Creator: Charlotte Stoudt
Stars: Toni Collette, Bella Heathcote, Jessica Barden
A friend of mine used to joke that I would always end up sitting across from people in theaters who had never seen a comedy before. You know the people who think that every joke is enough to elicit a hearty laugh. Netflix “Pieces of Her 2022” is a thriller that only works for someone who has never seen a thriller before. It traffics in so many tropes that probably worked best on the page of Karin Slaughter’s best-selling book, but just ran out of steam in this lifeless attempt at genre entertainment. Toni Collette never fails, but she gets stuck here by a script that doesn’t go far enough to elicit B-movie thrills and is structured in a way that exhausts anything that feels realistic. Consequently, it’s another project caught in that valley between camp and character, containing very few pieces of either.
“Pieces of Her” opens with the kind of jolt that convinces people to buy a book to read on a beach vacation. Laura Oliver (Collette) and her daughter Andy (Bella Heathcote) are at a restaurant on what appears to be an ordinary day when a mass shooting unfolds. Laura steps in to protect her daughter from her and displays a surprisingly vicious protective nature, severing the killer’s jugular. It’s the kind of twist that gets global attention in the news: the mother who stopped more loss of life with her courage. Laura doesn’t want the world’s attention.
For reasons that won’t be spoiled, Laura being in the news is bad for both her and Andy. When violence returns to Laura’s life, this time at her doorstep, she sends her daughter away from her, but Andy refuses to hide, trying to find out who exactly this woman is. Mom has been calling. Instead, he begins to dig into the remaining clues about Laura’s background, and “Pieces of Her” turns into a series of revealing flashbacks that also include David Wenham as Laura’s brother and Terry O’Quinn as her father. , who was publicly assassinated in Oslo decades earlier.
The puzzle structure of “Pieces of Her” can be infuriating. This kind of series of reveals and twists is a more delicate balance than it seems. Kind of like HBO Max’s “The Tourist,” which also opens this week, keeps its reveals moving at a pace that encourages character and tension. Here, it feels like the writers are constantly misleading us, hiding details that would make these characters more interesting if we knew what the hell is going on in their minds. There’s a fine line between emotions and keeping ourselves in the dark for so long that we don’t care.
“Pieces of Her” crosses that line, especially with how much is revealed through flashbacks. We stop caring about the characters or their problems because we don’t know why we should care. It becomes information dumps in an episodic structure instead of something really exciting.
On February 15, Netflix released the official trailer for the series, previewing Toni Collette’s powerful performance that is sure to have us on the edge of our seats and find her nominated for multiple awards.