Review: James Corden reflects on Balthazar drama as a troubled cook in new show Mammals – SF Chronicle Datebook | Episode Movies

James Corden (left) and Melia Kreiling as chef and wife in Mammals. Photo: Luke Varley / Amazon Studios

It’s ironic that James Corden, after being accused of abusing the staff at New York’s upscale restaurant Balthazar last month, now plays a chef described as a Michelin-star chef in Prime Video’s ‘Mammals’.

Stranger, however, is what writer and creator Jez Butterworth thought he was doing with this six-episode dramatic comedy. It’s a contemporary mystery of infidelity that the acclaimed playwright (“Jerusalem,” “The Ferryman”) and sometimes remarkable screenwriter (“Fair Game,” “Ford vs. Ferrari,” parts of “Edge of Tomorrow”) interprets as a thriller Has. This means that fundamental, sometimes crucial, details about the four main characters of “Mammals” are not revealed until well into the later chapters of the series. This is supposed to offer new perspectives on her life and behavior, but comes across as sneaky and reserved.

Which, to be fair, the people on the show do all the time, both in a practical and emotional sense.

Cordens Jamie and his French wife Amandine (Melia Kreiling) appear to be very much in love. She miscarries just before he plans to open his first London restaurant, named after her. To let all friends and family know about the bad news, Amandine gives him her phone, on which Jamie soon discovers explicit messages from someone calling himself Paul.

Melia Kreiling (left), James Corden, Sally Hawkins and Colin Morgan in Mammals. Photo: Rory Mulvey / Amazon Studios

Things get worse after Jamie asks his best friend and brother-in-law Jeff (Colin Morgan) to hack the phone. Hangdog, borderline alcoholic Jeff lives on a quaint little farm with Jamie’s sister Lue (Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”), who seems to be slipping away from her husband into a detached state of mind. That eventually evolves into an alternate reality with Coco Chanel.

What about Lue? Something about female intuition seems to be the best explanation Butterworth could dream up. The bigger question, of course, is why Amandine has had multiple affairs while still expressing her love for Jamie quite convincingly.

The technical response is to create comical instances of cautious jealousy, then poignant/cringey confrontational Corden can play. And the Late Late Show host plays her very well, taking us deep into Jamie’s pain and confusion without missing a funny note. However, Corden’s attempts to be a kinder, gentler Gordon Ramsay at work are contradictory. So does a big running gag about a Savini truffle crisis on opening night, which draws a lot of attention but doesn’t pay off.

Kreiling is the most impressive performer. She maintains Amandine’s enticing unknowability with the same seeming ease as she uses a French accent (the actress is of American and Greek descent). Wisely, Kreiling is never inclined to villainy either; a tough act on a show that 90% of the time goes to the brink of misogyny.

James Corden plays a star chef in Mammals whose wife may be cheating on him. Photo: Alex Bailey / Amazon Studios

Was Jamie’s unreached dream girl a cheater from the start? Is Lue going insane, or is she intentionally hurting Jeff in a weird but effective way? Neither man may be perfect, but their wives have caused them so much torment that Butterworth’s satire on male victimhood tastes like pretty weak sauce.

Recurring, little justified motifs are blue whales, muppets and Tom Jones. They are meant to represent our animal nature, I think.

But for all its shortcomings, “Mammals” is easy to eat because of the plentiful humor, intelligent trappings (classical music, Cambridge lectures, profane interpretations of fate) and, yes, the show’s stingy, distracting methods of disseminating information. The latter might not be what the English call cricket, but it piques our interest in a “What on Earth next?” type of trail.

However, an urge to purge might set in when the ridiculous final scene appears out of nowhere. Even this big, presumably stinky, metaphor deserves points for imagination, albeit drawbacks for presentation. overall impression? Send this back to the kitchen.

L“Mammals”: Comedy. Starring James Corden, Melia Kreiling, Sally Hawkins and Colin Morgan. Created by Jez Butterworth. (TV-14. Six 30-minute episodes.) To stream on Prime Video starting Friday 11th November.

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