Rot under a veneer of beauty
Like Jessica Marais plays eye candy with inner turmoil, writes
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