Created by Nick Antosca and Michelle Dean and currently streaming on Amazon Prime‘s StarzPlay channel (which you can currently get for 99p for three months), The Act is based on the true story of Gypsy Blanchard (Joey King) and her overprotective mother, Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette). Gypsy has been told her whole life that she is critically ill and wheelchair-bound, but soon begins to realise that her mother, who is suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, has been lying to her. Eager to gain her independence and escape the toxic relationship with her mother, Gypsy opens a Pandora’s box of secrets, one that ultimately leads to her mother’s murder.
Overall Season Rating:
Having watched a few documentaries about this story already, including HBO’s Mommy Dead and Dearest, I knew a lot about this insane story beforehand. This dramatisation is a brilliant retelling of the true-crime, sticking closely to the facts and playing out exactly as I had imagined it to when listening to Gypsy’s story.
What makes this story so intriguing is the diagnosis of Dee-Dee who has Munchausen by proxy. It’s the kind of mental illness that you find almost impossible to sympathise with, but it’s one that can take over a person so traumatically, making it difficult not to feel heartachingly sad for all involved.
And that’s what invests you into this true story so much, as you don’t know if either of these people deserve your sympathy. Dee-Dee’s actions are extreme but at least she has an illness that somewhat excuses her mindset, whilst you would normally expect to understand Gypsy’s response, but her actions are just as unforgivable as she soon transforms into someone just as manipulative and deceitful.
It really is a messed up story; a real-life horror that you would hope to never witness in any way for yourself. However, the series does give a great insight into the illness, using flashbacks to show how Dee-Dee’s worries first began to play on her mind.
Patricia Arquette and Joey King give phenomenal performances as the mother and daughter, really getting into the heads of their characters to make the audience both sympathise and despise them at different times, emphasising the conflict of their motives with their actions.
With Chloë Sevigny and Calum Worthy also giving great support, they all help to tell this almost-unbelievable story brilliantly. King, especially, completely embraces the role of the high-pitched, physically and mentally tormented young Gypsy, showing the two very different sides to her personality – the fragile girl who has unknowingly been abused her whole life, and the suddenly more independent teenager who uses her newfound confidence to takes things into her own hands.
The first in a seasonal anthology series that tells startling, stranger-than-fiction true crime stories, I would be eager to watch more of these if they are this well told and acted. The Act is a great quality series and a story that you won’t easily forget about.