David Simon and George Pelecanos have an excellent reputation in the television industry creating masterpieces like “The Wire” and “Treme.” The duo knocked it out of the park yet again with their newest work of art, “The Deuce.”
In 1970s New York, porn and prostitution are taking over the city. Following the lives of barkeeps, prostitutes and pimps, “The Deuce” is a gritty look at a city defined by sex. Through graphic scenes and sophisticated characters, Simon has created another classic.
Early on, it appears that each character is going down their separate roads. They all have their own respective troubles and they all come from different backgrounds. However, they all define 1970’s New York.
Vincent Martino (James Franco) looks to help pay off his brother Frankie’s (James Franco) gambling debts by getting into business with local mobsters. Forced into business with shady characters, the Martino’s represent the working class that must break the law to make ends meet.
All the while, a strong-willed, sassy prostitute named Eileen ‘Candy’ Merrell (Maggie Gyllenhaal) tries to enter the budding porn industry. Candy realizes that she could make an exorbitant amount of money as a filmmaker. Slowly but surely, Candy begins to get her foot in the door as she tries to provide for her young son.
On the other side of the spectrum, a college student named Abigail Parker (Margarita Levieva) appears to be one of the smartest in her class. However, an internal struggle pushes her away from school and into the great big city. She ends up in the Martino’s bar, where she appears to be making moves of her own.
When it comes to the visuals, the show does at fantastic job at creating contrast. Most of the scenes take place at night. With bright, neon lights are typically the only bright colors used in the scenes. Aside from ‘Candy”s silver wig of course. This impressive use of light makes the viewer pay attention. At times it even hints that an important scene is about to take place.
As far as the acting performances, Maggie Gyllenhaal steals the show. Her work as ‘Candy’ might be the highlight of her already tremendous career. Seeing her struggle as a hooker forces the viewer to embark upon an emotional roller coaster. Typically, a pretty lead in her other movies, to see her transform into a prostitute with a dream is stunning. The stock on the Gyllenhaal siblings couldn’t be higher at the moment.
Another strong performance is that of James Franco. Playing two characters at once is no easy task, especially in a show as serious as “The Deuce.” With the help of great directors and camerawork, Franco does a tremendous job portraying brothers that may look alike, but act like polar opposites of each other. Alike Gyllenhaal, Franco has been on fire of late. His versatility as an actor is on display with this exhibition.
By no means is this show perfect. At times, “The Deuce” can drag on. This show isn’t for people that love explosions and action. Every scene is planned, every cut leads to something that will happen in later episodes. It doesn’t happen often, but at times it feels slow. Scene after scene of dull build-up. This is normal for HBO shows however. They typically start out slow but lead to stunning endings and cliffhangers for future seasons.
As season one continues on, “The Deuce” will be picking up steam. Each episode premieres Sundays at 9 p.m. EST. Hop on the bandwagon before it’s too late.