So Will Ferrell is producing a six-part miniseries The Spoils of Babylon. Premiering in January, it stars Tim Robbins, Tobey Maguire, Jessica Alba, Haley Joel Osment, Carey Mulligan, and my Idol, Kristen Wiig. It’s about an oil tycoon passing on the family business to his son and daughter and it’s playing on IFC. Everything I just said sounds amazing. Right? So why am I so profoundly confused by this trailer?
Where do I –
How do we even –
…Hang on I need to watch it a couple more times.
Ok first of all, what? Second of all, I adore Kristen Wiig so so much and I thought her moments of poignant humanity in Bridesmaids were the reason it was such a masterclass performance. But I can’t take her seriously! Certainly not when she’s shrieking things like “You! Are! A! Bastard!” at Tobey Maguire, big southern hair askew. The woman who brought us Penelope isn’t going to be turning up in shows like Breaking Bad.
I think the reason this trailer is so unsettling to me is that in my brain, Kristen Wiig = fun. So every time I see her in the trailer – delivering histrionic lines like “I love you,” or even that bizarre shot of her standing next to a burning building, holding an infant (?!) – my critical barometer flicks toward “Yay!” But blood pooling from some dude’s head and people getting their faces kicked in? I’m back at “Noo!” I go back and forth and back and forth. And then Tobey Maguire is bellowing “This will not staaand!” at the top of his lungs, and I’m pretty sure that’s funny, unless it’s not, and he and Kristen Wiig are siblings, who are in love, which might work, and Kristen Wiig, in big earrings, is talking about running a company, which reminds me of season 4 of Arrested Development, which frankly brings up a whole other round of conflicting emotions, and by the end of the trailer I’m a sweaty mess.
That creepy piano music is stuck in my head now and I’m scared.
Is it an art house drama? Or a hilarious satire of an art house drama? It looks like what would happen if Wes Anderson re-shot No Country for Old Men. What? Besides, I thought Will Ferrell and Funny or Die were behind this project. Will. Ferrell. Is this highly cinematic, shoot-em-up, drugged up-looking trailer his idea of a prank? A prank on those of us who thought this would be the rollicking comedy event of the decade??
The Huffington Post says The Spoils of Babylon “play[s] the comedy with no winking.” What does that even mean. Look I can handle that Coen Brothers shit. I saw Fargo, ok? I studied Chekhov. I understand the term #dark. But that doesn’t change the fact that this trailer includes close-ups of Kristen Wiig getting slapped in slow motion and Jessica Alba in full-on 70’s garb acting melodramatically. (Seriously, Jessica Alba hasn’t done anything in so long I don’t even remember what her deal is.) And then there’s the fact that no one has the same hairstyle from one clip to the next, maybe not even the same accent, so maybe it’s an American Horror Story-style genre mash-up? All the 70’s costumes sure look fun! I’m grasping at straws here.
How is it there’s no other TV show or movie that this reminds me of? I guess it’s a testament to how unique and compelling and possibly ground-breaking this miniseries is going to be. Maybe it doesn’t matter if a trailer makes me feel everything from “ecstatic” to “concerned” to “the willies.” If just a glimpse of The Spoils of Babylon gives me all of the feelings, I guess it’s a sure sign that, at the very least, I’ll be tuning in.