Job by Alexis Lebrun January 12, 2023
With its cocktail – sex, drugs and murder – far removed from Disney family standards, this scandalous true crime smashes the myth of the American dream and its excesses with a gluttony that we cannot resist.
How to Make It in America
How to break into the United States? This eternal question which gave its name in original version to an HBO series rightly continues to obsess fiction. An Indian immigrant possessed by the possibilities of success sold by the American dream, Somen “Steve” Banerjee was obviously confronted with this question during his first steps in the country. He first worked in a gas station then opened a backgammon club, before having a good intuition for the time: why women would not have the desire and the right to watch sculpted bodies too in strip clubs like men do?
In late 1970s Los Angeles, this idea caught on and spawned the country’s first stripper troupe, the Chippendales. The series tells this little-known story in France, through the rise and fall of Steve, an anti-hero fascinated by the creator of Playboy (Hugh Hefner) and ready to do anything to expand his empire. We will not reveal here the incredible stages of his career which are reconstituted in the series, but this improbable character – a outsider introverted with sickly ambition, totally stuck in the middle of a male strip club – obviously represents gold in the bar for a miniseries.
Kumail Nanjiani, a rising actor in Hollywood
Wrapped up in dull costumes that contrast with the bright colors of the time, the Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani is doing admirably well in the skin of Steve, and this all the more so since it is his first major dramatic role. But his face is already well known to fans of the series Silicon Valley and especially Disney productions (Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Eternals).
Facing him, he finds one of the most prominent actors of the moment: Murray Bartlett. Since his unforgettable role – Emmy Award at the key – in the first season of The White Lotus (OCS), the Australian actor finally has the recognition he deserves, and it is he who embodies here the flamboyant Nick De Noia, the cocaine choreographer who makes the Chippendales shows unmissable, but whose growing rivalry with Steve constitutes the heart of the plot.
And the rest of the cast follows suit: Steve’s wife is played by Annaleigh Ashfor, seen very recently in Impeachment: American Crime Story (Disney+), while Juliette Lewis continues her return to the fore after Yellowjackets (CANAL+), playing Denise, the chippendales costume designer.
We also meet Robin de Jesús (Tick, Tick… Boom! on Netflix), Andrew Rannells of Girls5EvaDan Stevens of Gaslit (Lionsgate+), Nicola Peltz of Bates Motel and Quentin Plair of The Good Lord Bird (CHANNEL+).
Objectification and fetishization
The latter plays Otis, one of the most interesting secondary characters in Welcome to Chippendales, since he is the only black dancer in the troupe. This role allows the series to focus on the objectification and fetishization of the body of African Americans, and it is clearly one of the most relevant issues of the eight episodes, apart from the accuracy of the gaze worn. on the loaded dice of the American dream for immigrants.
We expected no less from Robert Siegel: the creator of the series was also behind the successful Pam & Tommy (Disney+) last year, and above all he wrote the script for a fantastic film, The Wrestler. Finally, we find behind the camera of the first two episodes a certain Matt Shakman, the director of the nugget Wanda Vision (Disney+). In short, 2023 has barely begun, and we already have the first quality true crime of the year.
Welcome to Chippendales episodes 1 to 8 on Disney+, available with CANAL+.
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