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Interview with the Vampire Review: AMC’s TV Adaptation of Anne Rice’s Novel Is Unexpectedly Funny and Improves the Film – And Then Some

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Anne Rice’s 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire brings with it a lot of notoriety and an established following, but also considerable baggage from the disastrous 1994 film that miscast Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt twins. You can’t blame audiences for being suspicious of AMC’s eight-episode adaptation, but I’m here to tell you: let all of that go. The series is boldly written, tonally confident and unexpectedly funny. Yes, funny. I know!

The show is penned by Rolin Jones, whose credits include everything from drama Boardwalk Empire to musical Smash to comedy Life in Pieces. It’s a resume that might appeal to an interest – and ability – with a variety of genres. This benefits Interview and AMC is clearly pleased with the results; The show has already been renewed for a second season.

A number of important changes have been made in this version. Louis de Pointe du Lac remains the garrulous vampire of the title, but instead of being a white plantation and slave owner in late 18th-century Louisiana when he got that fateful bite in the neck, he’s now the black one – Creole, to be precise – Owner of several brothels in New Orleans in the early 20th century.

But first: The story begins in the here and now, in a world where the pandemic exists. Journalist Daniel Molloy is curled up at home morosely, watching an advertisement for an online course he’s running, which is basically a MasterClass clone: ​​”I’ve been fired from three newspapers, got hired from two, the third was from Knight devoured. Ridder – to be clear here, I’m a goddamn reservoir of do’s and don’ts.” I wasn’t expecting to laugh during the opening moments of this show! But it has such a sly and knowing sense of humor.

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Played by Eric Bogosian, Daniel is a brilliant cast. He’s cranky and sardonic and jaded. He has seen everything. And only an invitation from Louis – whom he had interviewed once half a century before; Nothing ever came of these tapes because the interview was just too much strange – is able to pierce Daniel’s smug grudge and get him on a plane to Dubai, whose curiosity is piqued.

Here we find Louis, played by Jacob Anderson, in a performance that elicits far more interesting things from him than his stoic turn as Gray Worm in Game of Thrones.

Nestled in a fully equipped modernist penthouse, Louis proposes a renovation. Daniel is skeptical. The conversations on those old tapes that brought you together so long ago? “This is not an interview, this is a fever dream being told to an idiot.” Yes, Louis replies. So let’s start again. The two may be suspicious of each other, but they’re also driven by their own motivation to push through — whatever This is. Their interplay, a series of saves back and forth, is terrific.

And so Daniel presses “record” again. We are transported to the year 1910 and immerse ourselves in the world of Louis. He has a family that adores him – if not his job, which supports them all very well. His devout brother says they benefit from the damnation of souls. “Let’s not fuss about the details,” says her mother. Oh, this show is bitter about human nature and the way the rich are quick to turn a blind eye to the “details” of how their wealth is created.

Louis knows not to appear weak. Not in his shop, not in this part of town. And yet it’s a delicate balance; He is surrounded by a cadre of insufferable but well-connected racists who can meddle with his money and expect his homage at any moment.

Handsome and confident, Louis knows his place in the world. He has close family ties. And while he may have an anger beneath the surface, he’s not ripe for the harvest.

That’s what makes him so attractive to Lestat de Lioncourt, the vampire playboy who recently arrived from France.

Lestat, played by Sam Reid, is smooth and urbane, his voice full of lust – or sometimes boredom – and he unashamedly flirts with Louis. care for him, really. Reid’s Lestat has a languid John Malkovich quality, and the original’s homoerotic subtext is now complete text. Lestat is infatuated; Louis is enchanted. You don’t hold back.

Then tragedy strikes. Louis is overcome with guilt and grief and suddenly he’s vulnerable to Lestat’s vampiric selling point – in a Catholic church of all places, “happily ever after a priest’s murder,” as Daniel flatly suggests.

“Interview with the Vampire” cleverly exploits the luxury of time that a TV series allows. It doesn’t fall into the noncommittal trap of colorblind casting, but makes the story specific to Louis and specific in its depiction of black culture in New Orleans. And we get to know our central couple as they are together, in a meaningful way, before they become involved in an arrangement that ends up akin to a bickering marriage. They’re never quite the same, but Lestat is only seductive to look at if a predatory character who doesn’t adjust well to disappointment is to sell her story short. “There was a way about him, those first years, preternaturally charming, occasionally thoughtful,” Louis tells Daniel. “He was my killer, my mentor, my lover, and my maker.” Her primary source of tension: Louis’s distaste for killing (“I was a fumbling, desperate killer, a botched vampire”) and Lestat’s full-blown enjoyment of it. There’s real love in here. Relationships like this usually exist, which is what makes them so toxic.

And so, to bridge their dissatisfaction, they bring 14-year-old Claudia into their world, played by a sprightly Bailey Bass, whose diary entries provide a whimsical sense of humor all of their own. She’s young and stubborn, but she’s not exactly tragic — although in another sense she absolutely is. By turning her into a vampire, Uncle Les and Daddy Lou have doomed her to a permanent existence in a youthful body with no one around, so to speak, of her “kind” to fall in love with.

This is where the series loses some traction. Louis is an unreliable narrator, so his point of view is one of resentment. But vampires, we learn, have powers: the ability to stop time or read minds. speed. It feels like a lack of imagination giving Louis powers that he so seldom uses strategically. Someone who’s spent all these years swallowing racism wouldn’t be tempted to level the playing field a bit? For real? Because this mind-reading trick is handy, and while Lestat may be a hedonist, Louis sees a bigger picture. Anyway, a missed opportunity.

There are other weaknesses in the story. We get a glimpse of Daniel’s notes on his laptop where he’s pondering the logistics of Louis’ maids in Dubai fully aware they’re being employed by a vampire: “NDA?????? How do these regulations work? How much $$??? I appreciate him asking these questions! But that doesn’t get around the fact that the show isn’t particularly keen on answering them.

Well so what. “Interview with the Vampire” is visually rich (New Orleans has never looked so gorgeous, even in its seediest corners) and is just so strikingly fun to write in a way that’s unusual on television. “When I first started learning English, I loathed it,” says Lestat, “every word felt like a doorknob falling out of my mouth.” Or how he teaches Louis to read minds: “Every human thought comes up three things: I want to eat. I want sex. I want to go home.” This show has jokes! Or when Lestat is struggling to understand why Louis chose a particular victim: “You’re a library of confusion,” he says, genuinely stunned.

An entire Anne Rice television universe is in the works at AMC, and depending on your feelings about Hollywood’s obsession with intellectual property—the IP-ization of every title imaginable—you’ll either find the words “Anne Rice television universe” intriguing or something else. I’ll reserve judgment for now, but if upcoming shows come anywhere close to the high quality of “Interview,” I find that to be quite a bit more intriguing than any number of other major genre book adaptations (Cough “The House of the Dragon” Cough “The Rings of Power”).

Stay tuned to the end credits for “Interview” as composer Daniel Hart’s music is absolutely gorgeous. But it’s the short title sequence that really packs a punch. It sounds a bit like an orchestra tuning in, which is fitting: what’s to come is a symphony of clashing personalities locked in a dramatic and gory embrace.

“Interview with a Vampire” – 3.5 stars (of 4)

Where to see: 9 p.m. Sundays on AMC (and streaming on AMC+)

Nina Metz is a Tribune critic

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