HBO’s ‘White House Plumbers’ review: dizzying fun…until it’s not
The latest HBO show is all about the Watergate scandal – the precursor to Partygate through to Trump’s entire tenure. The illegal scheme began when a group of political activists attempted to break into an office in 1972 to steal the psychiatric files of an anti-Nixon agitator.
The aim was to discredit him. Instead, the burglars did exactly the opposite, making a truly disastrous series of mistakes (the first of which was botching the robbery).
Over the course of five episodes, spy henchmen Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt screw up operation after operation, wreaking havoc on the presidential campaign and ending President Nixon’s chances of ever returning to the White House. Best of all, it’s (almost) all true – and as the intro cheekily states: “No names were changed to protect the innocent because almost everyone was found guilty.”
It’s TV dynamite, of course, and this brisk, lively HBO series more than lives up to it.
Taking the helm are Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux as Hunt and Liddy: two downtrodden agents who are fanatical defenders of the President.
They are also very unorthodox. Hunt has a temper (and a very fragmented family life); Mad Liddy listens to tapes of Adolf Hitler’s speeches (in one brilliant scene, the Hunts drop by for dinner and are treated to a full version of the Führer in action) and always carries a Walther PPK pistol with him. Because of course James Bond did.
It is these people who will ultimately lead the push to destroy the Democrats’ election chances. Under her command are the “Plumbers,” a group of Cuban exiles who are almost as incompetent — over the course of the show, they break in, plant insects, steal things, and conspire to rig the upcoming American election. All in one working day.
is it funny How could it not be? Harrelson and Theroux have absolutely perfect chemistry and play the odd couple perfectly. They quickly switch between falling out and hugging. Yelling is her preferred method of communication; They are beta males striving to be alphas. Also, almost all of Liddy and Hunt’s crazy schemes are incredibly ridiculous. Who knew renting a boat, cocaine, and strippers to catch influential Democrats in compromising positions would be a good idea? It turns out these guys.
The action is fast-paced, accelerating, almost like a boulder rolling downhill. My only gripe was the overabundance of white, clothed men in the episodes – so many that it was frankly hard to tell them apart – but after a while they all kind of blur together, which is probably for the best part.
There are no heroes here, except perhaps for the couple’s long-suffering wives. Lena Headey, in particular, is wonderfully understated as Dorothy Hunt, the person who ties everything together without her messy husband even acknowledging her. However, when the moment comes to shine, she obviously shows men how to do it.
However, director David Mandel never loses sight of the real political implications. Yes, Hunt and Liddy are washed-up, funny, and ridiculous — but their actions also had very real consequences for democracy and politics. Together they created one of the greatest political scandals of all time and laid the foundation for everything to come.
After all, Trump was considered funny and ridiculous when he took office, but he took Watergate and ran with it — nearly destroying the American Constitution in the process. That is nothing to laugh about. Above all, this is a cautionary tale about what happens when people have too much power.
White House Plumbers will be broadcast in the UK on Sky and NOW in May
https://www.standard.co.uk/culture/tvfilm/white-house-plumbers-on-hbo-review-woody-harrelson-justin-theroux-b1077025.html HBO’s ‘White House Plumbers’ review: dizzying fun…until it’s not