Anatomy Of A Scandal Review: Doing justice to #MeToo

The new limited series, is a compelling legal thriller that pits power and politics against a mission to seek out the truth… but it’s a truth that is cast in several shades of grey


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Thu 28 Apr 2022, 8:43 PM

Scandals and politics go hand in hand. Scandals are considered more scandalous whenever they involve men — or women — who hold public offices, who are accountable for their action to a larger canvas of constituents, party lines, and “national integrity”… not just friends, family and an immediate eco-system.

In Anatomy Of A Scandal, James Whitehouse (an underwhelming Rupert Friend) is a high-profile British minister and a close aide and “mate” of Prime Minister Tom Southern (Geoffrey Streatfeild). Whitehouse, a “family man” and father of two, has been having an affair with his researcher Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), which he ends subsequently, but when Olivia threatens to expose him, he confesses to his wife Sophie (Sienna Miller).

Sophie is ambitious by proxy: she has known her husband from the time they were in university, had realised back then that he was meant for greater glory, and had styled her life accordingly. She decides to play supportive wife, and toe the ‘boys will be boys’ — or ‘men will be men’ — line. But then the indiscretion charge gets serious when Olivia slaps Whitehouse with rape.

Anatomy Of A Scandal is many things at the same time. As a basic level, it’s the exploration of a legal tangle that takes on new twists and turns as the case proceeds. At a nuanced level, it’s the exploration of private consciences against the backdrop of a public morality compass. At an academic, minutes-of-the-meeting level, it’s an intense legal battle between the prosecution and the defence; both characters are played convincingly, and it’s an interplay that’s made more complex given the warm personal camaraderie shared by the sparring partners outside of the courtroom.

In many ways, this is also an exposé of class politics. Perks, privileges and education do not necessarily translate into better intent as human beings — whatever the ‘posh club’ façade may be.

But most tellingly, this is yet another iteration of the #MeToo shadows that lurk around, that refuse to go away. The moot question: is it possible to be accused of rape with regard to time and place — when the victim would be a ‘willing’ conquest in a different set of circumstances?

While you are trying to figure that, throw in some perplexing intrigues and a rollercoaster dialectic between two time zones — and you have your weekend binge sorted out. The cons? The acting could have been better. You will compare Michelle Dockery unfairly with her Lady Mary avatar. Sienna Miller has too much sangfroid. The chap who plays the PM is actually below average. There’s some unnecessary motional SFX, which seems out of place. And yet, Anatomy Of A Scandal holds it all together beautifully, with a little help from the dankness of London.

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