There are many adaptations of iconic and recognizable films on TV today. It is almost impossible to list them all, and there will be many more. The Dead Ringers is a remake/reboot that offers something new through casting changes.
This version of David Cronenberg’s original film, which swaps Jeremy Irons with Rachel Weisz instead of the horror body/psychosexual about two men abusing power over women and struggling to live in symbiotic harmony, is not that same body/psychosexual terror.
Prime Video’s Dead Ringers version retains a lot of the original narrative, but it is a nuanced and radical story about two ambitious women working in healthcare who are searching for what makes them complete as individuals.
Through a cast and crew dominated by women, the series explores the callousness and lack of empathy in maternal healthcare at a time when female bodies and babies are commodities. The six-episode show shares a lot of DNA with the Cronenberg movie, but is a completely new creation.
Dead Ringersseason 1, stars Beverly and Elliot Mantle, OB-GYNs who work in the fictional Westcott Memorial Hospital of New York. Beverly is the “good twin” who is emotionally connected to her work because she wants to be a mom despite her body refusing to allow it. She is a good physician, is more compassionate, and is in touch with humanity. Beverly, a hands-on doctor, works with mothers going through traumatic pregnancies.
Elliot, on the other hand, is a doctor who rarely interacts with her patients. She prefers to spend time in the laboratory researching new ways to create life. She is cruel and borderline nihilistic, and she leans heavily on the wild, fictional aspects of having an identical twin. She lives life to the extreme. Elliot, the poster boy for sex and drugs, is more interested in the thrill than the consequences.
Dead Ringers do not have the kind of storyline that would warrant a remake. The audience is treated to a double dose of a deranged Rachel Weisz. The actress is more important than the entire series, which has a lot to offer.
Weisz has played similar roles in other films, including My Cousin Rachel as well as the much-loved The Favorite. Weisz has to play two different but equally evil characters. Weisz must create two characters with an unbreakable connection, despite their obvious differences in clothing and hairstyle.
Weisz has to portray both the depravity of the Mantles and their genius sincerely, moving away from the Bond-like archetype that the Mantles were in Cronenberg’s film. This role requires great detail and gravitas. If not, the Mantles would unintentionally make things funny.
The series’ writing, by Alice Birch, and the women-only writing room are precise and brutal. Dead Ringers have a visual style that will make you sick, and an equally effective writing style. Cronenberg’s film was a psychosexual terror strictly filtered by the male gaze.
The Iron’s Mantle Twins had a god complex, which made them disrespect women and have a great disregard for them. They were also obsessed with what the female body was capable of, reproduction. Birch and other writers of the series have plenty of material to explore motherhood, body autonomy, and maternity from a female perspective and voice.
This remake is elevated by the social commentary, which elevates it above other surface-level adaptations aimed at modern audiences. It is fascinating to see ego-driven females trying to reclaim their power by using the female body, especially in light of the current threat against autonomy.
The ensemble explores a variety of topics including sexuality, ambition in the workplace, desire for women, and greed. Jessica Ehle, Emily Meade, and others play a couple of uber-wealthy women who are seeking the Mantles for not only their innovation and genius in women’s healthcare but also for the profits that come from their combined skills.
Ehle’s seductive, saucy line delivery and monstrous character add an extreme layer to the healthcare financial greed. Ehle, who is a mirror of Elliot while countering Beverly’s character, gives Weisz and her scene-stealing performance a run for their money.
The visuals, not the wild concepts Cronenberg entertains, are what stand out when one thinks about Dead Ringers. The TV adaptation of Dead Ringers follows its predecessor. The TV adaptation is stylish and sleek. The series borrows some key aesthetics from the film. For example, the constant use and use of blood in interior spaces, as well as the red color.
This series is not meant for the weak-hearted. One can see that the Cronenberg movie doesn’t dictate the look of the series. The visuals are merely a connective tissue to the series and not the main narrative. The visuals must show the twins’ story and their relationship in a way that the text can’t.
It is not necessary to go overboard with the twin aesthetic. The Mantle twins are incomplete on their own. Clever camerawork suggests that the audience is only seeing half of the picture. The series uses extreme camera angles to taunt its audience. It pushes them towards chaos and discomfort. Onscreen, the twins and their concept of reproduction are brilliantly depicted.
Dead Ringers do not stand out as a TV adaptation of a movie. The incredible ideas Cronenberg has from the opposite viewpoint make this show a must-watch (if you can stomach the gore). Birch has created a show which works in harmony with the original, both mirroring and reacting to it.
The two work together to create a unique viewing experience. Dead Ringer is a sure-fire hit for Prime Video. Weisz’s acting is truly amazing, and the ensemble cast (including Britne old ford) also rises to that level. Weisz is a vital and astute actor. It’s difficult to imagine Dead Ringers without her performance.