George & Tammy gives country music legend Tammy Wynette another coat of hairspray when it comes out with Paramount+ on Dec. 5.
Fueled by broken relationships, drinking crooners and tough female icons, Nashville has kept its coffers full for more than half a century by telling stories. With George & Tammy, this conundrum gains credence as country music’s Ike and Tina Turner take the stage.
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Opening in a sweat-filled concert hall circa 1968, the audience is introduced to George Jones (Michael Shannon) curled up in a toilet cubicle. Blind drunk and seized with stage fright, series director John Hillcoat (The Road) escalates tensions through claustrophobic close-ups and cuts in front of an impatient crowd. This intrusion peels away the luster of a country music legend piece by piece, as his entourage buzzes to tear down the bathroom door and drag him onto the stage.
Tammy Wynette (Jessica Chastain) is inserted, a few minutes later, on stage, while her husband, songwriter, Don (Pat Healey) takes care of their children. As the pickled stage performer makes her way through another song, this Paramount+ series is sure to capture every taste and smell inside that crowded concert hall.
When Tammy Wynette and George Jones meet a few days later, this hardened musician is hidden behind sunglasses and surrounded by oblivious women. Whether she was in the room made no difference, because in this male-dominated era, female singers were treated as trinkets, rather than bona fide merit artists.
Thanks to their personal relationship and professional partnership that grows over the remaining episodes, George and Tammy feel like the real deal. Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon deliver stunning work on and off stage, charting the roller coaster rides of these country music icons.
Adapted by Abe Sylvia (Dead to Me) from The Three of Us: Growing Up with Tammy and George, this has award acknowledgment written all over it.
John Hillcoat has always produced exceptional work from very difficult materials, and that continues to be the case with George & Tammy. His use of focal length, framing, and other savvy storytelling tricks give this show a very distinctive feel. The disruptions, domestic violence and difficult times on screen are never toned down, while its two directors embrace the process wholeheartedly.
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After taking Tammy away from her weak-willed husband Don, their whirlwind romance feels like an endless honeymoon with musical accompaniment. Hit records, sunny travels and moments filled with passion alone shape the early years. However, when Tammy starts outselling her husband and George gets out of the wagon, this series really dives into the drama and comes out swinging.
Shotguns, straitjackets and hard liquor begin to transform George Jones from a perfect partner into a civil liability. These transitional moments are captured with a dispassionate eye for human weakness, giving its dependencies form and function through a combination of subtle sound design and thoughtful performance choices. Not only granting George Jones more complexity beyond the alcoholic stereotype, but also tapping into the creative enigma that defines any live performer.
In contemporary terms, he experiences impostor syndrome, where a combination of inherent insecurities constantly undermines any talented person. It might sound like a cliché, but depicted on screen in the hands of Michael Shannon, it’s closer to tragedy than anything more conventional – especially when compared to the rise of Tammy Wynette.
As the power dynamics start to shift and they go their separate ways, it feels more like a country, western version of What’s Love Got To Do With It? Tammy begins to develop a Teflon-coated defense against her husband’s charms, who is slowly being abandoned by close friends and family.
Beyond the central duo that so uniquely personifies these musical legends, we must pay tribute to Walter Goggins as Peanutt, songwriter and confidant of George Jones. A lifelong advocate and creative cog in the wheel of this power couple, who find themselves caught between barrooms and domestic violence more than once. It’s a role that Walter Goggins handles with care and compassion, making Peanutt more than just a creative cog.
Likewise, Steve Zahn provides admirable support as George Richey, who is on hand at various times to let Tammy vent his frustrations and suggest ways out of this tumultuous union, but also shows a degree of selflessness that doesn’t seem to matter. exists nowhere else in his life.
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Combined with the quality of character work elsewhere, this Paramount+ series could easily sit alongside big-screen bio-pics like Ray and Bird – who also injected pathos between moments of creative mayhem bringing their icons to life. .
George & Tammy airs on Paramount+ from December 5, with new episodes every week.