Series review: Agent
- Nikolaj Lie Kaas invites us to immerse ourselves into the troubled waters of the showbusiness world, through the daring adventures of a talent agent who’s struggling to keep his head above water
Presented in the Berlinale and selected for the International Series Competition of the Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF), Agent [+see also:
series profile] by the Danish actor (re)converted to film direction Nikolaj Lie Kaas presents itself as a Scandinavian series not to be missed, a concentration of cruelty and humour which simultaneously disconcerts and charms the viewer. Incredibly realistic and steeped in humanity which is only revealed, however, in flashes and at the most unexpected times, the Danish series takes us behind the scenes of a showbusiness world which is far darker than we might have imagined, a ruthless universe where the law of the jungle reigns supreme.
The work carried out by Johan (Esben Smed), who’s an agent for some of the biggest names in music and film, is anything but easy and requires a colossal quotient of empathy and self-control. Whether they’re dealing with professional or private problems, talent agents have to know how to manage every kind of situation, to find solutions when there aren’t any, and to smile, even when the tears beneath their lashes burn like acid. But, despite a (seemingly) bomb-proof level of self-control, Johan’s private life is characterised by chaos. The shared custody arrangement he has for his ten-year-old daughter Tallulah (Selma Sol í Dali Pape) isn’t going as planned and the little girl is suffering as a result of her father’s disorganised nature: he adores her but is never available. Meanwhile, his boss, who’s also his mother, is watching him like a hawk due to concerns over the stratospheric expenses he’s charging to the agency, and he also has a debt to settle with a local mafia boss.
In short, whether at work or at home, Johan is anything but a role model. His only lifeline is a lucrative contract he’s organised between a famous singer and a South American production company, but it’s far from a done deal yet! Despite juggling the professional and personal problems of his clients with wit and apparent self-control, Johan often feels overwhelmed by his own issues. Constantly under pressure, suffocated by responsibilities he can no longer shoulder, our protagonist doesn’t give into despair, fighting tooth and nail to maintain a balance which is veering dangerously towards chaos.
With Agent, Nikolaj Lie Kaas signs his name to a dramatic series steeped in infectious humour, a satire of the entertainment world which never slides into the grotesque, but which wittily offers up moving scenes (the complicated but affectionate relationship between Johan and Tallulah) as well as tragic depictions of everyday life (drinking until late at night, early wake-ups worthy of Trainspotting, and the impossibility of managing private and professional spheres). On account of its relentless pace, its entirely welcome Scandinavian sense of humour and its perfectly measured, witty cameos by Danish film stars (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Ulrich Thomsen are but two examples), Agent manages to capture the audience’s attention from its opening episode.
It might prove impossible not to compare Agent with the French series Call My Agent!, given that both revolve around the world of talent agents, but the former is set apart by the greater space given to Johan, the undisputed protagonist of the entire story. Agent is an intense and decidedly funny series which takes a touchingly truthful approach to tell the tale of a man struggling for “normality” in a world which has nothing normal about it whatsoever (and thankfully so). The series is set for broadcast on TV2.
(Translated from Italian)
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