'The Casual Vacancy' [Blu ray]
(Rory Kinnear, Michael Gambon, Julia McKenzie, Keeley Hawes, Rufus Jones, et al / Blu ray / NR / 2015 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: 'The Casual Vacancy' centers on Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey. Behind the pretty facade, however, is a town at war: rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils.
Blu ray Verdict: In truth, JK Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy', a grim adult novel, which she wrote under a pseudonym, looks at life in a small market town of Pagford dominated by grotesque characters like they stepped out of an updated Dickens novel. I have heard it said that the book is also inspired by the play, An Inspector Calls, where various characters in the village are in effect the Birling family who have been responsible to the ruin of a young girl's life.
But here in the film adaptation, a fair amount of that grim flavor has been removed or glossed over, sadly. Michael Gambon is the power mad, money grabbing parish Councillor who wants to turn a community center into a wellness spa. Julia McKenzie plays his malicious wife and Keeley Hawes is the flirty but brittle daughter in law. Rory Kinnear is the one who has fought against the closure of the community center and whose sudden death create the casual vacancy in the parish council and Gambon wants his spineless son to stand and others also wish to contest the seat, but a ghost writer on the internet is revealing some home truths.
Yet Pagford is not a place just for the haves. Poverty is rife as well as drugs, drink, teenage sex and domestic violence. This is also the story of teenager Krystal Weedon, living with a drug addicted mother and looking after a baby brother with social workers hot on their trail.
The three part drama series is a world away from Harry Potter. I know my daughter, a Rowling fan attempted to read 'The Casual Vacancy' but gave up; it was not her kind of book. The series has a bittersweet and grim tone. It is political in context between the haves and haves not, the latter who are getting the rug pulled from under their feet.
However, the series was not wholly a success, maybe lacking humor, satire and maybe some comeuppance against some horrible people. I believe the ending was changed and softened to make it less tragic from the novel. However I felt that the series would had worked better as a two hours television film and maybe done with being less star studded, Emilia Fox for example was wasted. That said, and what is not in doubt is that Abigail Lawrie was outstanding as Krystal! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and it comes with the Special Features of:
An Introduction to The casual Vacancy
Adapting The Casual Vacancy
Casting The Casual Vacancy