'Solos' Is a Complete Waste of Talent Created by David Weil
Starring Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Helen Mirren, Anthony Mackie, Uzo Aduba, Constance Wu, Dan Stevens, Nicole Beharie
Published May 25, 2021Solos! Not to be confused with Han, Hope, or the thing Eddie Van Halen does on "Eruption." This is a new Amazon series offering seven different 30-minute episodes that take place in the near future or some sort of alternate timeline. Unfortunately, we never learn much about the mildly-dystopian world where Solos is set because the focus is decidedly upon the life of a solitary protagonist. And they did not skimp on the talent here, as this series was created by the promising David Weil and features more than a couple Oscar winners.
So with all these assets, it's hard to understand why the result is not very engaging. I suspect this project was created with lockdown logistics in mind: minimal cast, set in a singular room, etc. One of the episodes tells the story of a woman (Uzo Aduba as Sasha) who has been quarantining from a global pandemic (where do they come up with this stuff?!) for over 20 years and is seemingly addicted to her isolation. Interesting concept, but poorly executed, and frankly, a little too on-the-nose for those of us trying to get through an actual pandemic.
If we're being generous, some of these episodes are reminiscent of Hitchcock. The Twilight Zone is also a decent reference point, except The Twilight Zone is fun. This is, by design, not fun. Each episode opens with Morgan Freeman as our Rod Serling as he poses a vague question like, "If you travel to the future, can you escape your past?" These murky riddles set the tone for a short story that lacks purpose or direction.
It's bizarre how much talent is wasted here. And by bizarre, I mean Helen Mirren talking to her AI spacecraft pilot (in an obvious hat tip to Kubrick) about her android stepdad and making more than one reference to her farts. Are you allowed to talk about bodily functions after you've been knighted? Either way, she's terrific as always and probably delivers the best performance of the series. Another of the stronger segments features Anthony Mackie playing Tom, as he meets a replicated doppelgänger of himself. Again, it's unclear what's going on in this story, but the banter is genuine.
There's a couple themes that pervade all of these short stories. Fatalism: almost everyone details their life from childhood to impending death. Another common thread among the characters is they've all been failed in some way by technology or a certain gadget. I'm sure there's some artistry and an inner layer to these segments, but Solos doesn't give audiences a reason to care. Despite the solid dramatic performances, this is just plain boring.
The characters are all people who are going through legitimate emotional distress, and we're all made to be voyeurs throughout the trauma. What fun! It feels like Solos is targeting an audience that mirrors the characters within its stories: someone stuck in isolation with nothing to do but lose their goddamn minds. So if that sounds like a good time, maybe start with the Peg or Tom episodes. You've been warned. (Amazon Prime)