‘The New Look’ Review – Terrific Cast Bolsters Christian Dior Story

‘The New Look’ Review – Terrific Cast Bolsters Christian Dior Story

The name Christian Dior has been immortalized through his contributions to the fashion industry, and his legacy endures more than half a century after his death. But what many people may not know is what shaped him prior to his signature success, though a quick look back at history should remind that anyone living in Europe in the 1940s could not have gone through the Nazi era and come out entirely unscathed. The new Apple TV+ series The New Look showcases Dior’s ascent, along with that of his contemporaries, and links it back continually to his harrowing experiences during World War II.

At the center of this story is Dior (Ben Mendelsohn) and his steely relationship with another landmark fashion icon of his time, Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche). While events begin after the war, it’s what happens during the Nazi occupation of France that dominates much of the early episodes. Dior expresses a great concern for his captured sister Catherine (Maisie Williams), a member of the French resistance, while Chanel is tasked with using her personal connections to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill by her confidante, the German diplomat Hans Von Dincklage (Claes Bang), bringing accusations of collusion with the Nazis that follow her throughout her life.

The New Look
Ben Mendelsohn in “The New Look,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

The New Look comes from creator Todd A. Kessler, who is no stranger to longform dramas that aren’t tethered to a particular moment in time. Both Damages and Bloodline made extensive use of flashbacks and the slow reveal of important details that completely reshape the meaning of specific events. His latest show takes a less obfuscatory approach, instead diving deep into the past in a standard narrative format. Rather than keep secrets hidden until the very end, this series charts the road to get there in a way that leaves their eventual achievement of spectacular success a continuous mystery for audiences to gradually watch be solved.

Kessler reunites with an Emmy-winning star of Bloodline, Mendelsohn, to play this show’s most crucial role. Recently known for his prominence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Talos, appearing in Captain Marvel, Secret Invasion, and other projects, the Australian actor has also played historical figures like King George VI in Darkest Hour. He proves an exceptional fit for this particular part, channeling the physicality of Dior and his emotion as he endures treacherous times that ask much of him as he’s pushed instead to focus on materialistic concerns while the world is falling apart.

The New Look
Juliette Binoche in “The New Look,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

The always great Binoche makes for a great foil in her interpretation of Chanel, and she has a terrific scene partner in Bang, back on Apple TV+ after a superbly villainous turn in Bad Sisters and turning in subtler but equally compelling work here. Williams, an Emmy nominee for Game of Thrones, shows no signs of slowing down in her impressive career while still well under the age of thirty. The dependable John Malkovich, like Bang, offers a nuanced turn as designer Lucien Lelong, and Emily Mortimer delivers a passionate performance as Chanel’s friend and reluctant associate Elsa Lombardi.

A great cast is matched by superb visuals for this period piece, the latest Apple TV+ series to demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to production design and costume design. Ten episodes feels like a sufficient span of time to tell a compelling story, though the scope of its plot could certainly lead to more, as filming for season two was already planned to start before the SAG-AFTRA strike began last year. The New Look shows that it knows how to flesh out both characters and stories, giving a great deal of depth to household names whose fans surely don’t know the entirety of their identities and legacies.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

New episodes of The New Look premiere weekly on Wednesdays on Apple TV+ through April 3rd.

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