Death Note

Hulu’s ‘The Girl From Plainville,’ Elle Fanning Is Excellent as ‘Texting-Suicide’ Teen Michelle Carter

Hulu’s ‘The Girl From Plainville,’ Elle Fanning Is Excellent as ‘Texting-Suicide’ Teen Michelle Carter
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This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

This week:

My Former Nemesis Is Killing It

I blame Law & Order for this.

For so long, we have been titillated by their cheeky, ripped-from-the-headlines crime stories that we were perhaps too distracted to notice what was happening around us. Those one-off episodes loosely inspired by real scandal birthed its own genre of TV content—one that has been, of late, absolutely inescapable.

If you slip up and blink too hard, when you open your eyes you’ll find 14 new limited series across broadcast, cable, and, especially, streaming services casting A-list actors and enlisting prestige screenwriters and directors to dramatize outrageous, news- making sagas. The more disturbing the murder, upsetting the trial, or unbelievable the scam, the better.

It’s to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Hulu’s begun putting hits out on people or Netflix producers have concocted their own massive fraud scheme just to keep the content mill churning.

so when The Girl From Plainville hit Hulu this week, I was exhausted by the genre. I was ready to dismiss it with the same exasperation as last month’s WeCrashed. Plus, the details of the case it’s sourced from are so upsetting: the so-called “texting-suicide” trial, in which 17-year-old Michelle Carter was tried for involuntary manslaughter following her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, taking his own life after receiving text messages from Carter that seemed to pressure him to commit the act.

Photos by Steve Dietl/Hulu

I begrudgingly checked out the first three episodes on Hulu, as due diligence for… I don’t know, at least pretending that as a critic I’m attempting to watch everything? In any case, I was none too pleased to discover that it is good. Or, rather, that Elle Fanning as Carter is good. Look and good. So good, in fact, I have now signed myself up to watch the whole thing.

Fanning, who I must admit was a celebrity nemesis of mine for years—an arbitrary sworn enemy in my mind only because I found her an annoying presence in a handful of projects—has been on a roll, between this and her award-worthy work in The Great. Ella she’s making some really unexpected acting choices in The Girl From Plainvilleand all of them work.

Especially in these first episodes, you have a hard time gauging her. Is she performing over-the-top emotion over Conrad’s death because she wants the attention? (Crucial detail: Most people in their lives didn’t even know they were dating.) Is she legitimately heartbroken? Does she feel guilty? Is she overcompensating because she knows she’s in trouble, or is the gravity of everything too overwhelming for her teenage self to process?

Photos by Steve Dietl/Hulu

It’s all as fascinating as her Cara Delevingne eyebrows.

But there’s one scene that sold me. It’s at the end of the first episode. When I realized what was going on, I shrieked.

At first, it looks like Michelle is tearfully rehearsing a speech in the mirror that she plans to give about how much Conrad meant to her, making sure the emotions strike at just the right time to move her audience.

But then you realize she’s not rehearsing a speech. Ella she’s reciting a speech, the one Lea Michele’s character Rachel Berry gives on glee in the episode paying tribute to Cory Monteith, Michele’s former boyfriend who had died. (Michele, at the time, was perhaps unfairly criticized for appearing to seek attention over her death.)

When I say this scene sent me, I mean there’s a Kevin Fallon-shaped hole in the wall behind my couch that I catapulted myself through in disbelief.

The One and Only Good Oscars Take

It is not possible to process, in any unimpeachably correct and definitive way, the Oscars slap. I know this because I have been writing about it, editing stories about it, and reading incessantly about it for every waking hour in the time since, which is to say all of the hours. (I’m quite tired.)

We have been living in a hot-take apocalypse these last few days. A true dystopia of discourse. My own very special hell.

Every time I’m floored that someone really felt like a deranged thought they had about this should be publicly articulated, another tweet flies across my timeline like a flaming meteor of nonsense. By the time the unholy trifecta of Betty White, Judd Apatow, and 9/11 were invoked, I was already on my little rowboat paddling down the Hudson and away from society forever.

folks, OJ Simpson weighed in on this. More, when his video reaction of him came across my timeline, I CLICKED ON IT. I watched the whole thing. God save me. God save us all.

The only conclusion to draw is that there are almost no worth while it takes to be had on this, a hopeless reality that, as we all know, only fuels the world of punditry and makes the talking heads grow even stronger. Which is why I was stunned to stumble across it, the one correct opinion.

I yield the floor to perfect person Daniel Radcliffe: “I’m just so already dramatically bored of hearing people’s opinions about it that I just don’t want to be another opinion adding to it.”

A Celebrity Confession to Truly Embrace

There is no greater niche internet obsession than the Architectural Digest videos of celebrities giving tours of their houses. It is accidental camp. Unintentional art. The most thrillingly bland entertainment you’ll find on YouTube.

The format is simple. An utterly random celebrity, often with no peg to a new project or a reason to be given this spotlight, leads the camera through their sun-drenched Hollywood Hills home, pointing out nonsense trivia about armoires and custom sconces that they had carefully memorized from their designers.

They dutifully play the part of someone who has had a longtime passion for Egyptian lucite candelabras sourced from a vintage shop in Rotterdam, masking the reality that they’ve just seen these tsotchkes for the very first time that morning, after a frantic call to a designer that Architectural Digest was coming!!!

What blows my mind, as a human who spent his adult life living in one room in various New York City apartments, is that these celebrities have almost never fully finished or decorated their gorgeous homes until the hours before this tour. Meanwhile, I fantasize about what I would do and how I would decorate if my living situation involved the word “rooms” with an ‘s’ on it. Yet I also never related more to the circumstance of starting to move into a place, getting tired of setting it up, and never fully finishing.

that is why this moment from Ashley Tisdale’s recent home tour is something I will cherish forever. Our candid, relatable queen: “The bookshelves, I have to be honest, actually did not have books in it until a couple of days ago. I had my husband go to a bookstore and I was like, ‘You need to get 400 books.’”

Screenshot/Architectural Digest

He Is Perfect.

If you would like to think about something, anything, other than That Moment at the Oscars, I highly recommend that you, as I have, spend 45 minutes a day staring at this photo of Andrew Garfield smoldering into the camera while effortlessly balancing a cheeseburger and a drink in one hand at a party.

What to watch this week:

Jerrod Carmichael as Rothaniel: A surprising, can’t-miss stand-up special from an underrated talent. (Fri. on HBO)

A Black Lady Sketch Show: The best sketch comedy show on TV—yes, we’re including that one that airs “live from New York.” (Mon. on HBO)

Slow Horses: A Gary Oldman British spy drama, if that’s your thing, and it’s a lot of people’s thing. (Fri. on Apple TV+)

Better Nate Than Ever: So adorable and so gay. (Fri. on Disney+)

What to skip this week:

Morbius: “It’s not as bad as we thought!” is considered high praise for this one. (Fri. in theaters)

Bubble: A pandemic-set comedy about Hollywood actors, as my waking nightmare portended. (Fri. on Netflix)


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