Netflix: our opinion on the miniseries One Man, One Real with Jeff Daniels

If the name David E. Kelley doesn’t mean anything to you, you must have watched some of his series during his prolific career which spanned four decades. Of Ally McBeal has The Practice in the 1990s through Goliath on Prime Video, he recently converted to the production of prestigious miniseries adapted from books. So it is with Big Little Lies, and two other miniseries with Nicole Kidman: The Undoing produced for HBO, and Nine Perfect Strangers, seen on Prime in France. With this pedigree, he wrote all the episodes of this adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book, A Man In Full, all six episodes of which are released today on Netflix. With a prestigious trio of actors: Jeff Daniels, Diane Lane and Lucy Liu, is this twisted thriller worth your investment? The answers in our review spoiler-free guarantee.

The synopsis of A man, a real man with Jeff Daniels

Atlanta. Political and business interests collide when Charlie Croker, a real estate tycoon on the verge of bankruptcy, protects his empire against those who intend to profit from his downfall.

CNET France’s opinion

Charlie Croker (Jeff Daniels) is a business mogul who reigns supreme in Atlanta. But his 60th birthday party, complete with excess, debauchery and the presence of Shania Twain (in her own role) hides a much darker financial reality. His bank, which has agreed to one loan after another, now wants to recover hundreds of millions of dollars, knowing full well that its cash flow is empty. Steely gaze, charisma of an ex-footballer (one of his former careers), Croker fights behind the scenes to save his empire day by day, but it seems that dusk is approaching. At the same time, he agrees to send his legal director Roger White (Aml Ameen) to represent the companion of his personal secretary, Conrad Hensley (Jon Michael Hill) in a court appearance for assault on a police officer. The series will follow the fate of Croker, but also Hensley’s descent into hell: two men trying to preserve their dignity. The director – and actress – Regina King, behind the camera for several episodes, seems to be much more interested in the fate of Conrad than in his typical businessman. And therein lies one of the problems of the series.

The shadow of Succession hovers over A man, a real man : several characters belch vulgarities in the most hushed settings of Atlanta, and Croker’s ruses to get out of embarrassment rival the very (too) pragmatic plans of the Roy clan in the HBO series. Alas, despite a Jeff Daniels who seems to have fun as a life-size character, a ranch owner and grabbing snakes with his bare hands, the series gets stuck in vulgarity and antipathy by not balancing it enough with a sticky humanity or trauma present. As Croker’s ex-wife, who keeps her distance from the tycoon, Diane Lane is misused, ruminating on platitudes about competition between women, even though Croker has left her for a thirty-year-old Southern belle his younger sister (Sarah Jones, no better served by her role). The characters of A man, a real man multiply the tantrums, and a large part of the episodes highlight a personal conflict between banker Harry Zale (Bill Camp) and Charlie Croker, without adding to the interest of the series.

Millefeuille of intrigues whose characters are linked together, but not fundamentally united, A man, a real man becomes more interesting ironically when he moves away from Croker and attaches himself to the legal steamroller which falls on Conrad, under the helpless gaze of his lawyer, himself deeply troubled by ambitions thwarted by the Croker affair. A spicy subplot features a candidate for mayor of Atlanta, who will use Croker to raise his opponent’s personal problems: in the role, we find Chidi from The Good Place, William Jackson Harper, bellicose and all charisma. These plots, however, seem to belong to another series; while Charlie Croker is amused by his own excesses, whether justified or not, A man, a real man seems to eclipse his entire universe in the shadow of his black antihero sun. It remains a good proposition for those who want to delight in the talent of some of its secondary roles, and be quite entertained by the spicy dialogues of some sequences. The miniseries does not live up to the sum of its talents.

Jon Michael Hill and Chanté Adams play a couple in turmoil: Conrad and Jill Hensley. (Photo credit: Mark Hill/Netflix)

What to watch next A man, a real man?

The best recommendations are on Prime Video: first of all the acclaimed film by Regina King, One Night In Miami. And, on the Warner pass, one of Jeff Daniels’ best roles as an editorialist in turmoil: The Newsroomby the creator of To the White House. Still in the HBO series section, we can only recommend two scenarios by David E. Kelley: Big Little Lies And The Undoing.

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