Benedict Cumberbatch has played Sherlock Holmes, Hamlet, Richard III and Christopher Tietjeans. Now, he's starring as Patrick Melrose, Edward St. Aubyn's tormented upper-class British drug addict, in a five-part miniseries on Showtime, beginning Sunday.
St. Aubyn's autobiographical Melrose novels have been lauded for their Proustian blend of appalling story and stylistic elegance. Melrose, like St. Aubyn, is sexually abused by his father at age 5, then sinks into heroin, cocaine and alcohol addiction before achieving an uneasy recovery.
I found the first Melrose novel, detailing the character's tortured childhood, compelling, despite the lurid story. Melrose's excessive addictions in succeeding novels were too overwhelming for me to continue.
The reviews of the Showtime series have praised Cumberbatch's performance, while criticizing the production for a too shallow rendering of St. Aubyn's books.
Watching Cumberbatch portray the elegant/emotionally fragile Melrose will make the series a must-see event.