Rot un­der a ve­neer of beauty

Like Jes­sica Marais plays eye candy with in­ner tur­moil, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

IT’S long been a tenet of good sto­ry­telling that some­thing ugly, mean or dis­tress­ing can be found hid­ing be­hind a beau­ti­ful fa­cade.

For the lat­est ex­am­ple of this, look no fur­ther than Magic City, the new drama air­ing on pay-TV chan­nel SoHo.

At first glance, ev­ery­thing looks per­fect at the five-star Mi­ra­mar Playa Ho­tel, a lux­ury es­tab­lish­ment lo­cated on some of the best waterfront prop­erty Mi­ami circa 1959 has to of­fer.

Ev­ery­thing looks per­fect for the king of this cas­tle, Ike Evans (Jef­frey Dean Mor­gan), who has cre­ated this trop­i­cal play­ground from the ground up, mak­ing it the primo des­ti­na­tion for the movers and shak­ers of the era (Frank Si­na­tra is booked to ap­pear on New Year’s Eve).

Things are coming up roses for Ike per­son­ally as well – a wid­ower, he’s found love again with stun­ning young Vera (Bond girl Olga Kurylenko). His three chil­dren seem the pic­ture of health, hap­pi­ness and con­tent­ment.

But as any­one who has watched a TV se­ries in the past cou­ple of decades can sur­mise, any­thing that looks this good on the out­side has to have a lit­tle rot at the core. And that’s the case in Magic City.

Here’s Ike’s big­gest prob­lem: the volatile, ra­pa­cious mob­ster Ben Di­a­mond (Danny Hus­ton, a master at play­ing smil­ing sharks). To get the Mi­ra­mar Playa built the way he wanted it, Ike sold Ben 49 per cent of the place – it’s never a smart move to sell a large part of your dream to some­one nick­named ‘‘The Butcher’’.

Now Ben wants more of an in­ter­est in the ho­tel, by which he means all of it. While Ike may ap­pear like any an­other sharp-dressed busi­ness­man, he has a fair few skele­tons in his closet. He’s not afraid of get­ting rough to keep his dream alive.

Throw in a few com­pli­ca­tions – such as the dan­ger­ous at­trac­tion be­tween Ike’s son Ste­vie (James Franco looka­like Steven Strait), Mi­ami’s res­i­dent Romeo, and Ben’s new wife Lily (Jes­sica Marais).

Given Ben’s pre­vi­ous wives have ‘‘ac­ci­den­tally’’ passed away in mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances, th­ese two fool­ing around un­der the nose of The Butcher prob­a­bly isn’t smart play.

Lily is played by Packed to the Rafters star Jes­sica Marais. With­out sound­ing too sleazy, this is a far more re­veal­ing role than Rachel Rafter ever was but Marais goes above and be­yond mak­ing Lily mere eye candy – there’s a dark, dam­aged qual­ity to the char­ac­ter the Aussie ac­tress con­veys ter­ri­bly well.

She’s one of the bet­ter as­pects of Magic City, which over­all is a bit un­even. The per­for­mances are solid across the board, with Mor­gan’s rock-solid, un­der­stated work mak­ing Ike a fas­ci­nat­ing cen­tral char­ac­ter. But some of the other characters come across as a lit­tle cliched, although there are indi­ca­tions they’ll gain depth and di­men­sion as the se­ries pro­gresses.

One hopes that’ll also be the case with Magic City as a whole. It takes place in a truly in­ter­est­ing era and mi­lieu, one that al­lows for in­trigu­ing sto­ry­lines on sev­eral dif­fer­ent lev­els, but early on it seems to hope au­di­ences en­joy the view more than any­thing else.

My rec­om­men­da­tion? Stay tuned. Things look set to heat up in Mi­ami.

Wed­nes­days, 8.30pm, SoHo.

Jes­sica Marais stars in

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