Who knew the great Samuel L. Jackson could reinvent himself as a revered character actor at the golden age of 73? Not me.
The last time we saw Jackson on screen, he served up essentially the same old charismatic, tough-guy-in-a-cool-jacket shitick opposite Ryan Reynolds in the abyssal action-comedy on the big screen Hitman’s wife’s bodyguard.
in the The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray (Apple TV+), one of the most recognizable faces – and voices in cinema – is finally taking off for a change, and you know what? It suits him.
We’re in Atlanta, Georgia and Ptolemy Gray (Jackson) is in a terrible state. The widower, not a centenary, lives in squalor and spends his days shuffling around his bug-infested apartment, watching endless replays, eating canned beans and trying to remember who he is and how he used to be.
Ptolemy hasn’t bothered to take a bath in ages, and his home – wall to wall of personal belongings, some valuable, mostly rubbish – is something of a physical manifestation of his scattered mind.
The only person who takes care of Ptolemy is his kindhearted grandnephew Reggie (a great Omar Benson Miller) who drops by every now and then to drop by and take Ptolemy to his doctor’s appointments. During his final exam, the doctor fills Reggie in on the facts.
Physically, his “Papa Grey” is in good shape for a guy his age, but his dementia-ridden brain is another matter entirely. Maybe a specialist can help – just a pity that Reggie disappears from the scene after making the appointment.
The days pass and finally someone comes along to escort Ptolemy to his niece’s house. When he asks where Reggie is, Ptolemy is taken to the back room where his grandnephew is laid out in a coffin.
Reggie was shot shortly after his last visit – and no one knows why. The only person who comforts Ptolemy in his grief is a 17-year-old orphaned family friend named Robyn (a lovely Dominique Fishback).
She takes care of Ptolemy and becomes his new housekeeper, even going so far as to give his disgusting apartment a much-needed makeover. If it sounds like we’ve spoiled too much of the storyline, believe me, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Based on the 2010 novel by Walter Mosley (who writes/co-writes all six episodes),
The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray is something like a heart project for its star. Jackson acquired the film rights not long after the book’s release, and he knows exactly what it’s like to see a loved one lose a part of themselves to Alzheimer’s.
His grandfather, uncle, aunt and mother all suffered from the disease. There’s an air of tender authenticity to his performance, then, with one of Hollywood’s most iconic characters flexing a new set of acting muscles to deliver something far more vulnerable and far less flashy than we’re used to.
Grown up, bent over, eyes burning with grief, Jackson portrays Ptolemy as a man who has lost everything and remembers nothing, and his powerful, often devastating turn of phrase is a revelation.
There’s a catch. Towards the end of the second part The last days… takes a shaky sci-fi turn when it is revealed that the aforementioned specialist (a raunchy Walton Goggins as Dr. Rubin) has developed a cure for Alzheimer’s that temporarily restores Ptolemy’s ailing mind and allows him to investigate Reggie’s death .
Yes, that is a big request and I am sorry to report this from now on, The last days… loses some of its luster. But it’s worth diving in, not just for Jackson’s career-best performance, but for fishbacks as well.
Together they bring to life the greatest feature of this series: a compelling story of two broken souls who hold on to one another as they discover who they are and where they belong.
In the meantime, it won’t surprise me if a Samuel L. Jackson film comes up in a question One and six zeros (channel 4). What we have here is an unnecessarily complicated quiz show hosted by Dara Ó Briain, where contestants essentially start out with a million pounds (but not really).
Basically, they have to answer seven questions correctly to capture the “one and six zeros”. Each time they answer a question incorrectly, they lose a zero, but they can also trade their questions for a lower chance of winning. got it Good.
Between rounds, they’re treated to cheerful icebreakers and quirky one-liners from Ó Briain, who wears the looks of a man who’s only just been briefed on the rules. Still, somehow it works.
It shouldn’t take an hour to do its business, but this otherwise harmless display has a unique selling point: it allows families to participate. In the first episode, a trio from Durham argued, cackled and snuggled at a cost of £20,000 and best of all was watching Dara nearly go insane over questions about snooker, movies and politics. Our new favorite quiz show? Probably not, but time flies.
Finally, one more word Our country (RTÉ Player), an excellent three-part documentary series exploring what it means to be Irish in 2022.
A fabulously curated offering featuring contributions from a variety of artists, activists and creators including rapper JyellowL, poet Dagogo Hart and illustrator Holly Pereira. Our country (Director: Zithelo Bobby Mthombeni) covers everything from immigration and identity to the challenges, conflicts and systemic racism faced by Irish minorities.
A comprehensive, often cinematic, insightful and informative as it is captivating, Our country tackles hard truths and asks tough questions.
But his ambitious, optimistic perspective – of an Ireland slowly but surely changing for the better, embracing and celebrating a spectrum of cultures, ideas and talent – leaves its mark. Essential viewing.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/television/tv-reviews/the-last-days-of-ptolemy-grey-samuel-l-jackson-dazzles-as-a-lost-soul-on-brink-of-fading-away-41463582.html The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey: Samuel L. Jackson dazzles as a lost soul on the brink of fading