Review: Stan’s Clarice grasps at Silence of the Lambs' legend

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Streamer: Stan (from February 12)

Length: 10 x episodes (45-50 minutes each approx)

Rating: 3/5

Photo: Brooke Palmer/CBS Broadcasting
Tomas Esquivel (Lucca De Oliveira) and Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds) go to some dark, dingy places in Clarice. Photo: Stan

Here’s the thing about Jonathan Demme’s 1991 thriller The Silence of the Lambs: it’s a freakin’ masterpiece. Like, no joke, an absolutely superb movie that, if you haven’t seen it, you should immediately do so. And hell, even if you have? Maybe it’s time to watch it again.

The impact of The Silence of the Lambs on popular culture was indelible. Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Hannibal (the Cannibal) Lecter became the 90s equivalent of a meme and Jodie Foster’s star turn as rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling remains one of her most iconic roles.

Anthony Hopkins Jodie Fister Silence of the Lambs
The impact of The Silence of the Lambs on popular culture was indelible. Photo: Orion Pictures

And don’t get us started on people quoting Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) with the whole “it puts the lotion on its skin” thing. It. Was. Never. Ending.

Hell, The Silence of the Lambs was so good even the author of the book, Thomas Harris, couldn’t top it with two more Hannibal novels, both of which spawned cinematic adaptations. One, Hannibal (2001), was okay. The other, Hannibal Rising (2007), was not.

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The point is, a movie like The Silence of the Lambs doesn’t come around every day. It’s lightning in a bottle, better to be adored and respected instead of artlessly imitated. Which brings us to Clarice, a new show that continues the 30-year-old story, trying to recapture the magic.

It’s been a year since the events of The Silence of the Lambs, and Clarice Starling (now played by Aussie actress Rebecca Breeds) is suffering from severe PTSD and is happy to stay out of the limelight. This lasts approximately sixteen seconds because it appears a new serial killer is in town and Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson) insists Clarice be put on the case.

Photo: Brooke Palmer/CBS Broadcasting
Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz) has the most epic scowl on TV. Usually aimed at Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds). Photo: Stan

This does not please the leader of the VICAP team Paul Krendler (an almost unrecognisable Michael Kudlitz), and Clarice Starling must yet again prove her worth in a world run by stern, unimaginative men.

The first thing you need to know about Clarice is that it looks superb. It takes the aesthetic of the 1991 film and cranks up the hallucinatory imagery, the disturbing flashbacks and the fetishistic close-ups.

Performance-wise it’s similarly impressive, with Rebecca Breeds doing solid work (even if it occasionally feels like she’s doing Jodie Foster cosplay) and Michael Kudlitz offering nuance far beyond his walrus-moustached, sweary ranga role on The Walking Dead (miss you, Abe).

Photo: Brooke Palmer/CBS Broadcasting
Buffalo Bill survivor Catherine Martin (Marnee Carpenter) has a disturbing, visually compelling subplot in Clarice. Photo: Stan

The problem is, it simply doesn’t have the magic of The Silence of the Lambs. The first couple of episodes are engaging enough, but never come close to recapturing the brilliance of its source material.

The only time that cinema classic was (arguably) ever improved upon was with Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal TV series. That mixture of artistic gore, grand guignol and an extremely queer reimagining of everyone’s favourite serial killer was so unlike any before it, it simply had to be judged on its own merits.

Clarice, on the other hand, is a copy of a copy of a copy. It’s pretty, it’s earnest and it certainly has a red hot go, but it lacks a fresh point of view to make it an unmissable TV appointment. The fact that, for copyright reasons, it can’t even mention Hannibal Lecter by name, certainly doesn’t help either.

Clarice has potential, and perhaps (like Hannibal) it will evolve into something special over time. At the moment, however, it’s a pretty offering without much to say. An agreeable enough snack to munch on, but certainly not a rare treat to be enjoyed with fava beans and a nice chianti.

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