25 January 2011 | skysaxon
Fluid direction, crisp script, helmed by trio of fine performances
Note: I have not seen the UK version.
I wasn't sure what to make of the first episode of Shameless. I wasn't sold on the characters and the direction seemed directionless. In fact, it wasn't until the third ep that my eyes were opened. It's as if the actors have found their mark and the characters have come to life.
While the ensemble cast is solid, and Macy is at his irascible best, it is the performance of three of the actors which makes Shameless something special. Emmy Rossum, as the 'adult' glue that holds the family together, has rightly received the most press. Her role requires a combination of strength, resolve, humour and vulnerability - qualities that would thwart a lesser actress. Rossum is able to convincingly bring it all together with fire and sexuality in addition to her other qualities.
Equally effective in his role as the younger brother Lip, Jeremy Allen White brings a world-weary innocence to his character. Blessed with a malleable physiognomy, White is at once rascal and protector of the brood. White makes us want to know Lip better. That's rare.
In a smaller role but probably my favourite is Emma Kenney as little sister Debbie. Her deadpan wisecracks supply the laugh-out-loud moments while her heartbreaking scenes of longing for parental love bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened soul. She can act toe-to-toe with Macy and still steal the scene.
The rest of the cast is almost as good. Their performances would be wasted, however, without a tight script and fluid - but not frenetic - direction. The third episode brought all these pieces together in a fascinating show. Whether the writing and direction can sustain this level of quality over a season we don't know. What we do have for now is some of the best ensemble acting you will see on TV or on film.