Earth, Great Britain, London, Covent Garden, today. Older gay men Freddie Thornhill (Ian McKellen) and Stuart Bixby (Derek Jacobi) have been living together in this apartment for forty-eight years. Freddie did not have a very impressive acting career, but he still has something to brag about: his character from the popular Doctor Who series was in tenth place in the list of the most popular television villains, and once he even starred in an advertisement with Judi Danch.
The money earned in the glorious acting times, Freddie is enough for life, the maintenance of their nice apartment and the maintenance of Stuart himself, which Stuart is constantly reproached with. Stewart is also entrusted with the role of a servant “for everything”: Stewart cooks, cleans and cares for their dog, who is preparing to move into another world from old age and disease.
Freddie and Stuart are also well aware that they themselves can go to another world at any moment, but they do not lose heart and look at everything in life through the prism of sarcastic irony. Freddie especially succeeds in this, who loves to spy on Stuart for any reason and even without it. What annoys Freddie the most is the fact that in just forty-eight years Stuart never bothered to tell his mother that he was living with a man. Well, it just didn’t seem like the right moment, you understand… However, Stuart won’t go into his pocket for an answer and also quite caustically teases Freddie.
The couple have an old friend, Violet Crosby (Frances de la Tour). She is about two hundred and fifty years old, like Freddie and Stewart, but Violet is still hoping to meet the love of her life. She is very loving and ready to molest any man, regardless of his age.
At some point, Thornhill and Bixby had a neighbor: a young boy, Ash Weston (Ivan Rheon), who settled in an apartment on the top floor. Ash is a straight man, but he likes to spend time in the company of Freddie and Stuart, who take care of Ash in every possible way and give advice on how to behave with girls: well, they themselves are great experts in this.
Ash is constantly pestered by Violet, and it takes great effort to reject her love without hurting the feelings of the lady, because she is very, very vulnerable.
From time to time, Mason (Philip Voss) and Penelope (Marsha Warren) come to visit Freddie and Stewart. Mason and Freddie are constantly arguing, and Penelope is in some insanity and does not always understand where she is at all.
The British series, inspired, as the creators themselves said, by the provocative and even hooligan film of 1969 “The Ladder”, where the role of a gay couple was played by Richard Burton and Rex Harrison. For the 69th year, the topic was frankly scandalous, and the film failed at the box office, but the creators of the series, Gary Janetti and Mark Ravenhill, considered that in two thousand and thirteen, two elderly gay men would hardly surprise anyone.
Two openly gay men Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi were invited to play the lead roles. Yes, yes, they both have knighthoods – Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Knight Bachelor – for their merits in the field of theatrical acting.
“Sinners” is a sitcom: a situation comedy accompanied by an off-screen reaction from the audience. (Let me remind you that in the UK and the USA, off-screen laughter in sitcoms is completely natural: it is recorded from the live reaction of the audience.)
Almost all of the action in the first season takes place in Thornhill’s apartment. Freddie and Stuart bicker with each other in a very funny way and are distracted from this activity only when someone comes to visit them and they can jointly begin to spoof the newcomer (who has come).
McKellen portrays a bilious, but at the same time quite good-looking old man, who grumbles out of habit: continuous bickering brings a pleasant revival to their monotonous life, and besides, these bickering show that even after forty-eight years of living together, they are not indifferent to each other and in fact in fact, they are very attached to each other.
Jacobi’s Stewart is such a mannered gay gay with an emotional manner of speaking, characteristic intonations and clapping his hands. At the same time, the character is not a cartoon and is also quite cute.
It’s funny, of course, that two titled Shakespearean theater actors play such roles, but this once again shows both their skill and their inherent self-irony. (I remember how Ian McKellen came to Jimmy Fallon’s on Saturday Night Live in a women’s dress and rocked it to the fullest.)
It was very unusual to see Ivan Rheon in the role of a handsome and slightly infantile kid after Simon Bellamy in “Bad” (that’s what they called Misfits on IMDB) and especially after the completely infernal Ramsey Bolton in “Game of Thrones”, but the wider his acting range is: he pulls off both nightmarish sadistic villains and characters like Ash with ease.
Violet, played by Frances de la Tour, sometimes slips some gestures characteristic of Ian McKellen, and this is very funny. There is no intentional copying there, all this is rather at the level of sensations, but the character also turned out to be interesting.
The main charm of the first season is in the dialogues, which are really very, very funny. I gave one example in the epigraphs, and it is better to listen to the rest by yourself performed by these wonderful actors. There is a voiceover from the Jaskier studio in torrents – in my opinion, it is very decent: both the translation is of high quality and the sound is very good, it is quite possible to watch.
Now a word of caution. This series also has a second season of six episodes. I watched it in its entirety. And I must warn you that, in my opinion, the second season is better not to watch at all. I don’t know what the reason is, but I got the impression that in the second season, the writers changed dramatically, although they still seemed to be Gary Janetti and Mark Ravenhill.
But if the first season is really subtle British humor, then the second season in style at times approaches American comedies of a rather bad sort, and this spoils the impression of the first season. There is also the first episode – back and forth, when Freddie has to pretend to be a servant during the visit of Violet’s sister. But the second episode, where Freddie and Stuart go to fitness, is already very so-so, and then everything goes downhill, to the finale ending in a fun wedding, in which Stuart’s mother merrily peeped herself, farting before her death. (I’m not kidding.) Although, of course, I do not argue that repeatedly throwing a cake in the face is always funny. It’s just a joke that doesn’t get boring. But she has nothing to do with subtle British humor.
So I can fully recommend watching the first season and I recommend not watching the second, just so as not to spoil the impression. The second also has some funny moments, but the style and approach are so different that it’s better not to risk it. I’ll probably re-watch the first one – to smooth out the impressions of the second season.
Sinners / Vicious serie meaning
Director: Gary Gianetti, Mark Ravenhill Cast: Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Frances de la Tour, Ivan Rheon, Marcia Warren, Philip Voss, Alexandra Roach, Georgia King, Christopher Villiers, Hazel Douglas
Series, UK, 2013, 23 min. 7 episodes, two seasons