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Pieces Of Her review: Toni Collette is the glue which makes things stick

Pieces of Her review: The show comes to life mostly when Toni Collette is around, as we follow the unpacking of Laura’s past life, and the demons that shaped it.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi |
Updated: March 10, 2022 8:17:40 am
pieces of herToni Collette starrer Pieces of Her is streaming on Netflix.

What does it mean for a thriller to be headlined by the most excellent Toni Collette, she who has elevated so many films with her sensitive, deep performances? ‘Pieces Of Her’, written by best-selling crime fiction author Karin Slaughter, is the kind of book you might pick up at airports, to be quickly skimmed through and as quickly disposed of. But the mere fact of Collette’s presence in the Netflix series that goes by the same name, means that you cannot dismiss it out of hand. I spent several hours binge-watching the show, and I got exactly what I expected– maximum pleasure in Collette’s company, with diminishing returns setting in, as other characters and plot twists crowded in.

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‘Pieces Of Her’ hits the ground running, with an opening which could well belong to a superior actioner. Laura Olivier (Collette) is out to lunch with her daughter Andy (Bella Heathcote) to celebrate the latter’s 30th birthday at a busy eatery in a small town in Georgia. A gunman going berserk puts them directly in the line of fire. As bodies fall around them, Laura reacts with lightning speed, stopping the shooter in his tracks. Those killer moves are not something you would expect from a middle-aged speech language pathologist, and a breast cancer survivor.

It is not just her puzzled daughter, but the Feds who fetch up at top speed, who want to know just how she did it, that too with a big knife lodged in her palm. That cleaver-like thing makes you shudder, and then you look at Laura’s near-impassive face in disbelief. Is she for real? Just who is she, this woman who has lived much of her adult life in a sleepy little town, working with the speech impaired, and where did she learn to slit throats so neatly while in unbearable pain?

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After this whirlwind start, which makes you think that the rest of it will be as impressive, there’s a dip. Several dips, in fact. First off, Andy whose flight from danger to safety has been orchestrated by her rattled mum, is this deeply irritating character who keeps hyperventilating, as she drives from Point A to Point B, in search of succour.

The men–yes, there are men in this show–that she reaches out to, starting from a supportive stepdaddy (Omari Hardwick) to a handsome US Marshal (Jacob Scipio), to an uncle (David Wenham) she never knew existed, to the discovery of her actual father (Aaron Jeffery/Joe Dempsie, playing the same character at different ages) who has a very shady past– do what they can, rustling up an omelette here, rescuing her up from tight spots there.

A still from Pieces of Her. (Photo: Netflix)

But ‘Pieces Of Her’ comes to life mostly when Collette is around, as we follow the unpacking of Laura’s past life, and the demons that shaped it. She shares her mysterious past with a younger self (Jessica Barden, who does a good job of being blonde and fluffy yet determined), as the accomplished piano-playing daughter of a powerful father, the boss of an evil big pharma company. It is this younger Laura’s involvement with a quasi-terrorist organisation, and its charismatic leader, which pushes things off track.

It’s a lot of history, and the series occasionally gets muddled and bumpy in the unpacking. When it all gets too stretchy, Collette throws out a rescue curve. She is the glue which makes things stick.

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