Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Don't care was made to care

Watching an arrogant person get their comeuppance is always enjoyable, and that is also the case in the drama The Politician's Wife, a three episode series set in the mid 1990s.  Although it's surely no surprise when a famous figure gets caught up in a scandal, we rarely get to witness how this public scrutiny impacts those nearest to the disgraced person.  This series is a delicious look at what goes on behind the scenes when a long-suffering wife decides she's had enough.

Conservative MP and Minister of the Family Duncan Matlock (Trevor Eve) seems destined to rise to the very top of the political scene in Great Britain.  Ambitious and well-connected, he is positioning himself to take the reigns at number 10 Downing Street in a few years.  As has happened to many people in positions of power before, however, he steps outside the bounds of propriety and conducts an affair with a young woman.  This affair is discovered by the press, who are eager to exploit it in all its tawdry glory, especially since Duncan is a Conservative who is constantly espousing his support for and practice of "family values."   The day before this scandal erupts on the front pages, Duncan has to come clean to his wife, the beautiful and supportive Flora, played by Juliet Stevenson.  Juliet helps out tirelessly with her husband's job, answering letters, keeping up with constituent affairs, and taking care of the house and children in the countryside while her husband works in London. 

Flora comes from a powerful political family in her own right.  In fact, it was her father's Conservative party connections that caused Duncan to "choose" her for a wife.  She is understandably hurt and outraged by her husband's conduct, and decides to take the children and leave.  However, both her husband (who swears it was a one-night stand) and her father persuade her to stay and stand by her man as the scandal unfolds around them.  Flora, stunned and somewhat shell-shocked, puts on a brave face as she and the children are hounded by photographers and reporters.

It isn't long before she has good reason to question Duncan, both as a husband and as a political leader.  An anonymous tape of her husband and "the floozie" having phone sex is left for her.  Soon she is given a stack of tapes and photographs that prove Duncan's affair lasted more than a year, and that his mistress was a former call girl.  As well as being disgusted by her husband's infidelity, she becomes alarmed by his driving ambition and lack of concern for anyone other than himself.  He is much more involved with political maneuvering and radical ideas than he is with helping his constituents.  She sees him make promises to them that are never fulfilled and reacts with alarm to his proposal to privatize child benefits.  This causes her to begin to work behind the scenes to orchestrate his downfall.  Duncan, however, has a history of landing on his feet, so will all her hard work be for nothing?

The background essay extra on the DVD by the author Paula Milne gives us a little insight into how she came to write the story.  She became rather disgusted at the almost daily scandals (nearly all of them involving infidelity) that politicians were involved in during the early 1990s.  She was most alarmed by the humiliated wives who were forced to pose for the press in supportive photos with their philandering husbands.  She wanted to write a story where the wife was able to have some power in such a situation.

Trevor Eve is great in his role as the ambitious Duncan, who doesn't have any regard for his wife and children beyond how they can be used as props in his latest "happy family" photo.  Juliet Stevenson is also wonderful as the outwardly placid but inwardly seething Flora.  Unfortunately, we don't see much of the wicked other woman, Minnie Driver, although she does make plenty of vocal appearances as Flora builds her rage against Duncan by listening to the phone sex tapes.

I really enjoyed this series and the building tension as you watch Flora's behind-the-scenes manipulations and see how Duncan is able to turn many of them to his advantage.  Will Flora finally be able to get her revenge, and what form will that take?  It comes down to the final moment to see which of the two Matlocks is the master manipulator!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of The Politician's Wife from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Final Verdict for The Politician's Wife: Four Gherkins, for being a delicious look at a scorned wife's revenge

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