There's an old adage that says we all have two faces: the one we show the rest of the world and the one we show ourselves. No matter how intimately someone knows you, no matter how deeply they think they understand your soul, even the closest people only see parts of you. We all carry around hidden shames, buried fears and the consequences of bad decisions we can barely stand to contemplate.
Celebrities or other public figures also have the face they share with the public. Even the most honest vision of a celebrity is just a construct of fandom, reality and the public's desire to think the best of the people they admire. It's jarring to realize how little the public really knows about their most beloved celebrities. That's especially the case when it comes to celebrities who harbor dark secrets.
The four-episode miniseries "National Treasure" premieres on Hulu this Wednesday and it is a tautly-wound and magnificently accounting of a beloved celebrity's very public fall from grace. Written by "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" screenwriter Jack Thorne, it stars Robbie Coltrane as Paul Finchley, a beloved comedian who is unexpectedly accused of committing two rapes back in the 1970s. It comes from the U.K.'s Channel 4, which premiered it last fall.
"National Treasure" initially focuses on Finchley's very public struggles with the rape charges. Coltrane's affable, slightly doughy persona makes it initially difficult to believe that the comic could be capable of such acts. And yet, there's also this dour, dark side to his personality that always seems to be lingering just below the surface.
But what really makes "National Treasure" a - forgive me - treasure to watch is how the accusations and resulting public attention shatter the fragile veneer of normality that holds his broken family together. From his fan's perspective, Finchley seems to be a pretty great guy. But as the story unwinds, it's clear that almost nothing about his life is what it appears to be. Finchley's hidden side isn't just out of view, it's filled with dark secrets that no one around him has been willing to confront.
While Coltrane might nominally be the star of the miniseries, the core of the story is Finchley's long-suffering wife and daughter. Julie Waters plays Marie, his devoutly Catholic who is devoted enough to her husband to forgive his cheating. But as the case unfolds, she begins to realize that she chose to also ignore some darker aspects of his personality. Daughter Dee (Andrea Riseborough) is a deeply troubled and confused woman who is currently living in a drug halfway house. She struggles internally to determine if the accusations against her father could be true. Is he really capable of such things?
While "National Treasure" can be a bit heavy-handed at times, the story resolves itself in a way that manages to be both surprising and cynically true to the real world. Finchley's guilt or innocence is ambiguous to the end without feeling manipulative or predictable. "National Treasure" is an impressive and wonderfully acted miniseries that will leave you feeling exhausted and sadly cynical about the modern world of celebrity adulation.
"National Treasure" premieres on Hulu on Wednesday, March 1st, 2017.