The Act is one of those stories which you find hard to believe, even after watching it unfold in front of your eyes.
The complete manipulation and subjugation that Dee Dee layers on her daughter, makes it a hard show to watch. The fact that the story ends violently and there are no winners is also something that makes this twisted tale of evil difficult to digest.
1. Quick Review
A fundamentally wrong and inherently immoral mother-daughter relationship lies at the center of The Act. With phenomenal performances by Joey King and Patricia Arquette, we enter the seemingly typical Blanchard household.
The manipulative mother who has a mental disorder tries to confine her daughter to her lap and her care. Meanwhile, Gypsy comes to terms with her situation, realizing that her house is a prison, keeping her away from society.
The show feels overlong, and the eight-part run should’ve been wrapped up sooner. While the acting is terrific, the story is brutal and painful to watch.
2. Is It Worth Watching?
The Act is a slow-burning drama around a poisonous relationship, which makes it hard to watch. Ever since the story broke on Buzzfeed, it has shocked people around the world. This case was also documented in the HBO true-crime documentary, Mommy- Dead and Dearest.
The series starts in 2015 when cops bust in the house of Dee Dee Blanchard and discover her dead body. We then flashback to several years ago to explore the events and unearth the facts that led to the murder.
Seven years ago, we see Dee Dee and her daughter Gypsy moving into a new house built for them by the charity Habitat for Humanity. They are already the talk of the town and get featured on a local news show because of the nature of Gypsy’s illness.
As Dee Dee explains on the show, Gypsy is epileptic and has severe allergies and needs to be fed through a tube. She has a heart murmur and the mental capacity of a 7-year old. The narrative of the mother who has sacrificed everything for taking care of her daughter earns the duo lots of sympathy in Missouri.
But as the show looks closer, we realize that it is all a sham. Dee Dee is the one who is inflicted with Munchausen syndrome by proxy. This psychological disorder makes a caretaker invent scenarios and conditions so that the person in their care needs them even though they are healthy and independent.
The story shows a daughter coming to terms with her situation and seeking an escape from her prison. Both the women are experts at manipulating the other, and the control that Dee Dee has over Gypsy is absolute.
II. Cast & Performances
Both the leading women do an excellent job, and Arquette won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series. King was also nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series.
Joey King plays the daughter slowly coming to terms with her life and is imprisoned with her insane mother. She has to keep up appearances for society in public, and her mother’s control is absolute. But, bit-by-bit, she starts piecing things together and starts questioning some of the pills she is taking, or the wheelchair she is confined to when she can walk.
She is essential to the toxic horror story that unfolds and culminates in the death of her murder. Her baby-like high pitched voice resembles the real Gypsy, and the constant struggle for independence which she finds online is gripping to watch.
Patricia Arquette is not only running a scam but also a prison for her daughter. She instantly switches from the manipulating, dominating mother to the unfortunate victim when she needs the neighbors’ sympathy of neighbors.
She’s an obsessive, over-protective mother rocked by a mental illness that makes her scream and shouts at her daughter and curbs her free will.
3. Final Thoughts
The show is directed strangely, making an uncomfortable story even more challenging to watch. While the slow pace drags out the full extent of the horrors that Gypsy is facing, simple things such as Coca-Cola and the Internet are highlighted as her connection to the society outside.
This layered portrayal with hidden messages is kept grounded by strong performances from both King and Arquette. The illusion that they have to maintain outside the house adds additional tension to the struggle they are locked inside.
The show doesn’t hide the death of Dee Dee and that the various ailments of Gypsy are imaginary. It focuses more on their relationship and how Gypsy finally snapped and plotted her mother’s murder.