It goes without saying that JK Rowling cut her teeth on the Harry Potter franchise and (at least for now) all of her future efforts will be judged through the lenses of that bespectacled boy wizard. ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is about as far removed the fanciful world of magic and wizardry as one can get, so if you are looking for fantastical beasts this is not the thing for you. This miniseries (based on the book of same name) follows the world of small town politics in an English town.
The town of Pagford is thrown into discord over a proposal to convert Sweetlove, a community center, into a hip new spa. Howard and Shirley Mollison (Michael Gambon and Julie McKenzie) are proponents for the project arguing that it will benefit the entire hamlet. When the potential swing-vote to push the project forward suddenly dies it creates a vacancy in the city council and erupts the town into a contentious special election.
‘The Casual Vacancy’ shines most when it builds up and develops its characters. It is a film with a number of messages concerning greed and apathy, but it just does not do a great job shaping and packaging it. The elements of political drama tend to get monotonous and sometimes open up doors to cartoonish lampoons. There are a lot of good things about this miniseries, but it unfortunately falters as often as it succeeds. One can only assume that the complexities of Rowling’s words just didn’t translate well to the visual medium in this case. There are too many character and plot issues and not enough time to relate or care about them.
Available in stores on August 4.