Meet Monica Velour, The Pale King and More Culture Recommendations
Each week, The Daily Beast sifts through the cultural landscape to choose three top picks. This week, a startling indie turn from Kim Cattrall, a roundtable discussion about David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, and a beloved period drama sneaks back onto television.
Kim Cattrall’s a long way from Fifth Avenue in her new film Meet Monica Velour. The Sex and the City icon is in the middle of a surprising career move, trading in her Manolos to play a broken-down porn star. But this isn’t the first time Cattrall’s avoided being pigeonholed. As feminist icon Samantha Jones, she narrowly escaped the humiliating purgatory of roles for middle-aged women, yet it’s been seven years since she and her small-screen counterparts left HBO. Her next step? Casting off every remnant of glamour to portray a meth-snorting, biker-snogging, aging ‘70s porn actress in writer-director Keith Bearden’s indie debut, released this weekend in New York and Los Angeles. It’s a semi-sweet coming-of-age story for her character Monica and her oddball teenage fan (Dustin Ingram) who finds her at her trailer park. It also shows the world a side of Cattrall we’ve never seen before—makeup-less and carrying an extra 20 pounds. “I’ve been marginalized in some ways, too,” she confessed to The Daily Beast’s Gina Piccalo. Her latest role is a small but powerful one, and does plenty to erase any memories of her cosmo-swilling, man-eating alter-ego.
How do you solve a problem like The Pale King? Reading the final, unfinished novel by David Foster Wallace—which was edited and sequenced by Michael Pietsch from a mass of papers left behind by the author after his suicide in 2008 and is finally released this Tuesday—presents a thicket of interpretive challenges. In the 547 pages of The Pale King that Pietsch has selected for us to read, we benefit from Wallace’s attention to subjects such as religion, the civic consequences of the tax code, and what boredom means in contemporary American life, but should it be critiqued? Knocking an unfinished, posthumous work of fiction seems not only unfair but slightly off-point. The Daily Beast and Newsweek assembled a half-dozen novelists who published their debuts after Infinite Jest to talk about Wallace’s legacy. Rivka Galchen, Matthew Gallaway, David Gordon, Darin Strauss, Charles Yu, and Deb Olin Unferth spoke to Seth Colter Walls about Wallace’s surprising humor and his influence on their work.
When Upstairs, Downstairs went off the air in 1975, the luxurious house that the Bellamy family inhabited at 165 Eaton Place in London was closed up, seemingly forever. But 36 years later, amid a resurgence of period-drama popularity, Upstairs Downstairs returns to American television this Sunday with a new three-episode season—written by Heidi Thomas ( Cranford) and directed by Euros Lyn ( Doctor Who)—just in time for the show’s 40th anniversary and, coincidentally, that of Masterpiece, PBS’ signature franchise, as well. U.K. viewers lapped up the latest episodes, with 8.4 million tuning in when they aired on BBC One in December. The Daily Beast’s Jace Lacob talks to the cast about the revival and the supposed feud with Downton Abbey. “We’re not stepping into anybody’s shoes,” said Keeley Hawes, who plays the wealthy Lady Agnes Holland. In fact, the series feels quite modern. While it’s set 75 years ago, the issues that the Hollands and their servants encounter—childlessness, ideology, war, regrets—are the same we face today.