It takes a lot to get an audience these days. Desensitized is perhaps the best word to describe your average viewer. Catatonic could be another. Judging by the barrage of true crime series and thrillers – each more depraved than the last – the only antidote to this dormant state seems to be buckets of blood and a good jump scare. Within nine minutes of the first episode pieces of her delivers both.
This new crime thriller is, as all Netflix shows seem to be these days, an adaptation of a best-selling novel. In this case one by the aptly named Karin Slaughter. But back to the opening nine minutes: Toni Collette plays Laura Oliver, a mild-mannered mother celebrating her daughter’s 30th birthday when a crazed gunman attacks the restaurant. Without pausing, she jumps to her feet and slits his throat as if nothing happened. As easy as julienning a carrot. But this act of hometown heroism brings unwanted fame with it. Suddenly her face is on every news channel across the country – and Laura is on the run from a forgotten enemy.
Toni Collette is Toni Collette. As always, the Oscar nominee is well worth seeing. When she’s not on screen, you wish she was. But the focus here is on her daughter Andy (Bella Heathcote), who, on her mother’s orders, flees home with a suitcase full of cash, a Rolodex of fake IDs and the nagging question Who exactly is my mother? The answer is slowly uncorked over eight episodes – thanks in part to Andy’s investigative skills, but mostly through a young Laura’s (Jessica Barden) tense flashbacks.
Traveling between timelines has become a requirement for this type of thriller, but while other, more successful shows such as The sinner made the audience grasp at every fragment of memory that was given to us, these sequences pieces of her are tiresome detours from an interesting present. It doesn’t help that the flashbacks become more and more frequent as the show progresses. The later episodes are bloated. Both figuratively (the story becomes oddly tiresome the more it is fleshed out) and literally (the first episode lasts 44 minutes; the finale lasts over an hour).
The series has several genuinely shocking and well-executed twists that actually cut through the haze of passive watching we’re so used to. And maybe this adrenaline rush is enough, because during pieces of her is not a very good show, it will probably be #1 on Netflix for the next week. At least.
Pieces Of Her is out March 4th
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/pieces-of-her-netflix-toni-collette-b2027688.html Pieces of Her Review: Toni Collette is the best thing about this bloated Netflix thriller