Archie review: Jason Isaacs stars in ITVX Cary Grant biopic

Drama explains how Archibald Leach transformed himself into one of Hollywood's biggest stars

Jason Isaacs takes on a tough role in 'Archie'
Jason Isaacs takes on a tough role in 'Archie'
(Image credit: itv.com)

Cary Grant starred in some of cinema's "most cherished, enduring classics", from "The Philadelphia Story" to "North by Northwest", said Dan Einav in the FT. "Yet Cary Grant was, in a sense, merely a part" played by Archibald Leach: an anxious, unhappy man who'd created his debonair persona "as a means of escaping from himself". As the actor famously said: "Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant." 

"Archie", ITVX's new four-part drama, explains how the boy born into extreme poverty in Bristol, to a depressive mother and a cruel and feckless father, transformed himself into one of Hollywood's biggest and best-loved stars. 

Jason Isaacs was given lashings of fake tan and facial prosthetics to play Grant, said Carol Midgley in The Times. He captures his "strange mid-Atlantic voice" very well, but it was always going to be a tough job: "a performance of a performance of a performance". We see Isaac's Grant mainly in the early 1960s, when he is courting and then married to Dyan Cannon, and in 1986, when he is looking back on his life.  

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The best scenes, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph, are those in which he returns to Bristol to visit the mother (beautifully played by Harriet Walter) he thought had died decades earlier. It would have been interesting to explore this complicated relationship further. Instead, the drama is mostly set in sunny California. Alas, the Hollywood of that era is not recreated all that convincingly, which lends the mini-series a feeling of "cheap artifice". 

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