, for many people, the cultural event of 2017 and the impact of Alias Grace will likely pale in comparison. It’s a period piece, very 19th-century Canada and packed with familiar Canadian actors. What might make it truly impactful – and this is without reviewing its substance – is an audaciously seething performance by Sarah Gadon as the title character, Grace Marks. Grace is accused of murder and it’s Gadon’s job to convey the inner workings of her mind, which she does with power. You can’t take your eyes off her. Whatever else might be happening in the multihour miniseries, Gadon enters your head and stays there.

Source: The Globe and Mail