Roush Review: ‘I Am the Night’ Delves into Hollywood’s Deepest, Darkest Corners
When even a side trip to balmy Hawaii can’t pierce the darkness of the soul, you know you’re in that shadowy twilight zone that Turner Classic Movies likes to call “Noir Alley.” In I Am the Night, it’s less an alley than a labyrinth of corruption and decadence that awaits 16-year-old Fauna (sultry, sulky India Eisley) as she leaves small-town Nevada for the glamour and grit of 1965 Los Angeles to embark on a perilous quest for identity.
Her search for an elusive birth mother, somehow connected to shady L.A. gynecologist George Hodel (Jefferson Mays, oozing perverse malice), puts Fauna on a collision course with washed-up reporter Jay Singletary (Chris Pine, suggesting James Dean gone seriously and outrageously to seed). An ex-Marine with nightmares from Korean combat — “You take a life and they come at you forever” — Jay has a nose for news, and also for cocaine. Both obsessions fuel his desire to get the goods on sinister Dr. Hodel, despite police interference and bullying.
A flawed and self-loathing hero, a tragic femme fatale in training, a truly creepy villain with stalker henchman in tow: What more could any fact-based crime drama want? Try a connection to 1947’s infamously unsolved Black Dahlia murder. (One look at Hodel’s grisly art collection and you’ll get it.) Add a squadron of brutal cops and a cynical editor (the terrific Leland Orser) who warns Jay, “Some stories will eat you alive.” Night provides a smorgasbord of period genre touchstones, stylishly delivered by director-executive producer Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) and her husband, writer Sam Sheridan.
The writing can lay the nihilism on a bit thick: “Death and evil, they’re around us all the time, and the line between us, it’s thin as tissue paper,” Jay tells a petulant Fauna after she uncovers one unpleasant truth too many.
And yet there’s no denying the spellbindingly ominous mood cast over six episodes as Night plunges its protagonists into a sordid subculture of sex cults and hip “happenings” that reveal the more tarnished side of Tinseltown. Innocence is lost quickly and forever, as once-naive Fauna — whose red shoes and bobby socks make her look like Dorothy in a profane Oz — quickly hardens from fragile sparrow to ruthless siren. She is the night, and even Jay didn’t see that coming.
I Am the Night, Series Premiere, Monday, Jan. 28, 9/8c, TNT