Coastal Elites is a 2020 TV special on HBO that is directed by Jay Roach, written by Paul Rudnick and starring Kaitlyn Dever, Dan Levy, Bette Midler, Sarah Paulson and Issa Rae.
Five desperate confessions
Coastal Elites consists of five segments featuring five different people who, basically, rant about the Trump administration and everything happening around them, while isolating themselves amidst the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a take at different people, with very different lives, in different situations talking about all that is going on around them and how frustrated they are with the world.
Coastal Elites was supposed to be a Broadway show before the pandemic hit. And thus, with theatres still shut, it was brought to the small screen. The actors are great and show a lot of heart and skill in their short skits. It mostly feels like these five people are talking to you – directly staring at you while they talk about their frustrations. It’s all shot super up-close-but-not-really, so you will get a very personal look at these people. Every move, every eye-brow raise is captured by the audience. It feels like they are directly talking to us – like the actors and we are having a personal conversation, and you’re listening to a friend rant.
However, Costal Elites does not feel too up-close-and-personal most of time. Sure, if I was ranting to a friend over a Zoom call about something, I’d also probably be all over the place. However, the movie feels more of like a list of things ticked off, that need to be talked about when it comes to the government than actual confessions. Among these five, Dan Levy and Kaitlyn Dever’s segments resonated the most with me, since it actually was about something concrete. Issa Rae’s segment also had its moments. The other two were kinda about everything and nothing.
The first segment is called Lock Her Up and it features Bette Midler as an Upper West Side retired teacher named Miriam, who is talking to a police officer. Midler talks about her frustrations with the Trump administration and how people who support him and his government infuriate her. Midler shows finesse in the short time she is given. However, the script fails to treat her character as an actual person, and it’s just one thing after another that you’d expect from someone who is anti-Trump. Also, unlike the other characters, this one takes place in a police station, where it’s a little implausible for someone to rant in this way. It just feels very superficial.
The second segment, starring Dan Levy, called Supergay, is about Mark, an out-and-proud gay actor, who rants to this therapist about the hypocrisy in the industry about casting “too gay” actors. He’s waiting for a call for a movie about a gay superhero. It’s a great segment, and the only one I really enjoyed (although the abrupt addition of Mike Pence felt a little out of character). Levy is such a great actor. You can literally hear and see his every emotion and frustration. The small chuckles, the exasperated sighs – it’s all there and out. And he makes a very relevant and important point about inclusivity and being, well, “too gay”.
The third segment, starring Issa Rae, titled The Blonde Cloud, is pretty great when it comes to its funny elements. It makes you laugh sometimes, as Rae describes how her character, Callie, and her father were whisked off to the White House. Once there, she was asked by Ivanka to work with her and technically be her “human shield” as the former took a back seat from the hard work. The segment had its moments of laughs, however, Rae would have benefited from a stronger script. She has such a great screen presence, and it was great to watch her talking about racism and how it’s being trivialised by the government.
The fourth segment, starring Sarah Paulson, titled Because I Have to Tell Someone, is a bit of a let-down. I like Paulson as an actor, and she is great as a woman who couldn’t take her MAGA hat-wearing, climate-change-denying family for a minute. However, the story isn’t really about her and is more about her reaction to her family. The addition of the part where her father rages about how he cannot stand the fact that Trump called American soldiers who died in war “losers” seemed very detached from the entire skit, and lacked much depth.
The last segment titled President Miriam and starring Kaitlyn Dever, is about a nurse named Sharynn who has come to New York City to help with the rising amount of COVID patients. This is the only segment that absolutely talks about the pandemic, and Dever’s monotonous, tired voice and acting is honestly great and really shows how absolutely drained she is after a 14-hour shift. We don’t know whom she is talking to, maybe she’s recording it for herself. But it is really heartfelt, and is kinda moving.
Summing up: Coastal Elites
Coastal Elites is a movie which is essentially a rant by people frustrated with the current state of the world and the country. You can change the name of the people in power, and it’d probably still be relevant in your scenario. However, barring a few, there were not a lot of moments that hit home and you tend to feel confused during the dragged-out bits. There’s also the factor that all of these people are one-way-or-the-other privileged, and that seems to make the rants a bit superficial – but that might just be me. Acting’s superb though, and I felt that the quarantine filming technique adds quite a bit when it comes to the intimacy factor.
Coastal Elites is streaming on HBO.
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