Miniseries Review: 'Desperate Romantics' (2009)

Before his breakout turn as Captain Ross Poldark, Aidan Turner played another role that involved romancing a similarly passionate redhead in the miniseries “Desperate Romantics.” The 2009 BBC miniseries charts the rise of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group founded by a trio of artists when none were doing particularly well with their craft. What is it they say about "faking it until you make it?"

As the story evolves, scandals comprised of equal parts love, lust, and ambition challenge the group while simultaneously ushering them to new heights. This, unfortunately, includes one particularly unworthy soul.

It is hard to think of a more incorrigible character as the one presented as Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In the show, he is an egotistical madman with a mean streak that runs to staggering depths.

Life with a narcissist is only fun for the narcissist, and the frustrating part of "Desperate Romantics" is that no one ever really realizes that. You keep waiting for his comeuppance to arrive, only to have his victims fold in the wake of the slightest hint of feigned remorse. The show provides a crash course in what it is to have a relationship with such a self-involved individual, and for that, it deserves massive praise.

While "Desperate Romantics" does not tell a happy or romantic story, it has the potential to be an educational one. For those having witnessed someone fall in love with a narcissist, the mini offers an unflinching mirror of such a romance. It is an ugly and sad thing, and a show like this may be able to educate a viewer well enough to help them recognize the signs before it is too late.

As a series, “Desperate Romantics” is nicely-paced with actions and words unraveling in a steady stream. The musical score is full of personality that never grates, despite its repetitious airplay. The approach to the material is evocatively directed with unmistakable style. And the story seldom coasts for time. Thanks to a robustly cast ensemble, “Desperate Romantics” is not desperate for talented actors either.

In the role of Rossetti, Aidan Turner demonstrates the charisma that heavily figures into his characterization of Ross Poldark. While Turner buys the scoundrel time, Rossetti is presented as such a straightforward villain; Turner’s job is chiefly selling the heck out of his character’s diabolical nature, and he manages to do that with aplomb.

As Lizzie Siddal, Amy Manson brings her incredible skill to bear. Fans familiar with Manson’s magnificent work as other similarly heartbreaking characters will not be surprised by the gravity of her performance as the tragic model. Manson has one of the more layered roles in the miniseries, and she plays each beat with profound resonance.

Filled with less gallantry than “Poldark” and as many power moves as “The White Princess,” “Desperate Romantics” should satiate fans of both.

How to Watch: The miniseries is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime. If you have Netflix's mailing service, you can also order the DVDs.

Rating: 7/10

[Featured Image by BBC]

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