Dopesick -- Photo Hulu
Dopesick — Photo Hulu

Michael Keaton’s recent Best Leading Actor Emmy win is just one reason to start to stream Hulu’s “Dopesick,” Emmy-nominated writer/producer/director Danny Strong’s provocative blend of fact ‘n’ fiction examination of the opioid crisis.

The limited, multi-layered miniseries chronicles how Purdue Pharma developed and aggressively marketed OxyContin while hiding its highly addictive properties.  The sprawling crime saga details the Sackler family-controlled company’s business practices, government officials who ignored complaints about distribution, and the unwitting victims of Purdue Pharma’s deceptive marketing campaigns.

Chronologically, the story begins in 1996 and concludes with the 2007 sentencing hearing of the Purdue Pharma executives.  What becomes crystal-clear is how OxyContin hijacks the brain and makes users feel as if they’re going to die if they don’t get the drug. That condition is called “being dopesick.”

For years, using “political connections,” Purdue was able to convince government authorities that OxyContin was safe, alleging that victims were abusing the drug. That decimated and destabilized millions of American lives.

The show follows several top-tier players: A kindly small-town doctor (Michael Keaton) who descends from prescriber to addict; Richard Sackler (Michael Stuhlbarg), who led the drug’s development and marketing; a young yet wary sales rep (Will Poulter); a pain-wracked coal miner (Kaitlyn Dever); a crusading DEA agent (Rosario Dawson); and a suspicious U.S. Attorney (Peter Sarsgaard).

Based on Beth Macy’s novel “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” the series was created by activist Danny Strong, who said, “I was outraged by the lies and deception of Purdue Pharma, outraged by all the devastation that had been brought to millions so that less than 20 people in one family could make billions.”

Not surprisingly, a month after “Dopesick” was shown, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art erased the Sackler name from its walls, as did the Tate Modern in London, along with London’s National Gallery.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Dopesick” is a sobering 9, streaming on Hulu.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande -- Photo Searchlight
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande — Photo Searchlight

For the dramedy “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” 63 year-old Oscar-winner Emma Thompson bravely agreed to the first fully nude scene of her career.

“I’ve never been offered sex scenes,” she told audiences at the (virtual) Sundance Film Festival, where the film premiered.  “I have never conformed to the shape of someone they might want to see naked. By ‘they,’ I mean male executives. I’m too mouthy, not pretty enough.”

In the film, Thompson plays uptight Nancy Stokes, a widowed, retired school teacher who books a hotel room and hires a much younger male escort, Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), to help her achieve her first orgasm.

At first, their interaction is understandably awkward. But he’s confident and charming, willing to engage in conversation. He’s from a dysfunctional Irish-Catholic family. She’s the mother of a chemist son, whom she finds boring, and an overly needy, grown daughter. Gradually, as their interplay becomes more agile and adventurous, Nancy is able to achieve sexual satisfaction.

At the conclusion, Nancy stands in front of a mirror, appraising her naked body. “I’ve judged myself all my life and continue to do so,” Thompson admits. “Playing Nancy was hugely helpful to me, because Nancy is not an actress – she’s not been judged for her looks – but she’s a woman who’s able to finally stand in front of the mirror without hating herself. That was very instructive and helpful.”

Shooting an average of 12 pages per day for 19 days, Australian director Sophie Hyde wisely filmed Katy Brand’s character-driven script in chronological order. And because they were able to rehearse for a couple of weeks, Thompson and McCormack did not use an ‘intimacy coordinator.’ Instead, they improvised on their own until they felt totally comfortable with one another.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” is a poignantly honest, tenderly erotic 8, aimed at a mature audience and streaming on Hulu.

Tehran -- Photo Apple TV+
Tehran — Photo Apple TV+

If you enjoyed “Homeland” and “The Americans,” I highly recommend binge-watching the first two seasons of the tense Israeli espionage thriller “Tehran” on Apple+.

The plot revolves around recently recruited, tech-savvy Mossad agent Tamar Rabinyan (Niv Sultan), who was born in Iran but raised in Israel.  She’s alone on an undercover mission in the hostile Iranian capital to hack into and disable the electrical grid. Her objective is to compromise Iran’s air defenses so that Israel can bomb an Iranian nuclear plant to prevent its development of an atomic bomb. 

When Tamar arrives at the airport, she switches identities with Zhila Gorbanifar, a Muslim employee of the local electric company.  Chador-clad and using Zhila’s credentials, Tamar is able to access the electric company’s computer network. But when Zhila’s unwitting boss tries to rape her, he’s killed, forcing Tamar to flee into hiding.

Hoping for help, resourceful Tamar finds her aunt and befriends Iranian political dissident Milad (Shervin Alenabi). Meanwhile, Tamar’s presence has aroused the suspicion of mercurial Faraz Kamali (Shaun Toub), head of investigations for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, whose wife (Shila Ommi) is undergoing medical treatment for cancer in Paris.

In the engaging second season, Tamar’s mission changes as she’s mentored by authoritative psychotherapist/Mossad agent Marjan Montazami (Glenn Close) as Faraz Kamali continues his relentless pursuit.

While the characters are compelling, credibility and contrivance abound. Conflicted Tamar repeatedly goes rogue, disobeying direct orders from Mossad headquarters which seems to have access to every closed-circuit camera in Tehran.

Created by Moshe Zonder, Dana Eden and Maor Kohn for the Israeli public channel Kan 11, it’s written by Zonder (“Fauda”) and Omri Shenhar and directed by Daniel Syrkin – with dialogue in Hebrew, Farsi and English. At the International Emmy Awards, held in November, 2021, “Tehran” was acclaimed Best Drama Series.

FYI: Almost all the cast are of Iranian-Jewish descent and – for this role – actress Niv Sultan learned Farsi and Krav Maga – a.k.a. Israeli self-defense.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Tehran” is a solid, suspenseful 7, streaming on Apple+.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.