Cumberbatch’s ‘Melrose’ Tour de Force

patrickmelroseheader-1024x675When a character so fully dissipated in drink and drug, thrashing about the screen, throwing things and muttering darkly about how unbearable life is, it helps when the difficult personality is inhabited with as much wit, insight and humor as Benedict Cumberbatch gives it in “Patrick Melrose” (Showtime, 9 p.m.).

Each of the novels in the semi-autobiographical series by Edward St. Aubyn has been given its own  hour-long episode; they each also have their own exotic settings and time periods, as determined by story of a lad trying to survive the worst of a decaying upper crust family.

As it begins tonight, the grown Patrick flies to New York in 1980 despite a desperate heroin and alcohol addictions to confront – and celebrate – his sadistic father’s death. The reasons for his sheer hatred for his father will be unveiled in subsequent chapters, particularly next week, which concentrates on abuse in the South of France, and an indifferent, alcoholic mother.

For the opener, though, Cumberbatch is at his best — jittery, cutting, talking to all manner of internal voices, upsetting hifalutin restaurants and thrashing his fancy suite at the Drake.

The cast includes Jennifer Jason Leigh as the checked-out mom, Hugo Weaving as the malevolent father; Allison Williams pops up in the first episode as a New York object of desire. Other familiar faces include Indira Varma, Blythe Danner and Holliday Grainger.

But it’s Cumberbatch’s performance that will grab you from the start.


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